Samsung foldable concept could be the solution to the foldable phone design problem

Foldable phones might seem like eccentric luxuries, but they do also try to solve a problem, that of the paradox of display size. Consumers want larger screens that allow them to enjoy their content more comfortably but do not want actually large devices that make it inconvenient to carry them around. Foldable phones try to offer the best of both worlds of a handy smartphone and a large tablet, but current technologies have too many compromises to make that happen, not to mention price tags that prevent these devices from becoming mainstream at all. While creases are starting to disappear slowly, durability is still a major concern. More importantly, current designs require a second “outer” display to make the phone usable even when folded shut. Samsung is now showing off a new foldable display and hinge that can bend both ways, potentially putting an end to all the foldable design debates.

Designer: Samsung (via The Verge)

Although Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold might seem to be the standard design for foldables these days, it wasn’t the only one in the beginning. The Royole FlexPai and the Huawei Mate X (as well as the new Huawei Mate Xs 2), both of which launched before the first-gen Galaxy Fold, had an “outie” design where the screen folded outward and backward. This created a device that only had a single screen, reducing the components and complexity required by an “innie” design like the Galaxy Z Fold. At that time, however, the fragile nature of flexible screens and early hinge technologies made that design less than appealing.

The likes of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, OPPO Find N2, and other “innie” foldables protected that expensive display panel but at the cost of needing an external screen if you wanted to use the device as a regular phone when closed. Otherwise, you’d be left with something like the Microsoft Surface Duo that had to be folded backward to make use of even a single screen. The ideal for a foldable phone would be folding both inward and outward, and that is what Samsung’s “Flex In & Out” display is trying to propose.

At first glance, the prototype looks like an ordinary Galaxy Z Fold phone with its flexible panel folding inward. However, it can actually bend past 180 degrees all the way to 360 degrees, which means it can completely fold back in the opposite direction. This really combines the best of both worlds of innie and outie designs, removing the need for a second external screen and potentially reducing the build cost of the entire device.

Samsung showed off a similar technology last year in the form of the “Flex S” display, though that seemed to only fold in one or the other direction rather than both. It is unknown when this display will be ready for production and mass consumption, presuming it’s even durable enough to withstand not only multiple folding but also hard objects inside pockets or bags. It might still take a year or so for this device to actually become available for purchase, so Samsung fans will have to settle for a more traditional Galaxy Z Fold 5 with a hopefully improved “waterdrop” hinge.

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TECNO Phantom Vision V concept phone folds, rolls, and has plenty of screens

Although there is still plenty of doubt and hesitation surrounding foldable phones, especially due to their prices, there is no shortage of vendors trying to get into the game nonetheless. It isn’t just foldables either, with some companies doing research and tests on phones with rollable screens as well. This latter category has still to make any formal entry into the mobile market, but there has definitely been plenty of ideas on how such a rollable phone should work. Young brand TECNO, which has been showing off a few bold concepts recently, has also thrown in its two cents, demonstrating a concept of a phone whose screen both folds and rolls yet still has two additional displays for good measure.

Designer: TECNO

Foldable phones try to solve the puzzle of screen size and portability. While many people wouldn’t mind having a large display they can view more content on, they do mind not being able to easily keep it in their pockets or small bags. Foldable phones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the OPPO Find N2 offer a small phone-sized device that has a tablet-sized display, but that display is still no match for something like an iPad, at least not in size.

One alternative solution that has been proposed is to combine both foldable and rollable technologies to truly deliver that “tablet in your pocket” experience. That’s precisely what the TECNO Phantom Vision V brings to the table, at least in concept. Just like the aforementioned foldables, the devices opens to reveal the flexible display inside, but it still has one trick up its sleeve. The left side of the device expands further, rolling out additional screen real estate that would be equivalent to a 10.1-inch tablet with a more normal rectangular aspect ratio.

An additional detail that makes the Phantom Vision V a bit more interesting is another small display below the camera array on its back. This mimics the cover display of flip-type clamshell foldables that offer a more restricted set of functionality, mostly for notifications and quick actions. It’s not hard to imagine it’d also be used for taking selfies using the more powerful rear cameras.

It isn’t exactly clear from the video and images if the TECNO Phantom Vision V has a more traditional cover display on the opposite side, allowing the device to be used like a regular phone when folded close. There’s a possibility that the rollable side of the screen would also be used on that external part, which would save up on the components and build costs. That does mean that a flexible part of the screen will be exposed on the outside, which could raise concerns about durability. Given the non-trivial design, it will probably take some time before it even becomes reality, and TECNO isn’t saying anything about its prospective timeline to take the Phantom Vision V into production.

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5 Reasons the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 Design Failed

They may be technological marvels, but foldable and rollable screens remain just that in consumers’ eyes. Foldable phones have been on the market for almost five years now, but they’re still considered to be expensive eccentricities and luxuries that only a few can really afford. Even if they were more affordable, most people would probably still not be able to justify such a purchase, especially considering some concerns regarding durability. The Microsoft Surface Duo and its successor tried to offer a less risky yet still expensive interpretation of the foldable design, offering two distinct screens rather than folding a single one. At first, it seemed that it would actually be a new mobile device category to stand beside typical foldables, but the rumor now is that Microsoft seems to have thrown in the towel. Although it did have its fair share of fans, the Surface Duo 2 just didn’t seem to click with the masses, even less than the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, and these are five reasons why.

Designer: Microsoft

Identity Crisis

To some extent, the Microsoft Surface Duo is in a class of its own. You can’t really call it a smartphone, even though it does make calls since it’s rather awkward to actually use it as a phone unless you’re always wearing earbuds. You can’t even fold the Surface Duo 2 back completely now that it has a camera bump. You can easily call it a tablet, either, even though content can span both screens to form one single display that has a very noticeable cut in the middle. Even Microsoft itself avoids calling the Surface Duo by either name, preferring to just refer to it as a “dual-screen mobile device.”

