The idea of putting a phone on my wrist horrifies me — but there might be a solution

Motorola adaptive display in watch mode
(Image credit: Motorola)

If some of the best products at last month’s MWC 2024 are anything to go by, it won’t be long before we’re carrying around phones that are so bendable, they can wrap around our wrist. It’s an idea so compelling that two phone makers had bendable concept phones to show off — Samsung with its Cling Band concept and Motorola with its unnamed smartphone/smartwatch hybrid

The devices have their differences, but the basic idea is the same — take a phone with a flexible screen that you can bend into a tent-like shape that, among other things, can attach to your wrist. It’s a concept that you could argue represents the future of foldable phones.

Me, I’d argue that it’s pretty horrifying.

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We’re a long way from seeing bendable phones like the Samsung and Motorola concepts available for sale. Still, I think it’s best to air out any concerns now, especially if the primary purpose of this device is to convert between a smartphone and something worn around the wrist. Because that kind of design sets off a number of alarm bells for me. 

 How safe would your data be?  

Motorola Adaptive Display Concept

(Image credit: Future)

At the risk of sounding like a luddite, I’m not keen on using my mobile device as a tool for paying for things. Part of that comes down to personal preference — I like my phone and my payment cards to be separate, just in case the former falls into the wrong hands. 

There’s also the risk that someone might scan you without your knowledge, stealing your payment data in the process. On a crowded train, for example, it wouldn’t be hard. I say this as a Londoner, who spends a lot of time on crowded trains, where you never know who you might bump into.

For a conventional phone, it may not be much of a concern, as that device might be tucked away in your pocket. For a bendable phone you’re wearing visibly on your wrist, that kind of data skimming seems easier to pull off. So how does the maker of a bendable phone/watch hybrid safeguard against that? It’s an answer I would need to hear before strapping something onto my wrist. 

 There’s more than one way to steal a phone 

Motorola Adaptive Display Concept

(Image credit: Future)

Data theft isn’t my only concern — there’s also the prospect of a bendable device being stolen from right off my wrist. Sure, the idea of a magnetic strap holding my phone to my wrist seems like a futuristic dream, but it also seems like something the average thief would dream about, too.

Here in London, we’ve seen a rise in luxury watch thefts, in which thieves identify who's got the fanciest watch and then swipe it. Now stealing a regular watch is pretty complicated as you need to unclasp it to take it off. Would a watch with a magnetic clasp like the ones in those concept bendable phones be any harder to remove?

Usually, we’re told to avoid flaunting the expensive tech we carry around should we find ourselves walking in a crowd. To that end, we’re also advised not to telegraph where we keep phones and wallets if we want to deter pickpockets. That seems much harder to do if that expensive phone is not only visible but attached to our wrist by a simple magnetic slip. 

It’s actually my biggest concern with bendable concept phones, especially if the connection keeping such a device on your wrist is as flimsy as it looks. Unlike my colleagues who attended MWC, I haven’t had a chance to slip on Motorola’s concept device, so I can only speculate about how robust the connection is. Still, I can’t imagine that it’s particularly tough to remove, which is something phone makers will need to tackle if these concept designs ever get closer to reality.

 Thankfully, there’s a fix 

Motorola adaptive display

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Enough gloom and doom — a few fixes could ease some of my worries, and I don’t think they’d be too hard to implement.

First, the magnetic attachment is certainly an interesting design choice, but it needs something more to make it more secure. Give it a catch or clip that helps to hold the device in place. This wouldn’t even need to be part of the design, it could simply be an attachment that comes with a case for the phone. 

Phone makers could also give users the option to limit what features are accessible while the phone is in watch mode. It's not a major change, but it could offer some security to anyone who wants to walk around with a phone attached to their wrist while limiting the risk of having valuable data compromised, so long as there was some biometric security required to reactivate the phone post unfolding 

Again, bendable phones won’t be hitting the market any time soon. But it’s important that device makers anticipate these issues now so that when the devices do arrive, they’re secure enough to stand up to daily use.

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.