Concept Phones: It's Time to Stop!


Okay, concept phones.

The marketing machine strikes again.

So, all right, OnePlus has been hyping up

and teasing this concept phone with these images

for the past week or so by the time you see this.

It's looking pretty spicy.

It's got a lot of people wondering about it.

Meanwhile, I've been testing the phone

for about three weeks now.

This is the actual phone.

Now again, the fact that it's a concept phone

means it's not coming out anytime soon,

like it doesn't have any true parallel

to a current OnePlus phone,

but it's meant to demonstrate something cool

or unique that they're just not shipping.

And so with this one,

It's an active cooling system

that they're calling KryoFlux technology.

Active KryoFlux is what it says

on the back, so you can see it.

I think it looks super sick.

If you look closely at the back of the phone here,

you can see this icy blue liquid pulsing

through these channels over the back,

and it's over the hottest parts of the phone.

It's keeping the battery and the CPU and GPU cool.

And then it's around the camera bump too.

You can see it up here flowing around this circle

around the multi-camera system.

I'm not sure the liquid flowing around the camera bump

would actively contribute to cooling in a useful way,

But eh, it sure does look sick.

It's hard to appreciate it fully on camera,

but just holding it in my hands, looking at it,

especially if you go into a darker room,

You can see these bubbles that make it

clear that there's some type of liquid running

over the back of the phone.

The only thing is it doesn't work, at all.

Like all the stuff that I said it would be cool

if it did like cooling CPU and GPU and battery,

It doesn't do that.

It does have the liquid flowing through

the channels to make it look like it's cooling things.

But this doesn't actively contribute

to the cooling in this phone.

Just looks like it does.

So this concept phone is designed to show the possibilities

of what a working version

of this could look like or maybe an exaggerated version

of this could look like, but that's just it.

It's just what it could look like.

So, okay, what if it did work?

Well, OnePlus told me that they believe a future version

of KryoFlux that is working would reduce

the phone's charging temperature by 1.6 degrees Celsius,

which would allow it to charge from zero to 100

up to one minute faster and reduce gaming temperatures

by up to 2.1 degrees Celsius,

which could translate

to an extra two to four frames per second.

And that's what they told me.

So that's probably the absolute best-case

optimistic version of what they got in their testing.

There's a good reason why this is showing up

in a concept phone and not in an actual real shipping phone,

which like this,

adds a lot of complexity and potentially cost and thickness.

You have the liquid and the pumps and everything.

Not that this is like a super thick phone,

but it adds thickness,

all for not a ton of benefit,

this is a very concept phone thing to do.

We do have the ASUS ROG phone

and the Lenovo Legion Duel,

I dunno if you remember that phone.

These are some of the only phones in the world

that I've seen that have tried real active cooling.

And even that was different. It wasn't KryoFlux.

It was like a fan accessory that plugs into the back.

These phones sacrificed water resistance and thinness

and they're expensive niche phones, but they did it.

So why show this off

If you're not intending on making it

into an actual phone, you're gonna ship and sell?

Well, the answer, like so many other things

with a lot of these companies is marketing, right?

So these companies do spend a lot of money on R&D,

on research and development and they're constantly coming

up with new ideas that get proposed and then

mocked up and then prototyped tested, and adjusted.

And a lot of these things end up making it into a phone.

But the ones that don't, they don't make it to the end.

Maybe they just get repackaged and turned

into a nice concept for people to admire their hard work,

And then they don't make it to a phone.

It's kind of like how we can be confident

that somewhere in Apple's headquarters

There is an iPhone with USB-C just for testing.

There's no way they haven't tested it yet at this point,

but they're not going to turn around

and packaging it up and showing it off as a concept phone.

It'll be kind of funny if they did actually,

but that's something they keep under the surface.

But the companies that do this concept phone thing,

This is really just about getting a little bit of PR return,

Little positive marketing return

for all the dollars that you spent on research

and development that didn't end up making it

into final products that you could eventually market

as if they were going to be in customers' hands,

which is fine.

I can't be mad at that but at the same time,

I am holding a cool idea that's not

It's going to be a real feature of a phone.

So I put together a little list of concept phones

just so you can see what we're working with here.