The Surface Duo’s unconventional design does warrant a different classification, though it’s not exactly original in the basic concept. LG tried to take a stab at a dual-screen phone with a case that you can attach and remove as needed. The experience, of course, was very different, more similar to how you’d connect a second monitor to a computer. The Surface Duo had that capability built-in, saving users from having to juggle accessories. It didn’t, however, solve the fundamental problem of exhibiting an identity that people can understand and relate to, which would have gone a long way in making the device more appealing beyond mere curiosity.

The device’s ambiguity meant that it was actually difficult, if not awkward, to use it like you would a familiar mobile device. It’s too wide to use as a phone when folded, and it’s unusable as a “full” tablet when spread out. Admittedly, it’s unfair to judge the Surface Duo by these standards because it’s neither a phone nor a tablet but a completely different device. Unfortunately, people will approach it from either direction because they’re more familiar with smartphones and tablets and might not be able to adequately wrap their heads around a new creature such as this, especially when they might not even understand what it is for. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s target audience makes it clear that it’s not for everyone in the first place.

Niche Business

The Surface Duo 2 can do almost anything a smartphone or tablet can do, especially if you use only a single screen. Those won’t take full advantage of the device’s capabilities, though, and you’ll have to make use of both screens at the same time. And therein lies the biggest question of the Surface Duo’s design purpose. While most people will probably want a bigger screen, how many will actually need two somewhat small screens instead? Why, those who use two apps at the same time, of course!

The School of Jobs and the smartphones that followed have conditioned our minds to use one app at a time, deftly switching back and forth between apps and screens as needed. This is admittedly very limiting, especially if you’re used to the multi-window world of desktops and laptops. There might be some who wish they could do things at the same time or see two apps simultaneously, and it’s exactly for that use case that the Surface Duo was designed. To be more specific, the dual-screen device is made for highly productive people who find themselves always switching between two or three apps.

The subset of mobile users that regularly do this, however, might be very small. Microsoft is clearly focusing its marketing on business users who’d have different documents or apps running at the same time to compare or even share data. There is also the case of some more social users who might be chatting away while watching a video together or browsing the Web. These are definitely legitimate use cases, but not common enough to make the idea of the Surface Duo to be so popular that it would drive sales. Because while the device does enable using two apps side-by-side, the unfortunate truth is that these apps and the Android platform, in general, were designed for single-screen use and remain stubbornly so.

Growing Software Pains

Whether it’s iOS or Android or anything in between, mobile operating systems have been designed from the start with a single screen in mind. And while Android did actually have the foundations for multi-window support, few outside of the likes of Samsung ever took advantage of that and evolved it. Now iOS, particularly iPadOS, has left Android in its dust, and devices like the Surface Duo or even the Galaxy Z Fold are having trouble shoehorning a different paradigm into the platform.

The first release of the modified Android system for the Surface Duo was pretty much disastrous, with plenty of instabilities and bugs marring the otherwise beautiful first-gen device. To its credit, Microsoft has been addressing those issues slowly but surely, yet the fact remains that Android apps always behave as if they’re the only show on stage. It doesn’t help that that stage doesn’t seem to push those actors to play well with others, even when all the facilities are there. It will take a Google foldable device for Android to really adopt all these features it already has, but that’s a story for another day.

To be fair, even Samsung’s foldables have this kind of problem, only that the phone maker giant has been working on its solution for years. Those flaws are more pronounced on a younger device like the Surface Duo. Despite being primarily a software company, Microsoft still has trouble adapting Android to its needs. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly have a track record in that aspect, either.

Software is Hard

Just because Microsoft is adept at making software doesn’t mean it’s an expert at everything. Some might even refute how good it is at software development in the first place due to innumerable issues with Windows and Office. That’s even truer with platforms that aren’t its own, particularly Android, which it has been using ever since it ditched the idea of any form of Windows on mobile. It hasn’t had much success then, and it doesn’t seem to be having better luck now.

To be fair, Microsoft has shown better performance with the Surface Duo 2, at least as far as pushing fixes is concerned. Unfortunately, even those fixes leave some things to be desired, and the software still shows some of the problems exhibited in the first Surface Duo. Given the fast pace of Android updates, Microsoft is clearly lagging behind on that front as well. Confidence in Microsoft’s ability to fix those software issues isn’t exactly that high, and the latest rumors only serve to validate those doubts.

Microsoft switching to a single foldable screen for the Surface Duo 3 doesn’t make all those problems go away. It could, however, alleviate or even fix some of the problems, particularly when it comes to having to support two screens, something that Android at its core still doesn’t do well in the first place. Unfortunately, it does pretty much throw away all the rhetoric around the first Surface Duo devices, validating once again that Samsung’s design might have been right all along.

An Answer in Search of a Problem

The biggest problem with the Surface Duo design is that there was probably no problem, to begin with. While some will say that this applies to foldable devices as well, it’s even more poignant with a dual-screen mobile device. The Surface Duo 2 is slick, beautiful, and innovative. Unfortunately, it is also incomprehensible for the majority of consumers, even those that can actually afford one. Microsoft tried to offer a device that seemed less fragile than a Galaxy Z Fold but unfortunately slapped a price that is just as inaccessible anyway.

