We're expecting a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip sequel to appear early in 2021, but we're not expecting huge changes to the phone's basic design. However, Oppo has just released a new concept that shows how a Z Flip-style design could be evolved in several exciting ways.
The Oppo X Nendo "slide phone" debuted on Oppo's Twitter feed, one of two devices designed between the Chinese phone maker and Japanese design company Nendo. Opened fully, it's a 7-inch vertically-oriented display, but it offers much more versatility than a similar folding device like the Z Flip or the Motorola Razr.
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When shut, the phone looks like a normal foldable, but in addition to a hinge halfway down the display, there are two more: one above and one below the halfway point. That allows the phone to open into thirds.
Today, we’re showcasing two new design concepts produced in collaboration with leading Japanese design studio, nendo. First, is the ‘slide-phone’, which features a triple-hinge foldable screen system. #OPPOxnendo pic.twitter.com/r6YNrc2EmPDecember 14, 2020
Oppo also produced a video of the concept in action. It shows that the folded device is about the size of a credit card, with touch-sensitive side controls that change function depending on how you have the phone open. There's also a large charging stand shown, which can power up the Oppo X Nendo while leaving the display usable.
You're probably aware of the basic convenience that a foldable offers: a larger display in a smaller footprint. Oppo's new design takes that a step further by letting the user open the phone more granularly. For example, opening one leaf of the display would be suited to music player settings or checking notifications, while opening two leaves could allow the phone camera to show the viewfinder for the camera.
Opening the phone all the way can allow the user to play a game or watch a movie with virtual controls on either side of the display, or to multi-task with up to three apps at once.
There are three cameras on the back of the phone, but since this is a foldable, these can easily become selfie cameras if you fold the phone in the right way. This is how foldables like Huawei Mate Xs works, and it seems a lot smarter than just adding even more cameras as Samsung has with the five sensors on the Z Fold 2.
The images from Oppo's tweets also show the phone being used with a stylus, which lives within a dedicated slot on the phone's body like the Galaxy Note 20. This is not something Oppo offers on any of its current phones, but it's a smart addition to make the most of the full display.
Not content with just a phone, Oppo and Nendo have also worked on a "music-link" concept, which consists of a pair of wireless earbuds and a bunch of associated accessories. This includes "a smartwatch, AI speaker, portable charger and a wireless charger".
OPPO and nendo’s other conceptual design ‘music-link’, is actually a collection of devices centered around a pair of TWS earphones. Aside from the earphones, it includes a smartwatch, AI speaker, portable charger and a wireless charger that work seamlessly together. #OPPOxnendo pic.twitter.com/qNkjbJhOJWDecember 14, 2020
The intent is that these devices all work together in smart ways. For example, the wireless charger has a spot for the earbuds' charging case when you open it, allowing simultaneous charging without taking up space on the charger's main surface. Also, Oppo describes using the earbuds' case to switch your music from the earbuds to the speaker, which sounds a little like existing features available on devices like Apple's HomePod.
As exciting as these designs are, Oppo says they are only concepts. Concepts can become retail devices, given enough time, but don't expect to pick these up any time soon. We've recently seen a different concept from Oppo in the form of its Oppo X rollable phone, but this is also nowhere near being available for purchase. Hopefully, Oppo will release a foldable of some kind soon though, as Samsung has been comfortably on top of the foldable phone food chain for too long.