For years, new smartphones have offered little more over their predecessors than faster speeds and mildly better displays, giving consumers few incentives to upgrade. Innovation is hard to come by in handsets these days, but a concept design from OnePlus offers some interesting features: a body that changes color and a motion-tracking radar module.
The OnePlus 8T Concept is, as the name suggests, based on the well-received OnePlus 8T that arrived a few months ago. The phone achieves its chameleon-like abilities through OnePlus’ Electronic Color, Material and Finish (ECMF) technology. This uses a film containing metal oxide that lies beneath the glass back and changes color as different voltages are applied.
While a phone that changes color might sound like little more than a novelty, there are some potentially useful applications. The handset could light up or flash when it receives a call, rather than using an alarm, and different colors could indicate the type of notification or even who is calling—just make sure to use a transparent case.
Another feature of the OnePlus 8T Concept is the radar module built into the rear camera’s bump. It uses millimeter wave radar to send out electromagnetic waves that bounce off objects, letting the phone “perceive, image, locate, and track” everything in its surroundings.
The radar does sound like the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense tech, which detects hand gestures so certain actions such as silencing alarms, skipping music tracks, and rejecting incoming calls can be performed without touching the handset. It certainly didn’t revolutionize the industry; Google dropped Motion Sense from the Pixel 5, though the company says it will “be used in the future.”
An example OnePlus gave of both features working in tandem is the radar detecting a user’s breathing and the phone changing color in time with each breath, “effectively making the phone a biofeedback device.”
As with all concepts, there’s no guarantee the features will appear in consumer devices. OnePlus made a lot of noise about the electrochromic glass in the OnePlus Concept One (above) that could make the rear cameras disappear, but despite being unveiled in January, it’s yet to be implemented in any of the company’s handsets.