Microsoft did have a clear audience in mind, but it might have overestimated its own clout in that industry. It might have envisioned a large army of mobile users who depend exclusively on Microsoft apps and services, but that ship has long sailed. Without support for other “normal” apps, the overall experience was clunky, awkward, and sometimes even unusable. The Surface Duo 2 definitely has fans that are now disillusioned at the path that Microsoft is rumored to take, but those fans won’t be able to help turn the device into a profit.

While the Surface Duo 2 is admittedly an interesting innovation, at the end of the day, it’s still a product that has to bring Microsoft money. By turning away from the dual-screen design, the company is effectively admitting that it failed to accomplish that. The “innie” foldable screen first used by Samsung is by no means perfect, but it’s also more usable for both regular and power users. It remains to be seen how much of the Surface Duo user experience will remain in such a different device and whether or not it will even be worth investing in a Microsoft mobile device that could suffer the same fate as other Microsoft mobile devices.

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TCL just announced a pair of sleek AR Glasses along with a bunch of other tech devices at CES 2023

While the AR glasses stopped us dead in our tracks, the company also unveiled a host of other devices from TVs to soundbars, ACs, refrigerators, tablets, phones, TWS earbuds, and a VR headset.

I was today years old when I learned that TCL is USA’s 2nd largest TV seller. The company clearly is doing something right, with its high-quality display units that are also exceptionally affordable. The company revealed this fact at their CES 2023 keynote, before highlighting all the innovations it has planned for the year. It debuted 2 ranges of new TVs, the S series of smart TVs that also double as monitors, should you choose, and the Q series of QLED TVs with more dimming zones and better brightness, and the flagship QM8, a Mini QLED television that can go up to 98 inches in size to provide a whopping 5000 dimming zones. The company also unveiled a set of sub $300 soundbars in S and Q series too.

Designer: TCL

A pioneer in displays, TCL also debuted two tablets that rival the iPad Pro with their sleek and functional designs. The NXTPAPER 12 Pro comes with a 12.2-inch 2K display that feels just like paper. It has four speakers, stereo microphones, and dual 8MP front-facing cameras to rival Apple’s own tablet, along with the ability to snap onto a wireless keyboard for a laptop-like experience. The NXTPAPER 12 Pro also has support for a stylus and runs Android 13 on an 8000mAh battery that gives it 13 hours of use.

The Book X12 Go was also announced as TCL’s new hybrid laptop with a detachable keyboard for ultimate usage flexibility. It too runs a 12.2-inch 2K screen but runs Windows 11 instead of Android 13. It also has a 30Wh battery that provides 14 hours of productivity with also the ability to reverse-charge.

The company’s displays also now benefit the everyday user thanks to TCL’s 40 series of smartphones that contain 3 different models, all with 90Hz displays and built-in 5G, and a special 2-in-1 ‘hyper-camera’ on the 408 model for photography nerds.

TCL also announced the MOVEAUDIO Air, their pair of TWS earbuds with an AI-enhanced quad-mic system for the clearest call quality. The earbuds also weigh a stunning 4.4 grams and boast of a 32-hour battery life (with the charging case) and IPX4 waterproof rating.

The RayNeo X2 was perhaps the most anticipated new tech in TCL’s lineup. Designed as a successor to the company’s previous NXTWEAR S, the RayNeo X2 are the world’s first binocular full-color microLED optical waveguide AR glasses. That’s just fancy talk for the fact that they have the best displays ever built into a pair of AR glasses as small as this, with 1000 nits of brightness and displays in both eyepieces for the perfect AR experience in indoor and outdoor applications. The glasses sit on your face without really occupying too much real estate, and can provide real-time subtitles just like Google’s demo concept from earlier this year, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset on the inside. They even have cameras built-in, capable of taking FPV photos and videos like Facebook and Ray-Ban’s Stories glasses.

Finally, TCL also revealed the NXTWEAR V, a flagship-level VR headset with 4K+ displays in both eyes offering 1512 PPI resolution for optimal clarity, along with a 108° FoV and 6 degrees of freedom – a feature that’s come to be expected from all good VR headsets. Two cameras on the front also enable the headset to have a ‘transparent mode’ that lets you basically use the cameras as eyes to see what’s in front of and around you as you move around.

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vivo iQOO 11 Review: An excellent flagship that will go unnoticed

PROS:


  • High-end specs in a "vanilla" model

  • Large, fast-charging battery

  • Decent cameras especially at night

CONS:


  • No dust or water resistance rating

  • Limited availability

  • Forgettable design (Alpha variant)

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

The iQOO 11 delivers a remarkable bevy of premium features in an affordable package you won't be able to easily buy in most markets.

The year is almost over, but smartphone manufacturers aren’t exactly done yet. Coming up at the last minute is vivo’s performance sub-brand iQOO, presenting to the world what is actually one of the first entries into the next generation of smartphones that will be arriving next year. This gives the brand the opportunity not only to end the year with a bang but also to start the next one on the right foot. But with so many smartphones already in the market and more yet to come, one has to wonder if every new model has what it takes to even get a bite out of that lucrative yet crowded market pie. That’s the challenge facing the nascent iQOO 11, so we take it for a test drive to see if it can stand out and rise above its peers.

Designer: iQOO

Aesthetics

Designing the appearance of a smartphone can be a delicate and unrelenting balancing act. On the one hand, you need to be noticeable at first glance, even from afar, to attract attention and potential buyers. On the other hand, the market’s high and rapid turnover of designs means that it’s difficult to pick out brands and even models just by looking at them. This tug-of-war between individuality and brand recognition is an ever-present struggle for most smartphone makers aside from Apple, and it seems that iQOO has tried to play it a bit safe this time around.

