I love phones. And I especially love concept phones. More specifically, I love unusual concept phones, ones that required some out-of-the-box thinking and ingenuity from their creators.
One of the first concept phones I covered was the Flip concept in January 2011, which was a multi-display phone that could be flipped into various positions and configurations. It could be used as a smaller tablet with three conjoined displays, or a single-display phone with a full QWERTY keyboard. But, as with many concepts, the Flip disregarded some of the basic laws of physics. A phone with three displays, a physical QWERTY keyboard and two 180° hinges would not only have trouble keeping a charge for more than a couple hours, but it would probably also have trouble standing the test of time.
In light of the flexible AMOLED display panels that Samsung is tirelessly working on (and should be releasing for use in consumer devices later this year), several other concepts have surfaced, such as the Galaxy Skin. The Galaxy Skin, imagined by a student in the Samsung Talent Program in Hongik University's Engineering Department late last year, is a flexible concept phone that can be twisted, folded in half or wrapped around the users' wrist without hindering its functionality. It has a flexible AMOLED display on each side, a built-in projector and the ability to prop itself up.
In short, it's a very improbable device. But it's lust-worthy, nonetheless.
Earlier today, a concept that takes the flexible display to an entirely new level found its way onto design blog Yanko Design. ONE, designed by Yejin Jeon as an iF Design Talents entry, is a smartphone that takes on the size and shape of a typical fountain pen. Inside, it holsters a flexible, 6-inch display and "basically satisfies the needs of consumers who are looking for a lighter phone without compromising on the size of the display screen or applications," says Radhika Seth of Yanko Design. The display is ejected from the pen-like body like a scroll and the body holds a camera sensor near the top, a speaker opposite the image sensor and a micro USB port at the bottom. Along the side of the pen body, or what would be the top of the display pull-out, a smaller panel displays some notifications and other device status information, such as a battery meter, wireless signal meter, alarms and time.
ONE is a very clever design. And it answers one of the growing issues with smartphones of late: pocket real estate. (A quick Google search revealed that this isn't exactly the first concept of its kind either. There was a strikingly similar Nokia concept back in December 2009.)
Over the last two years, smartphones have matured in both power and functionality. Several manufacturers have also adopted larger displays, which have, in turn, increased the footprint of their devices. Handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note may be pretty trim, but the sheer size of its display still requires quite a bit of plastic to hold it in place and protect its other components.
As I covered earlier this week, manufacturers are now scrambling to bring more slim and trim devices to market. But there's a point where a thin device becomes too thin to comfortably hold. An extremely gaunt device becomes difficult to hold with confidence and can begin to feel flimsy or frail in the hand.
ONE addresses at least one of those issues. It would take up no more pocket space than a run-of-the-mill pen. But, being a concept that doesn't necessarily have to answer to the laws of physics or engineering and technology limitations, it comes with a fair share of its own problems that might occur with a similar device in the real world.
For one, where does the battery fit? And what size battery could be squeezed in such a tiny space? Would ONE only have a 1,000mAh (or smaller) battery? How long would a single charge last? Where would the other components go? Yanko's Seth explains that it would use cloud computing for memory, but what type of processor would this device enclose? How much RAM would it contain? There is a laundry list of questions that could be asked solely on its size – or lack thereof.
Also, one must question the display and its rigidness. Flexible displays are fine, so long as they have something a little more rigid to hold it in place. If the ONE display is flexible enough to roll up into the pen body, what will keep it from flopping over of rolling back up once it is ejected from the body? Would it just be like one of those cheesy slap koozies? Grip in the wrong place and your display springs back into its rolled-up state outside the pen body.
Then there's the issue of how uncomfortable this device would be to hold and use. Taking a phone call wouldn't be so bad, as the display would fold up inside the body. It would simply look like you were talking into a pen, which isn't unlike the Bluetooth headset stylus from ASUS. But can you imagine typing on this phone with a paper-thin profile? Playing games?
(Originally, I was concerned that the one – and only – camera was stuck as a front-facing shooter. However, in the description, it notes that both the mic and camera rotate. The mic rotation controls how far the display extends, but it still doesn't account for how the display is held rigid.)
No less, this is a pretty sweet concept. And it doesn't have to function properly or adhere to basic laws of physics to be awesome. And as long as I don't actually have to type on this thing, I will revel in how awesome of an idea it is. What say you, ladies and gents? Do you like this ONE pen phone concept? Or is it too far-fetched for you? Are you looking forward to the flexible display trend? Or will you stick to your standard candy bar phone for the foreseeable future?
Images via Yanko Design