"All phones look the same." No longer. 2018 may have been a fairly old year for telephone design, but this year it has been anything but – and it's just March. We see not only obscure brands that have the courage to present wild patterns, but ordinary manufacturers come up with designs that are completely different.
And as with going beyond the beaten path, not all of these ideas work. Some are genius; innovative ideas that have functional applications that we would love to see in multiple phones. Others are just gimmicks – manufacturers strive for superficial, eye-catching features that are unlikely to convince the masses.
In this showdown, this season's crazy innovations go toe-to-toe and serve the title as "genius" or "gimmick".
Samsung Galaxy Fold & Huawei Mate X: Folding Monitors
Steals all headers – and raises some pens – this year is the "folds". Manufacturers have long been engaged in folding smartphones, but consumers have never found a convincing reason why they should change their perfectly functional candy bars for one who bends.
Frankly, Galaxy Fold and Mate X are not really the winning arguments, but it comes there. The stars of both these revelations were the software that made these giant, folding units actually useful to the user. Seamless switching between a smaller screen to a larger one for better media consumption or multi-tasking is a good idea. But for the time being, we are just waiting for these units to be more beautiful and a little more lockable.
Although foldable phones do not really get the traction they need to sell, weighting techniques can find a home in many other devices, from watches to TVs and perhaps e-readers. It is the technology that is surely here to stay. I say GENIUS .
LG G8 ThinQ: Crystal Sound Screens and Vein Recognition
LG has made good phones. But there are not enough compelling reasons to choose LG phones instead of another flagship in its price range. This year, they have decided to really try to get away with some ugly features.
The first is Crystal Sound OLED screens, which allow them to remove the upper earpiece and let sound from your phone call vibrate through the screen instead. It sounds like an unnecessary gimmick, but because it makes room for more screen, other manufacturers will likely investigate this as part of the ongoing war against the whim. I say GENIUS .
But, remarkably, you will notice that, despite the talking screen, there remains a thick notch where the earpiece would have been. LG decided to keep the tick to accommodate a series of sensors for VR (that is Vein Recognition). Without becoming a science-y, it scans the hemoglobin in the blood of your hand as you wave it over the phone and provide greater security.
The same sensor technology also adds hand guard support to use certain apps and features, such as adjusting the volume. But given how ridiculous it seems to be constantly waving in your phone, not to mention annoying when it does not work, we cannot imagine that many people come aboard with LG's VR. For that I say GIMMICK .
Sony Xperia 1: Ultra-High Displays
Maybe it's not for everyone, but the new ultra-high Xperia phones will surely meet a niche that the market never knew it wanted. Higher screens fit videos and movies better. Sony also packs a 4K HDR OLED monitor, ensuring the movie is turned on. Take that movie buff. I say GENIUS .
Vivo Apex: Buttonless Phones and Full Screen Fingerprint Reader
Vivo's new concept phone replaces all its buttons with capacitive sensors, reducing it to what is essentially a single glass plate. Even the charging port is gone, replaced with a single magnetic charging strip on the back.
First the war on the headphone jack, then framing and now buttons? Vivo Apex seems to be addressing a problem that never really existed in the first place. Instead, it makes it less functional. Imagine the battle to adjust the volume when the phone is in your pocket. No one asked for this. Yes, I say GIMMICK .
Apex has a trick up its sleeve that will surely see a little lifetime, but: a full-screen fingerprint sensor. Sure, this is the next milestone manufacturer will hunt. I say GENIUS .
Energizer: Massively 18,000 mAh battery
You should be sorry if you thought this was a brick of some kind. Coming into the thickness of an Altoid mint box, this animal is not moving. It holds an 18,000 mAh battery – over four times the Galaxy S10 + s – that can power its modest 6.2-inch LCD panel for up to a week, depending on usage.
While definitely not for the masses, we can see how its long battery life can benefit some professions and niche markets. And every shift towards larger batteries is something we could get behind us. I say GENIUS .
Nokia 9 PureView: 5 back cameras
Nokia really drives it and gives us a phone with a total of six cameras. The five at the back work together, consisting of two-color sensors and three monochromes to increase dynamic ranges up to 12.4 stops, which is crazy for a smartphone.
However, given the current trend of camera error, switching between standard, portrait and wide angle modes, the PureView series of cameras looks more restrictive than appropriate. It can give you greater detail – and the ability to shoot in authentic black and white – but there is not enough flexibility here to guarantee five cameras. FIVE.
And think of you, they look like a spider's eyes. Try and observe it. Yes, I say GIMMICK .