The iQOO 11’s basic design is pretty much standard among phones, with large rectangular camera islands taking up an obscene amount of space on their backs. To its credit, iQOO has been using this structure on a large number of its phones, varying only the arrangement of the lenses and the placement of the bump’s “chin.” To be fair, the iQOO 11’s appearance isn’t as obnoxious as others, but at the same time, it might also look a tad plain to the eyes, all too common in a sea of smartphones with large rectangular boxes housing their cameras.

Granted, that’s only true for the black “Alpha” variant we’re reviewing. This model gets an AG frosted glass for its back that makes the phone look stylish yet subdued. The other “Legend” variant, however, has more personality, thanks to its BMW M branding. That is expressed in a predominantly white back with the motorsports’ iconic red, black, and blue stripes running down its back. Beyond appearances, however, there is also more variety in materials used here, including vegan leather for the majority of the surface and fiberglass for the stripes. Not everyone will like this more active design, but it’s hard to deny it is more memorable and identifiable as well.

The iQOO 11’s back curves at the edges to meet the premium aluminum frame, a bit of a holdover from the days when curved was fashionable. In contrast, the phone’s display is completely flat, which is the current trend on most devices, with some exceptions. The large 6.78-inch screen is surrounded by very thin bezels, leaving plenty of room for content. As they say, content is king, and the bright and vibrant display definitely enthrones it in the best way possible.

Ergonomics

Considering how we use our smartphones for long periods of time every day, it is paramount that they are comfortable to hold in our hands. Given how expensive they have become, it’s also important that they allow a firm grip on the device to prevent it from slipping or falling off our hands. Unfortunately, the design of some phones and the materials they use don’t always work towards that goal.

The iQOO 11’s 208g weight isn’t much, especially for a phone with this big a screen. It gets a bit less wieldy, however, when you consider the size of the device, the material on its back, and how you’re forced to hold it for some operations. The black Alpha’s frosted glass is nice to look at and feels good in the hand, but it’s also slippery and almost precarious. Fortunately, iQOO does ship its phones with a clear silicone case as a protective measure. Unsurprisingly, the Legend doesn’t have this problem thanks to its more textured leather back.

One small but important consideration is the placement of the fingerprint scanner on the screen used to unlock the device or authenticate logins and transactions. On the iQOO 11, it’s a little too low for comfort, forcing you to place your hand lower, which could make it slip from your hand, or use a finger from your other hand. It’s definitely doable but not exactly comfortable.

Other than those considerations, though, the iQOO 11 is definitely a joy to hold in your hand or hands. The curved edges of the back cover don’t cut into your hand, though the ergonomic benefits of such a design are now being contested by flatter designs. Given the power that the phone offers and the experiences it unlocks, you might easily forget about such considerations, at least until you feel the soreness in your hand or, worse, accidentally drop the phone onto the pavement.

Performance

Manufacturers often reserve the best specs for “Pro” models, leaving vanilla or base models to be flagships only in name and appearance. That’s what makes the iQOO 11 an unexpected but much-welcomed surprise because it bears most, though not all, of the features you’d expect from a high-end and expensive premium phone. That starts with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which needs no introduction. Together with fast UFS 4.0 storage, the phone exhibits chart-topping performance, whether you’re just browsing the Web, playing games, or even creating content such as videos and images.

The 1440p 144Hz AMOLED display is also a big surprise, literally and figuratively. It is simply one of the best panels around, reaching high brightness levels and displaying accurate colors that you can tweak to your preference. That high refresh rate, though, feels more like a marketing stunt than an essential feature since very few apps other than benchmarks seems to be able to use it. For the most part, the phone intelligently switches between 60Hz and 120Hz depending on the content, ensuring that videos and games will be buttery smooth while prolonging battery life for other tasks.

To support all this power, the iQOO 11 has a pretty large 5,000 mAh battery that is responsible for most of the heft you’ll feel in your hand. With moderate “regular” use, you’ll find yourself left with just a little under 50% at the end of the day, and even an intense day of watching and gaming will still see you through until you need to recharge at night. And when it does come to recharge, you only need around 24 minutes to go from flat to 100%, thanks to the included 120W charger. Suffice it to say, you won’t be wanting for anything when it comes to all-day power and performance.

iQOO did seem to cut back a bit on the cameras, though not in any way that ruins the iQOO 11’s winning streak. On paper, the trio of sensors that live on its back sound middling or mediocre, but in practice, only one of those fits that description. The 50MP main camera produces very good images, whether under bright light or on overcast days. The 13MP 2x telephoto camera is hardly perfect, but it is able to manage on its own quite well. It’s the 8MP ultra-wide sensor that’s the black sheep of the family, resulting in images that are “good enough” but never notable. Overall, the phone does remarkably well in this area, considering the hardware it has to work with. Part of its success likes in vivo’s V2 imaging chip, which can be credited for the camera’s excellent nighttime performance that makes a dedicated Night Mode almost superfluous.

Sustainability

If the iQOO 11’s design looks common, its sustainability is just as similar as other phones in the market. That is to say, there isn’t much to talk about it, especially in a positive light. It has the usual blend of non-sustainable materials, both inside and outside, though the use of vegan leather on the Legend edition might be a point in its favor. There’s also little to no word on the company’s commitment to sustainable practices, even in packaging. The fact that it ships with a charger might even seem detrimental, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a compatible 120W charger anyway.

What makes the phone’s situation a little worse is that it has no advertised IP rating for dust and water resistance. While phones are always manufactured to a certain standard of durability, there is no assurance that they all have the same survival chances against small particles and liquid. Granted, an official IP rating is quite expensive and sometimes unnecessary in light of a manufacturer’s assurances. Sadly, iQOO doesn’t even make claims to assure buyers of the device’s long-term survivability.

