Unique Mobile Phones - Ten of the Most Unusual Concept Phones
Although there is a huge variety of different things that you can do with your mobile phone, and many different types of user each with his or her own habits and preferences, for some reason most mobile phones today are almost identical to each other. Whether you buy an iPhone, one of the many Android phones or a Windows phone - most handsets look basically the same and most of the hardware is also very similar.
I think that this is a real shame, because there are many more possibilities that would make our mobile phones much more interesting and unique. I'm not the only one either - there are some excellent 'concept phone' designs out there produced by world class designers who are trying to re-envision the most ubiquitous, most versatile and most used piece of modern technology.- the smartphone.
Some of these designs are close to coming into production, meaning that we are likely to see something very similar on the high street before too long, whilst others are more fanciful. All of them, however, are radical, unique, surprising and interesting - I hope you agree and enjoy checking out the pictures!
The Modular Mobile Phone - Phonebloks and Ara
Probably the most exciting new mobile phone concept of 2013, and in my humble opinion the most likely to translate into a successful consumer product, is the idea of the modular phone handset.
The idea is actually very simple, although bringing it to life will undoubtedly involve some major engineering challenges. A modular product is one which can be built up out of a range of different 'modules'. This means that owners of a handset like this can easily swap out parts to upgrade a camera, replace a broken screen, and generally customize the handset to their hearts content.
Considering the fact that I currently own a Samsung Galaxy S4 with a broken screen, which I haven't yet found the money to get fixed (or the courage to try to fix it myself!) I for one love the idea of having a phone which would allow you to simply unclip the screen and then clip on a new one. Being able to customize a phone to your exact requirements also seems like a great idea to me. A range of different camera, speaker and sensor modules could be produced so that everyone could get the exact handset they want without having to pay for features they don't want or need. It also means that as technology progresses and improved hardware becomes available you don't need to buy a new phone - you can just switch over the relevant module to the latest module and keep everything else the same. This is both more economical and much more environmentally friendly.
I'm also a big fan of the open source and open hardware - which is when programming code and hardware designs are made freely available, and both tinkerers and other manufacturers are able to make their own alterations and develop their own modules. This concept is perfect for taking advantage of the opportunities the open source and open hardware movement presents, and it looks like Motorola is going to do just that.
The modular mobile phone concept took off this year when the Dutch designer Dave Hakkens posted a video of his 'Phonebloks' concept (see below) on YouTube. Hakkens' idea soon went viral, and the video itself has had over 18 million views in just a few months.
All of this attention drew the interest of some big players, and within a few weeks Hakkens had struck a deal with the Google owned mobile handset manufacturer Motorola to work with them on their own 'hackable' and modular design known as 'Project Ara'.
Sneak Peaks at Motorola's Project AraClick thumbnail to view full-size
Projected Displays and Wearable Technology
I've seen a few concepts recently which combine compact wearable technology with a projected screen or keyboard to turn anything into a touchscreen. One of the most interesting and unusual examples is the 'finger touching' concept by Sunman Kwon.
Finger TouchingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Scroll Out OLED Displays
Another popular idea is to use super thin OLED displays which are hidden within the main handset until you pull them out. There are a few different design concepts which use this idea, and there is actually quite a lot of variety amongst them. Two of my own personal favourites are the LG Flutter, and the Chinese scroll phone which you can see in the pictures below.
Chinese Scroll Phone
The Grass Phone
One of the most popular themes for new concept phones these days is the flexible handset. Some big name manufacturers have jumped on board for this bandwagon and there is every chance that at least one or two of these will make it into production. One of my personal favourites is the Philips Fluid, which clips together so that you can wear it like a bracelet when its not in use. This seems to give the advantages of a smartwatch, but means that you can still unroll it to have a regular sized phone without having to carry another handset around with you in your pocket. In the summer months, when I'm not wearing a jacket, my pocket space is always limited, so having a phone with a reasonable sized screen which doesn't take up valuable pocket space is a great idea in my book.