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Concepts: the future of mobile phones and tablets

A concept is defined as ‘as an experimental model to test the viability of new design features.’ Every year thousands of products are designed as concepts, many without any intention of being made, let alone being mass produced.
The beauty of a concept is that it can have whatever features the designer wants. A phone that flies? Let’s pack in miniature anti-gravity wings. A phone that doesn’t run out of battery? Let’s create it from solar power. A concept gives designers the chance to experiment with shapes, colours and materials,
Some concepts are created by manufacturers to showcase new technology and get feedback on new ideas, others are labours of love, created by someone passionate about technology or design.
Every month we’ll be bringing you our favourite mobile, tablet and communication concepts. Feel free to let us know what you think and anything we may have missed.

Nokia 2030

Designer Jim Chan looks to the future here, showing how a Nokia smartphone might look in 2030, as seen on Future Technology. The answer is exceptionally slim, yet unmistakably Nokia with the distinctive T9 keyboard and messaging icons. The touch-sensitive colour screen can be swapped for different colour varients.
We’re not sure how practical this concept is and it certainly doesn’t offer much screen real estate for browsing or watching movies, but it’s certainly a stunning phone.

Alienware Android Cell Phone

In 2006 Dell bought gaming computer manufacturer Alienware and this concept by Jas Seehra is an idea of what a Dell/Alienware smartphone might look like.
First seen on Dialaphone, the design borrows heavily from Alienware’s iconic PC design, with space-like accents.
Gaming is its main function, so the phone promises fantastic audio and a joystick and a large screen that slides out to reveal a touch sensitive keyboard.
We really don’t like this phone, it’s chunky, the keys look tiny and frankly, we’d be embarrassed to use it in public; but an Alienware gaming phone? Yes please.

Morph

Nokia Research Center created this concept in collaboration with the Cambridge Nanoscience Centre.  The Morph is made using nanotechnology, a strong, flexible and transparent material (with transparent electronics), that changes shape to adapt to the task. So, for example, you can wear it around your wrist or attach it to your steering wheel. The battery is small, yet long lasting and can be charged by the solar panel.
The most intriguing feature about the Morph is the way it interacts with the environment. From analysing air pollution, to informing us if fruit we want to eat needs to be washed.

Autonome

This concept is a bit different. It’s a phone with an integrated charger, so instead of hooking it up to a charging cable, you plug it straight into the wall.
Designed by Francois Rybarczuk and seen on Yanko Design the phone has a magnesium unibody frame, incorporating a plug. There’s also an extra battery module built into the top, which pulls out and fits into the wall, with a 30-second charge option.
Autonome is an interesting product and it’s good to see a phone with an extended battery that doesn’t destroy the look.

HTC Gamer

The second HTC concept we’ve seen recently, the HTC Gamer is a pure gaming phone from Long-Nong Huang via Pestaola.
At 7-inches in size, it’s small enough to fit into a pocket. Instead of a solid keyboard there are dual joystick, navigation controls and AXBY controls – like a conventional gaming controller.
Running Android 3.0 Honeycomb, connectivity includes ultra fast HSPA+ (for online gaming), 12-hour battery, 1GB RAM and HDMI for connecting the HTC Gamer to a flatscreen TV.
HTC hasn’t produced a dedicated mobile – but could it look like this?

BlackBerry Empathy

Looking more like something you’d wear than a phone, this BlackBerry concept looks more like a precious stone than a phone, turn it on and it changes from clear to opaque. Check out the video to see how it works.
Design by Daniel Yoon Kiki Tang Animation, the front of the phone is a huge edgeless screen with a static feedback keyboard and a poycarbonate lens.

Empathy is certainly interesting, but it’s unusual shape means it’s certainly not the type of phone you want to carry around everywhere.

Designed by Mukemelov Studio, the Mobile Script phone is described as a ‘Laptop in Your Pocket.’
This concept phone has two screens, the small one you see on the front, which can be used to display information about incoming calls, and a secondary 9.5-inch screen you pull out to watch movies on. This screen is made from nano material, which becomes hard when it’s opened, but is soft enough to retract inside the phone.
Controls including: camera, loudspeaker, volume indicator is are located on the top right, next to the soar panel indicator – yes, this phone is powered by the sun.
We’re impressed by the dual-screen capability of Mobile Script. While bigger smartphone screens are better for movies, they are less pocket-friendly. This concept seems to offer a solution.

Wrap-around BB

We’re waiting with baited breath for our first glimpse of BlackBerry 10 on a smartphone, but what if the new BlackBerry looked like this, with a wrap-around screen, so you can use both side of the phone? What’s really clever is the ability to tell the difference between a tap of the screen to activate a command and a hand holding the phone.