Value

The iQOO 11 definitely checks all the right boxes when it comes to smartphone features, at least for those parts that interest users. It might not look impressive unless you grab the BMW M-branded variant, but many won’t mind that if they can get a high-performance device without overspending. Again, the iQOO 11 aims to please with a price tag that amounts to around $540, significantly lower than most premium flagships.

The problem, however, is whether you can get your hands on one in the first place. Unlike its parent company, iQOO has an even shorter list of markets that it serves, mostly in China and Southeast Asia. That means that despite all the power and performance that it can deliver, you won’t be able to experience a single one of those. You could try your luck importing it from other retailers, but network compatibility concerns make it a rather expensive gamble. You’ll be better off buying something that’s actually available in your area, even if it doesn’t have the same features.

Verdict

The vivo iQOO 11 is the epitome of how looks can be deceiving. Although it is by no means unattractive, its rather common design might get it easily overlooked by potential buyers looking for something more noteworthy, even without a case or skin. The BMW M Legend edition does have more character, but not everyone will fall in love with the sports car branding. If you manage to look past appearances, though, you will find a very capable device that will get you through a day with aplomb. Whether it’s for serious business, distracting games, or even content creation, the iQOO 11 has enough muscle to support your every need and whim.

That said, they also say that the devil is in the details, and small nitpicks here and there could make it look less attractive, not to mention completely unfeasible. The cameras are good but not excellent, and the lack of IP rating could nag people’s subconscious minds. There’s definitely plenty of room for improvement and plenty of opportunities for an iQOO 11 Pro to steal the spotlight. Unfortunately, neither phone will be available on a wider global scale, making all of these nice things ultimately moot for many people.

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OnePlus 11 phone is coming next week with an eye patch camera design

Before there was Nothing, the darling of the smartphone world, at least on the Android side, was OnePlus. It arrived on the scene with guns blazing, challenging the status quo of feature-rich smartphones that only the rich could comfortably afford. It’s arguable whether the company has been able to maintain that mission, especially with its rising prices and the way its peers have started carrying the same message. That said, every new phone under its brand is still a matter of interest to many Android fans, and its next flagship might not be an exception. The OnePlus 11 is set to launch in China next week, and it will be bearing a camera design that is both unique yet also mildly excessive, blending different styles together.

Designer: OnePlus

OnePlus’ design philosophy focused more on bringing components and materials that are usually found in more expensive brands to a more affordable handset. There was even a point in time when it offered different materials and styles for replaceable back panels, including a variety of wood as well as Kevlar-based carbon. As far as the overall design goes, however, OnePlus didn’t stray far from current trends, but it has been trying to create its own visual identity of late. And based on the company’s own pre-launch teasers, its next flagship will definitely be distinctive in terms of its camera design.

As camera hardware gets more sophisticated and bigger, so, too, do the modules that hold them. There has been a variety of designs used by different brands ranging from the discreet to the obscene. Some designs seem to build off on others, like how the OnePlus 10 earlier this year seemed to have taken some of the elements from the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s “Contour Camera” design, making it look like half a visor or one of those sci-fi cybernetic eye implants.

The OnePlus 11, based on the company’s own teaser photos, takes this a step further by planting a circle right on top of that camera module while also rounding one of the edges. This design subtly hides the fact that the camera module is actually taller than it normally is due to bigger hardware. To be fair, OnePlus has made the design look fluid and smooth to mitigate the visual disruption such a large shape would have on the back of the phone. It’s definitely eye-catching, though not necessarily in a good way.

OnePlus hasn’t disclosed much of the hardware aside from the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and fast LPDDR5X RAM and UFS 4.0 storage technologies. It will most likely have cameras that will make that rather overstated design worth the space it occupies. It also seems that OnePlus is teasing the return of its popular sandstone material for at least one model, though its availability is, of course, uncertain at this point. The OnePlus 11 will be announced in China on January 4th, but global availability won’t happen until a month later.

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Samsung Galaxy S23 leaked dummy units reveal the series is staying true to minimalism

The smartphone market has never been known for staying still for long as far as designs go, not unless you’re a company named after a fruit that keeps doctors away. The more open ecosystem on the Android side of the market fence required that its players be quicker and more agile in changing strategies to outdo their competitors, whether it’s in terms of features or looks. Although that strategy is still in play, smartphone manufacturers have started to be more conscious of what a more consistent and identifiable design language brings to the brand. It’s still not as long-lived as Apple’s iPhone designs, but companies like Samsung have started to keep their phone designs around for a bit longer, as demonstrated by leaked designs of next year’s Galaxy S23 flagship that bears a more toned-down and minimalist personality.

Designer: Samsung (via SlashLeaks)

For years, it seemed that the design philosophy in the smartphone market revolved around ever-changing eye-catching appearances. Even while the rest of the world embraced minimalism in many industries and products, smartphones remained obstinately lavish and conspicuous, sometimes driven by the hardware they forced into these small slabs of metal, plastic, and glass. Better cameras, for example, often demanded more room, and designs built bumps or islands around them to compensate.

There has been a recent trend, however, where smartphone companies have started to embrace the tenets of minimalism in their designs. More importantly, some have also started keeping those designs around for a few iterations, especially if they happen to be successful and popular. Newer designs don’t always win, especially when they start to give their owners visual overload and noise for very little reason other than looking flashy.

Next year’s Samsung premium phones will embody this trend, bearing a design that’s closely similar to this year’s generation. To be more precise, the base Galaxy S23 and S23+ models will be adopting a design a little similar to the Galaxy S22 Ultra instead of being different from the Ultra model. The Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be that different from its predecessor from this year.

