Smartphone sales may have slowed down significantly these past few years, and it may take another drastic reinvention to spur the public’s interest again. Let’s admit it, the smartphone updates recently have been mostly incremental.
Year after year, we see the same old story – smartphones with faster processors, larger storage capacities and additional cameras – all evolutionary and not revolutionary, as they say. But is the next big thing in smartphone technology just around the corner?
With Samsung’s recent unveiling of its folding phone (and then some), is the smartphone’s future foldable? If the prices go down to mass-market levels and with practical design decisions, it could very well be. But as shown by this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), the biggest mobile trade show in 2019, the future may be wilder and crazier than that.
So buckle your seats for a wild ride, here are some of the most exciting gadgets we spotted at MWC 2019 so far.
For more about the state of foldable phones, Tap or click below to listen to this free Consumer Tech Update podcast.
Huawei’s amazing folding phone, the Mate X
While Samsung made a big splash recently with the unveiling of its very first folding smartphone, the aptly named Galaxy Fold, it’s not the only folding phone game in town. In fact, this upcoming folding phone from Huawei, the Mate X, looks even more impressive, and, dare I say it, better designed.
See, instead of folding inward like the Galaxy Fold, the Mate X’s display folds outward and in its folded form, both halves of the screen turn into two back-to-back regular sized smartphones.
With this inspired form factor, the Mate X doesn’t need six cameras like the Fold. Since its display is reversible when folded, Huawei achieved the same basic phone camera functions with three cameras located on its rear bar instead. This means there are no notches and camera punch-holes on its beautiful, edge-to-edge display.
Amazingly, the Mate X is also slimmer than the Galaxy Fold but it is powered by a larger 4.500 mAh battery.
The Mate X may be the most impressive and best-looking folding phone so far but too bad, it also comes at a staggering price at $2,600, significantly more expensive than the already ridiculously priced Galaxy Fold.
Energizer’s phone has a gigantic battery you won’t believe
We’ve all been complaining about how smartphone battery life hasn’t improved significantly despite all the feature improvements we’ve seen through the years.
Well, Energizer (yep, the battery company) has stepped up to the plate and just shocked us with a smartphone with a battery so massive, it’ll probably just keep going and going and going …
Dubbed the (try saying this as quickly as you can) Energizer Power Max P18K Pop, this crazy phone packs in an 18,000 mAh battery! For perspective, the iPhone XS only has a paltry 2,658 mAh battery while the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus has a wimpy 4,100 mAh.
Now, what does an 18K mAh powerhouse give you? Try one week’s worth of use without having to plug it in, or two days worth of non-stop video from the Pop’s large 6.2-inch display. The downside of having a phone this epic? It’s about as thick as four iPhones stacked together and you’ll need to plug it in for eight hours for a full charge.
Still not bad if you’re planning on climbing Mount Everest or crossing the Sahara desert for a week. And better yet, the Energizer bunny approves.
Nokia’s PureView lives yet again
Years ago, before its demise as its own company, Nokia tried to fight off the onslaught of iPhones and Android gadgets by designing phones with spectacular, and often over-the-top, camera technology dubbed as PureView. Examples of PureView Nokia phones were the ridiculous 41-megapixel Nokia 808 and the Lumia 1020, the smartphone with the highest resolution image sensor yet.
If you were a fan of Nokia’s PureView tech, you’ll be ecstatic to know that it will have a renaissance of sorts with HMD’s new Nokia 9 PureView smartphone. This one crams, not three, not four, but five rear cameras working together for the best shot possible. Before you think that a 41-megapixel smartphone camera is overkill, the Nokia 9’s five lenses combine for a whopping 240-megapixels of data! Now, that’s truly a phone with a vision.
And get this, compared to other flagship phones, the Nokia 9 PureView phone is relatively affordable. It’s not exactly cheap at $700, but that’s like $140 per camera, right? Although Nokia said that it will be available in certain markets come March, it is still not known if it will be available in the U.S.
Enter the TCL DragonHinge
TCL may be known more for its budget-friendly televisions and you may not know it, but the company also makes smartphones for its other sub-brands Alcatel and, yes, Blackberry.
With this tech pedigree, TCL also wants to enter the folding smartphone arena with its slew of concept gadgets presented at MWC 2019. The company may not debut these phones in 2019 but its goal is to sell them with more affordable prices next year.
TCL’s concept folding phone technology “hinges” on its own proprietary “DragonHinge” design, a patented mechanism that the company created for its own flexible displays.
The first DragonHinge smartphone prototype TCL unveiled was a 7.2-inch QHD+ AMOLED display equipped phone that folds inward like a book. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, however, this phone doesn’t have a full outward-facing display, but similar to the flip phones of old, it houses a simple LED clock instead.
Another TCL DragonHinge concept phone was something that folded in half like a wallet stuffed with cash. It’s weird and ugly, for sure, but it sure takes the folding phone concept in new and unexpected directions.
If TCL delivers on its promise of affordable folding phones in the near future, it could be the next sleeper smartphone giant that no one knew about.
Microsoft’s next-gen HoloLens
Not to be outdone by all the crazy smartphone hoopla, Microsoft also unveiled the HoloLens 2, it’s follow up to the “mixed reality” glasses it announced in 2015. Like its predecessor and other augmented reality gadgets, the HoloLens 2 superimposes computer-generated images on the real world, delivering one-of-a-kind experiences. Think Iron-Man/Tony Stark-like interactions with your immediate surroundings, that’s how cool and practical Mixed Reality could be.
Improving on the tech introduced by the first HoloLens, the HoloLens 2 is more powerful, better-balanced, efficient and Microsoft managed to double its field of view. Its new design with improved “thermal management” also makes it more comfortable to wear with extended use, even with users who wear glasses.
Unfortunately, the HoloLens 2 is still priced out of the regular consumer’s range. Tagged at $3,500, it’s still aimed at large businesses and the military. Hopefully, the HoloLens 3 will be primed for mass adoption and its price will finally be within reach of you and me,
Bonus: Remember the Kinect? The discontinued Xbox 360 and Xbox one console camera that tracked your movements in real-time? Well, although gamers seemed to hate it, the technology behind it is admittedly impressive. Thankfully, it lives again with Microsoft’s new $399 Azure Kinect, a compact gadget that also uses a camera, a depth sensor and multiple microphones for user tracking.
Honorable mentions: The Nubia smartwatch, an interesting stab at the smartwatch with a flexible OLED screen display, and BMW’s “Natural Interaction” technology, a new car control method that combines voice recognition, artificial intelligence, gesture control and gaze recognition.
Find out more about BMW’s new “Natural Interaction,” and other car tech, unveiled at MWC 2019. Tap or click to listen to the latest from Kim in just one minute.