Designed by John Anastasiadis, via Yankodesign

Apple ‘MacBook Touch’ MultiTouch Tablet Concept

The Apple iPad revolutionised the tech industry, creating a new product category and the third-generation iPad has just been announced.
This interesting concept video was created by a student for a Product Management class in 2008  – a full years before the iPad was launched. It’s a MacBook with touch technology. Check the video out, it: ‘wasn’t meant to be a prediction of what a Apple tablet would look like even though many of the features ended up being very similar.’

Pen Phone

Someone has had the idea of incorporating a phone into an 8.7-inch pen, with a tiny screen at the bottom. 
Despite space being at a premium, there are some ingenius touches to make the most of the space. Built into the side is a microSD slot and the end twists like a control wheel and includes a microUSB slot. The circular icons are the receiver and earpiece according to Gizmodo.
Make a call by tapping the numbers etched down the pen. We’re not sure about text messages – they could be more problematic – you certainly don’t want to use this for more than the odd one-word reply.
While we can appreciate the design of Pen Phone, it’s a bit small and pens have a habit of disappearing and we really don’t want to lose our phone too.

Nokia CLIPit mobile phone

At first glance CLIPit doesn’t even look like a phone, it looks more like a silver iPod Shuffle. It’s made from brushed steel, which has a small LED screen on top, which can be used for sending messages and making calls.

You get a choice of screens, including a 3-inch screen which retracts from the brushed steel body and there’s also a 12-inch screen (right) made of a concept sensory ‘Smart fabric’ which clips onto the phone.
Instead of storing information on the phone’s internal memory or removable memory card, all the information CLIPit needs is cloud based and you activate using a fingerprint.
We’re not sure we’d want to use CLIPit as a phone – it’s a little on the small size. But cloud computing is increasingly used for iCloud, Google Docs and Dropbox, so the concept of a small object that’s with you all the time that can be used to access information anywhere might not be too far away.


CLIPit was desgned by: Ziba Hemmati, Mohammad Zamani, Mir Kazem khalifezadeh, Rasul Shokrani & Ali Khajuee. Via: Yankodesign

Windows Phone Concept

Designed by Seunghan Song, the Windows Phone Concept and was born out of frustration with consistently in-accurate predictions courtesy of his hometown weather stations.
The display of the Windows Phone changes to reflect the climate conditions outside. When it’s sunny the glass is clear; rainy it’s covered in drops of water and when it’s snowy it appears to have a layer of frost. Of course making only accurate predictions.
In addition you can blow on the glass to send a text message.
The Windows Phone Concept is a highly original idea, but looks far too delicate to use.

DreamBerry BlackBerry PlayBook 3.0 concept

Part of Crackberry’s ‘DreamBlackBerry’ design, this PlayBook 3.0 concept by ‘ummie4’ turns the PlayBook into a tablet with a phone twist.
The most obvious thing is the keyboard, based on the Bold 9900 and split so each thumb can type independently. Dual screens are useful for multitasking, so for example you can be video chatting on one screen, while looking at a document on the other.
Dual trackpads for gaming are interesting – especially because BlackBerry devices aren’t known for gaming prowess. Made from stainless steel, when closed it looks a little like a space fighter.

Nokia HumanForm

Created by the Nokia Design and Nokia Research Centre, the NokiaHumanForm is a concept phone designed to promote Nanotechnology.
It’s billed as ‘a visionary solution beyond touch screen and voice communication, where technology becomes invisible and intuition takes over’
The phone is described as ‘humanised’ whereby the structure is flexible with a bendable transparent display, so it responds to gestures, so you can shake the phone to change a setting, or bend to zoom and stretch to pan.
Check out the video above, it’s pretty impressive, the phone seems to take on a life of its own.
 

Sony Vaio Slate laptop tablet

On show at CES this year, the Sony Vaio Slate laptop looks like one of the company’s Vaio laptops, but it’s actually a Vaio tablet (perhaps based on the Sony Tablet S1) with a dockable keyboard and detachable stylus.

It sounds a little like the Asus EeePad Transformer, however at closer glance it is significantly different, yes the screen detaches from the keyboard, as well as sliding back instead of opening and shutting via a hinge


Unlike other concepts we’ve looked at here, we think there’s a high chance this will actually make it to market, so watch this space. Check out our hands-on photographs here.

Rimino

Rimino is an E-paper mobile designed by Amid Moradganjeh, a student at Umeå Institute of Design in collaboration with Microsoft. ‘The purpose of the research is to define the mobile experience and to explore how an Operating System can address the needs of the users on the go. This Operating System starts with the user. It would reflect the shape of our live.

The UI is totally different to anything we’ve seen before – it’s almost like a canvas – inspired by print posters.

Moradganjeh has designed Rimino around six design values.

  • Natural input and navigation: where the whole device can be used
  • Human-like communication
  • Lively device: on the back is a Lively pad that reacts to temperature, haptic feedback, light airflow and moisture
  • Goal-based UI
  • One experience – multiple devices
  • Right resolution for right interaction: the choice between simple and advanced user interfaces

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