In short, there will be no significant design differences between the three Galaxy S23 models except for their size and one small detail about their edges. Both the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+ will have somewhat flatter edges, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s left and right sides remain curved. The most distinguishing factor of Samsung’s upcoming phones is, however, their minimalist design. In an age where cameras are often enclosed in boxes or circles, the Galaxy S23’s camera lenses are left unbound and unadorned. It results in a cleaner look that almost makes it seem like the phone is thinner than it really is, at least compared to those with large bumps protruding off their backs.

This will be the second year Samsung will use this design, which helps cement it as an identifying mark of Samsung phones. Whether the brand will keep it for another year is unknown and can’t easily be predicted. The smartphone market dynamics are always changing, and, to be fair, these companies do often need to pivot or risk losing millions in a single year.

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OPPO Find N2 Foldable Phone Review: A Design Marvel You Can Fit in Your Hand

PROS:


  • Lighter, thinner, more ergonomic design

  • Improved Flexion hinge experience

  • Impressive camera output

  • Protective case included in the box

CONS:


  • A few software issues

  • Not available globally

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
SUSTAINABILITY / REPAIRABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

Elegant and delightful, the OPPO Find N2 represents a refinement of the foldable phone design that deserves to reach global markets.

Given their marketing strength, you’d think that Samsung and maybe Huawei are the only ones doing foldable phones, with a bit of Motorola on the side. Of course, there are now a few more players in that arena, especially when you turn your attention toward the East. It’s a relatively nascent market compared to the larger smartphone industry, which means there’s plenty of room for improvement but also plenty of temptations to just go with the flow. There are still plenty of unanswered questions regarding foldable phones’ design, from the reliability of its hinge to the very purpose of their existence, but those doubts never stopped companies from attempting to innovate and search for answers. OPPO, for one, seems to have done quite a lot of work for its second-gen “horizontal” foldable, so we take the OPPO Find N2 in our hands to check how much has improved and how much has remained unchanged.

Designer: OPPO

Aesthetics

It’s almost too easy to think that once you have seen one foldable phone, you’ve already seen them all. After all, there are only so many ways you can fold a device, given the limitations of today’s technologies. Right from the start, however, the OPPO Find N bucked the trend to show that there is a slightly different way to design a large, horizontal foldable phone, and the Find N2 iterates over that design almost to perfection.

Unlike all the rest from Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Honor, and Vivo, the OPPO Find N2 maintains the more familiar aspect ratios and shapes of phones and tablets. When folded closed, the “phone” isn’t an awkwardly tall and narrow piece of screen real estate that makes it difficult to even peck a few words on it. When opened up, the “tablet” is closer to a landscape or horizontal aspect ratio that’s more typical of these slates. That means you won’t have to constantly rotate the phone after opening it to watch videos properly or take advantage of split-screen functionality.

While that basic form has remained the same, OPPO’s second foldable phone does change things in subtle yet meaningful ways. You might not even notice how thinner it is compared to its predecessor, but it adds up to make the device more manageable in your hand. You will appreciate how light it is, though, which isn’t exactly surprising given how smaller it is compared to most foldables of its kind. OPPO also made important improvements in both the look and feel of the device, starting with the anodized metal frame that tastefully matches and accents the phone’s color. The back material has also been changed from glossy glass to a matte texture that helps a lot with grippy-ness. There’s even a vegan leather model that makes the phone look classy while giving something your fingers will enjoy as well.

The OPPO Find N2 is undoubtedly a beauty to behold from any side or angle, especially thanks to how it folds completely flat and how the crease at the fold is nearly invisible. One design aspect that might be a bit divisive is the camera bump, something that it inherits from the first Find N. A bit like the gorgeous OPPO Find X5 Pro, that bump slopes gently upward. Unlike that award-winning design, however, there is a clear demarcation around the camera island, creating an abrupt stop in eye movement. Admittedly, it’s a minor detail that others might actually find tasteful, especially compared to more obnoxious camera bumps on other phones, foldable or otherwise.

Ergonomics

The driving force behind OPPO’s decision to stay off the beaten foldable design path is the ease of use rather than mere technological demonstration. Its smaller size and more familiar aspect ratios make it easier to hold and use even with a single hand, something that’s rare with regular phones these days. Although it might seem like you’re sacrificing screen size, what you’re really getting is a more practical and ergonomic device that looks great and feels just as great in your hands.

OPPO’s “waterdrop” hinge design has always made it possible to close the phone completely flat, which means it takes up less space and is effectively thinner when folded. The OPPO Find N2 further optimizes this design by making the device thinner and, more importantly, lighter, mostly by improving materials and reducing the number of parts needed in its Flexion Hinge. All of these result in a device that’s comfortable to use and puts less strain on your hands and arms. Given how you’re likely to enjoy using it for hours on end, that’s a rather significant quality of life improvement.

At the same time, OPPO has taken pains to also make sure you’re able to hold on better to the phone to prevent accidents. That switch to matte glass for the back adds a bit of texture that helps your finger grip the device better. But if you still fear your clumsiness, OPPO generously includes a two-piece protective case in the box that matches the phone’s color for added peace of mind. It’s the typical silicone case, though, so it does take away some of the phone’s stylish beauty.

One of the biggest improvements in the OPPO Find N2 is something that you can’t see. The company’s second-generation Flexion Hinge features improved durability thanks to the use of new materials like carbon fiber and high-strength alloy. It also has 38 fewer parts than the previous-gen hinge while delivering improved robustness and reliability. For example, it can now stay open at any angle between 45 to 125 degrees. This is part of the reason why the Find N2 is lighter and more usable, without compromising its functionality.

