2020 has been a year and it’s entirely understandable if you’ve missed out on some phone launches amidst the mayhem and front-page events. That turmoil has certainly reached the smartphone industry, but somehow, the phones are still out and some are even weirder than usual.
2019 may have been the year the foldable debuted, but in 2020 we have a rollable phone in mind (courtesy of TCL) and a swivel phone in our hands (thanks, LG). Of course, we also got our first flip folds, with the Motorola Razr taking the iconic flip phone to the modern era and Samsung hot on its heels with its Galaxy Z Flip.
We also got our first look at the next smartphone novelty: goodbye notches and punch holes, hello selfie cameras under the display. And finally, not all advancements are next-generation technology – sometimes all it takes is the inclusion of old features, like styluses, in the most unlikely places.
So here are our favorite weird phones that debuted in 2020, more or less in the order they appeared – some of which we held in our hands and others that are still too futuristic to hit the market.
OnePlus Concept One
OnePlus Concept One was by far the most exciting phone at CES 2020 through January. While it was immediately clear that the experimental laptop was never going to be sold in stores, the Concept One was an interesting approach to repairing something phone makers still had to consider a problem: hiding the rear lenses on phones using tinting glass.
OnePlus has referred to sports car windows as inspiration for glass; it makes a current flow through it and changes from translucent to deeply shaded. Concept One performs this step automatically when you open the camera app and the glass strip above the rear cameras subtly changes from opaque to transparent.
You’ll wonder why OnePlus isn’t rushing it to all of its phones, but there are some design considerations, namely whether the strip of glass would occlude the cameras if it gets scratched or the mechanism fails. We barely had time to hold the phone and try the (very functional) effect for ourselves, but we couldn’t tell if this technology was ready for the mass market. We hope so: the phone’s design is too stagnant.
While we got our hands on the Motorola Razr for the first time in late 2019, the delays pushed its release into early 2020, and while the clamshell fold captured the public’s imagination, it didn’t feel like it was over-sold. good.
Which is a shame given the design innovation needed to make the Razr work: a hinge that bends the plastic display in such an esoteric way to keep it from creasing, while also integrating micro-brushes to automatically sweep away particles in so that they do not crease. t gum up the jobs. And, yes, the Razr has managed to get a fully functional smartphone by folding into a form factor that is half the size of a typical phone.
Unfortunately, it’s significantly more expensive than flagship phones without offering more features – even the ability to shut down the Razr to end a phone call doesn’t justify the price increase.
A few design flaws have been fixed in the refinement of the 2020 Motorola Razr released later in 2020, but even that doesn’t outperform the only other flip fold out this year, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. But the Razr was the first on the market and in our hearts.
Plus, taking a selfie with a phone folded up to the size of a mint can is so, so cool.
Moto G Stylus
Motorola has been releasing G-series phones at an admirable price for years, often four or more models at once that differ slightly in specs and price. But in 2020, the last generation released something new, or rather, something old, as the Moto G Stylus includes one of the oldest features in mobile computing.
The LG Stylo series has carried the budget phone flashlight with a stylus for years, but the introduction of the Moto G Stylus makes it a trend. No longer limited to expensive flagship Samsung Galaxy Note phones, the G Stylus is a powerhouse with decent specs and a surprisingly responsive stylus since it isn’t powered.
While that means it doesn’t have the advanced connectivity features of Samsung’s S Pen (like gesture control or a shutter button), it still has stylus functionality for a bargain price.
LG Wing 5G
One of our favorite phones this year is the LG Wing 5G, which is also one of the weirdest. Remember the old Sidekick phones turning out? This is the modern version, although instead of revealing a keyboard, the LG Wing’s top screen rotates outward to reveal … another smaller screen.
This is cool, actually: In theory, you can watch something on the big screen while chatting or doing unrelated activities on the small display. Ever needed to do a simple search or search for directions, but didn’t want to leave the video or show you’re watching? The LG Wing offers a more discreet space than traditional smartphones and all with an engaging swivel motion.
You’ll get more screen area from a true foldable, but in recent LG fashion, the wing is cheaper, priced on par with top-tier flagships … but half the cost of a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, for example .
The execution isn’t without its problems and requires some work to switch between apps on the small and large display. But for the value and the sheer “ wow ” factor, the LG Wing 5G is a strange treasure we weren’t expecting in 2020.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
“But wait, the original Galaxy Fold didn’t come out in 2019 and isn’t it just an iteration?” Yes, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 doesn’t mess with its jaw-dropping predecessor’s formula, but there’s one improvement worth highlighting: the external display has been expanded to go from edge to edge.
The Z Fold 2 works like a full-fledged smartphone, and when open, it functions like a small tablet. More importantly, it means that three quarters of the phone’s surface is a touch display. This is wild enough to get; it doesn’t seem like it would take much more innovation to do the same for the glass back cover, extending touch functionality to every inch of the foldable surface.
The Huawei Mate Xs and other foldable ‘outie’ more or less already do, as their single large external display wraps from front to back when the device is folded in half. But if we can make both sides functional to the touch, we could have very strange and very responsive devices. So we should figure out what to do with all that extra screen area that we’re not looking at but can still touch.
ZTE Axon 20 5G
We have seen several concept phones pose a new solution to the problem of notches and holes: instead of inserting the selfie camera in a cutout in the screen or in a pop-up section, simply put it under the display.
Obviously, it would have to be a particular display to allow the camera to shoot through the screen and the ZTE Axon 20 5G is the first one we have in our hands that brings this solution out.
Haven’t you heard of it? The ZTE Axon 20 5G was announced in China in September and just released in the UK, but it’s unclear when (or if) it will reach other countries.
We are eager to test how well the 32MP front camera takes photos from below the display; otherwise, it’s meant to be a decent / cheaper mid-range flagship phone with a Snapdragon 765G chipset, up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and a quad rear camera.
The strange folding … and rollable by Oppo
No list of weird phones would be complete without the devices we’ve seen (or heard of) that won’t be out for years, if at all. Some of them are radically different from conventional phones and perhaps too bizarre to appeal to consumers. Consider the Oppo concept designed in collaboration with Japanese design studio Nendo, a foldout with a triple hinge.
Today we present two new design concepts produced in collaboration with the leading Japanese design studio, nendo. The first is the “sliding phone” which features a triple hinge folding screen system. #OPPOxnendo pic.twitter.com/r6YNrc2EmPDecember 14, 2020
This isn’t the only non-traditional quirky phone to be teased this year. Voices of a TCL rollable The phone has appeared all year, most recently in an alleged leaked video that showed a working prototype of a phone with a side-scrolling screen.
Oppo had also shown a design for a rollable phone and may be closer to introducing a usable device: the company showed the Oppo X 2021 at the end of 2020, although the company has made it clear that it is a concept phone. and it probably won’t. sold as is on the market.
Even so, that’s promising, as Oppo showed off a functional design: a 6.7-inch OLED display to start, but the phone’s body slides sideways to expand the screen to 7.4-inches.
And while we haven’t seen it, we’ve also heard of the LG Rollable, a rollable phone that is said to be if you believe leaks could cost $ 2,359 (around £ 1,775, AU $ 3,130).