And I've put them in order of worst to best

based on how much I wanted them to become a real thing.

So in 2020, OnePlus did another concept phone.

They're no strangers to these.

This is a phone with a color-changing back.

It could change colors for fun or even

as a notification indicator using electrochromic glass.

The reason it never came to a real phone is

Because electrochromic glass is insanely expensive

and difficult to make efficient in a tiny smartphone,

But hey, your phone could change colors.

Then this year there was a Xiaomi concept phone-based

on the 12S Ultra that lets you attach a physical

like a lens to the back of the camera system on the phone.

Cool idea to be able to attach

and use different high-quality lenses

for different focal lengths on the back of your phone.

But the fact is you're still extremely limited

by the one-inch smartphone sensor underneath.

And by the time you put all that extra hardware up

and you're carrying around several lenses,

Most people would rather just carry a regular good camera

That's gonna take great pictures

with a larger sensor anyway.

Then there's TCl.

TCL also is no stranger to concept phones,

and they brought one

to CES this year with a paper-like matte display.

This is kind of interesting,

It's like a Kindle, kind of cool idea.

I love the thought

of having a full-color but fully fingerprints

and reflection-free display on a phone.

But this one isn't coming

to a real phone either because, well,

TCL isn't sure if there are going to be enough people interested

in it and also people who got to use it

also noticed the finish does take a big hit

to the brightness overall.

And there will also be some durability questions too.

With a normal smartphone with regular glass,

you can go to Corning and buy their best, hardest,

strongest Gorilla Glass and that's typically fine.

But with this,

you couldn't buy some off-the-shelf strong glass.

So you don't know.

It might be a little bit brittle,

it might be a little bit scratch-prone.

That's the type of thing that they're worried about.

Now Vivo did a concept phone

in 2019 with no buttons and no ports.

It had haptic pressure-sensitive areas around the body

and pogo pins for charging and data instead of a port.

That's not what I liked about it though.

What I liked was it also had a full-screen

under-display fingerprint reader.

So instead of it having to be

In this like specific area right at the bottom

of the middle where you have to nail it every time,

might take more than one try, on this concept,

You can literally unlock it with your fingerprint

by just touching anywhere on the screen,

which is kind of crazy.

This is an evolution of what they did back

with the first Apex concept phone,

which was in 2018 which was a bezel-less concept

with a pop-up camera and a half-screen fingerprint sensor.

I just like the idea of being able to add more

than one finger at once for extra security.

That would've been super sick.

But yeah, an optical sensor that big is extremely,

extremely expensive.

Way too expensive for a phone.

Now OnePlus also did a concept phone

at CES 2020 that I thought was interesting.

It used electrochromic glass again.

So hey, too expensive.

But this time it's to darken

or lighten just the glass over the rear camera.

And it was cool.

It could hide it

If you went all the way dark and it had this sleek look,

but it could be used as a sort of ND shade

for reducing the amount of light that gets in.

So taking pictures outdoors or in bright light, again,

It would've been cool to see it,

but that tech is just not efficient enough to miniaturize

and put in smartphones right now.

So that McLaren edition concept phone is never gonna happen.

And then maybe the most interesting concept phone

of them all is all these

foldable rollable crazy stuff that we've seen

from several companies.

So TCL did a Fold 'N Roll

with an accordion hinge back in the day when

That was the only way anyone knew how to do it.

Motorola though did a rollable concept phone

that extends its height from the top

like a magic trick.

And LG did a rollable phone that extended

In the landscape direction, RIP to LG.

But all these concepts, you guessed it,

never shipped or never turned into real phones

or real products,

of course for various reliability and cost reasons

That makes perfect sense.

So at this point, it feels like we have the formula

for how a concept phone is born,

like how a star is born in the universe,

which is like, all right, spend a lot

of money on research and development and various ideas

will make it through the prototyping stage

and get into the final product, which is cool.

Some of them won't make it quite to the end,

but we can still repackage them

into a concept phone and show off how cool it could be.

And I guess on the one hand I can't be salty

that they're spending a lot

of energy on new research and development.

It's cool that we get new ideas.

But then also, yeah, concept phone,

kind of just a PR stunt at the end of the day.

Why not both?

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