Performance

The Find N2 is no slouch when it comes to internal components either, though it is a tad late to bear the latest mobile processor. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, however, is very much cable of handling anything you can throw at it, especially when you consider the 12 or 16GB of memory you can utilize. In terms of raw power, there really isn’t much to complain about, and the phone will serve you well whether you’re binging the latest streaming shows, playing your favorite mobile games, or even being productive with work tasks.

Both displays on the OPPO Find N2 are top-notch, and not just because of their aspect ratios. The external 5.54-inch 2120×1080 AMOLED display is bright and vibrant, and its 120Hz refresh rate is decent even for games. The main star is, of course, the internal 7.1-inch 1920×1792 AMOLED LTPO screen that can dial its refresh rate down to 1Hz to preserve the battery. This flexible screen is just as delightful and colorful as any other, but, more importantly, the crease that splits it into two areas is barely visible at any angle. Your finger won’t be able to tell it’s there, either, which is a far cry from the dip that even the Galaxy Z Fold 4 still has at this point.

One problem with most foldable phones is that there isn’t much space to cram large cameras inside them. It’s no surprise, then, that the OPPO Find N2’s set is no match for some of the latest flagships in the market. That being said, it’s actually not bad at all, despite what the specs sheet might suggest. It definitely helps that the famed Hasselblad had a hand in fine-tuning the photography experience, especially through the software and filters. OPPO’s dedicated imaging NPU, the MariSilicon X, also deserves credit for the cameras’ performance, particularly when 4K content is involved.

The 50MP camera on its own produces excellent photos even in low-light situations. The ultra-wide camera gets a decent 48MP sensor, so you’re not actually sacrificing quality by switching to a more panoramic shot, though there are telltale signs of lens distortion at the edges. Just as impressive is the 32MP sensor on the telephoto camera, something that you won’t expect for close-up shots. The 32MP front-facing cameras, both inside and outside, are also good and won’t leave you wanting when it comes to selfies and video calls either.

The Find N2 runs OPPO’s ColorOS 13 version of Android 13, which offers a beautiful and fluid interface as well as plenty of options to customize your experience. What makes this version different are the gestures designed to make it easy to take advantage of the form factor, specifically in “splitting” the screen between two apps. That said, OPPO could only do so much to nudge Android apps to behave well in this context. You’ll find some apps still don’t play nice with foldable phones, but that is a flaw of the platform more than the hardware.

Sustainability

While OPPO is blazing a trail when it comes to innovating on foldable phones, it isn’t making inroads in changing the narrative around sustainability. There are always small steps forward, like the use of recycled paper or the reduction of packaging size, but the phones themselves mostly remain beautiful yet harmful products of human ingenuity and creativity. OPPO has also yet to jump on the slowly growing trend of making its phones more easily repairable by third parties and even owners themselves, but the complexity of a foldable phone makes that a non-starter anyway.

The OPPO Find N2 does at least improve the phone’s reliability a bit so that it won’t find itself in repair shops too soon. The reduction of the number of parts that make up the new hinge also translates to a reduction of the things that could potentially break. Improving the phone’s overall durability might not be a big sustainability gain, but it at least helps prolong the lifetime of a product and delay its arrival in landfills.

One of the three available colors for the Find N2 also uses vegan leather to offer a luxurious aesthetic that doesn’t harm the environment, particularly animals. Vegan leather, however, is also a bit controversial in how it has become somewhat of a marketing buzzword. When implemented properly, however, it’s still a more viable alternative to other non-sustainable materials that make a phone look dashing.

Value

The first foldable OPPO phone challenged the status quo of this niche market with a design that proves there’s still another way to do things. The OPPO Find N2, then, is a refinement of that design that smooths out the rough edges to deliver a product that is almost perfect, at least for what its intended goals are. Stylish and handy, the Find N2 offers a foldable device that feels like a finished product rather than an expensive prototype. Its design is clearly informed by the need to have something comfortable, usable, and aesthetic rather than simply flaunting technical and engineering innovations.

For all its strengths, the OPPO Find N2 has one critical flaw that makes all of the above almost moot and academic. It won’t be available anywhere other than China, at least not in the immediate future. And while you might be able to purchase it through third-party retailers, the software experience might be so different that it detracts from the enjoyment of the device. Fortunately, OPPO hasn’t closed the door on the possibility of a global launch, but it’s taking a wait-and-see approach in order to measure market interest.

Verdict

Many people still doubt that foldable phones, both the larger ones and the clamshell designs, are the future of mobile phones, but it’s hard to deny that they will play a large part in their development. As components become more accessible, more companies will be putting out such devices to the point that they will become commonplace. For now, however, there are only a few that dare dip their toes in that market, and even fewer who dare to be different.

The OPPO Find N2 is clearly a rare breed, not only because of how much smaller it is but also because of its focus. While all phone brands will naturally claim that they are designing for usability, OPPO takes that mission to heart. The result is a foldable device that is elegant, delightful, and practical, able to fit seamlessly into everyday life just like their non-foldable brethren.

The post OPPO Find N2 Foldable Phone Review: A Design Marvel You Can Fit in Your Hand first appeared on Yanko Design.

This cute BlackBerry-like phone is something some might wish they could buy

By now, there is only one phone design that is known to “work,” and everything else is seen to be an experiment or an exercise in failure. Once upon a time, however, there was both beauty and chaos in diversity, with a new phone shape coming out almost every month or so (yes, we’re looking at you, old Nokia!). Although the age of smartphones has made the screen-only “candy bar” form factor the sole victor, there was one design, in particular, that almost stood the test of time. That would be BlackBerry’s QWERTY phones, a design that is perhaps forever associated with being “work-minded” more than anything else. The brand might be dead, but that design continues to spark some people’s imaginations and desires, as shown by this rather adorable take on that form factor that may never come to be.

Designers: Jasper Morrison for Punkt

The history of mobile phones is almost a beautiful testament to the amazing power of the human brain to adapt. Even with a T9 keypad that was really designed for landlines, people have developed the ability to rapidly hammer out text on just 12 keys. That said, it was the introduction of a full but miniaturized keyboard that made BlackBerry devices the go-to for more business-minded people. That and the company’s much-praised suite of services, including the once might BBM or BlackBerry Messenger.

The history of that company and the brand has now become legend, but the interest in QWERTY phones, as they are called, apparently lives on. CrackBerry shared an exclusive look at one such attempt that almost revived that design, though its fate still hangs in the balance. The Punkt MC01 Legend, from a Swiss company famed for its minimalist phones, took that QWERTY idea and gave it a more modern spin that honestly deserves a chance in the market.

Compared to the last traces of BlackBerry’s QWERTY phones, the MC01 Legend has the makings of a more ergonomic and distinctly minimal design. The keys are better spaced apart for more comfortable thumb typing, and the back isn’t completely flat but rises and falls to create an angled surface that makes it easier to grip the phone while typing. Admittedly, that does make the device thicker than even the thickest phone, but it chooses to optimize for what it does best rather than look good simply for the sake of appearance.

Unfortunately, the MC01 Legend might never come to be, though Punkt hasn’t completely taken it off the table. There have been roadblocks to the device’s deployment, most of which revolved around Android being deemed unfit for both the uncommon 4:3 screen size and the company’s hardline stance on privacy. Either way, the design is definitely striking and a tiny bit adorable, especially if you’re the kind of phone user that types out messages, emails, and texts more than you watch Netflix or play Genshin Impact.

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New iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept shows a redesigned camera layout with variable aperture, and USB-C Thunderbolt

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

When I first saw Apple announce the iPhone 14 Pro, I distinctly remember having two thoughts: the first one being “Wow, that Dynamic Island looks fascinating”, followed by “Wait, that’s the only design change? What will they possibly do next??” The 14 Pro seems to mark the longest that Apple has committed to a design style. The camera layout has stayed the same for 3 years; the flat-edge design and lack of a home button have stuck around since 2017, and it’s been 10 whole years since the Lightning Port was introduced on the iPhone. If there ever was a time to make a massive design change… this was it. And I’m not talking about ditching the notch for an island. I’m talking about something more substantial.

Putting together all the rumors available on the interwebz (with a few creative tweaks of his own), concept designer Antonio De Rosa has unveiled what could possibly be the most radical change to the iPhone in the past 5 years. The iPhone 15 Pro Max retains the flat edges (although they look more rounded than before), but has a sizeable change in practically every other area you look at. This incredibly enticing concept features a larger Dynamic Island on the front, rocker-style volume buttons that also slide independently to put your phone on mute, a Thunderbolt 4 port on the base (instead of lightning), and an absolutely unrecognizable back with a new camera layout + branding. If all that awesomeness somehow wasn’t enough for you, there’s even an M1 chip on the inside, marking the first time an iPhone would receive Apple’s M-series chips.

Designer: Antonio De Rosa

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

The first thing you notice with the iPhone 15 Pro Max is that honker of a camera bump featuring 2 large cameras instead of 3 smaller ones. The reason primarily being that one of those cameras now comes with a variable aperture, while the other one incorporates the rumored Periscope Lens. The now-rectangular camera bump also includes a better flash, dubbed the Pro Flash Duo, and a dedicated depth mic that can spotlight certain zones and record audio of exactly what’s in the camera’s frame.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

The entire back of the new iPhone 15 Pro Max feels discernibly different too. The camera bump’s new layout affects the entire composition of the back, calling for a newly designed branding system. The 15 Pro, therefore, ditches the centralized Apple logo, opting for the word ‘iPhone’ instead. The Apple logo, however, makes it to the bottom right corner, creating a semblance of balance while almost mimicking a playing card in its design.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

The biggest change to the iPhone 15 Pro Max is that new camera system. While the 14 Pro didn’t do much apart from introducing a larger sensor and an Action Mode with stabilized video, the 15 Pro goes back to the drawing board with a completely redesigned layout. Now looking almost like something from the Android universe (there’s a distinct OnePlus meets Vivo flavor here), the 15 Pro features a larger camera with a variable aperture, and a camera below it with a periscope lens. The variable aperture camera is a fascinating thing – it was attempted only recently by Samsung, but discontinued almost immediately… however, if anyone could pull it off, it’s probably Apple. The variable aperture works almost like an eye does, increasing in lower light settings to allow the camera to capture more light information as well as generate more natural bokeh, and closing shut in brighter settings for incredibly sharp images with a higher depth of field. The Periscope Lens right under it handles telephoto, using a unique lens setup to mimic a much longer lens to achieve better optical zoom.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

Perhaps the most expected change to the iPhone 15 Pro is the death of the lightning port. Thanks to EU legislation, the iPhone 15 Pro’s expected to have USB-C instead, although the company will probably outdo itself by going to Thunderbolt 4 directly. The smartphone will still retain MagSafe and wireless charging, given that Apple probably hopes to migrate to a portless iPhone in the near future.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

The concept also brings the M1 chip to the iPhone – a feature that seems like a distant reality but is fun to imagine nevertheless. It does, however, share a few features with its predecessor, including a Dynamic Island (now bigger and better), an improved SOS feature, an Always-On display, and a SIM-free build.

Apple’s expected to introduce the iPhone 15 series as early as September 2023, although there’s no saying what the supply chain shortage will mean for the company’s ability to deliver its next best iPhone on time. Apple’s also rumored to announce a VR/AR wearable towards the end of the year too!

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Concept

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