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Forget Galaxy S21: Stunning OnePlus 8T concept changes colors and can sense your breathing

OnePlus 8T Concept
(Image credit: OnePlus)

The OnePlus 8T Concept is OnePlus' wild-looking new idea for a phone with a color-changing back that responds to your breathing. Announced by OnePlus today, the phone shows off some next-gen technology and design while also promoting the company's new OnePlus Gaudí design studio. 

The OnePlus 8T appeared in October, and while it didn't change much from the original OnePlus 8, it gained the OnePlus 8 Pro's 120Hz display, and a new super-speedy 65W wired charging system. This 8T Concept is so different, however, that it's barely recognizable as the same phone, save for the logo and the rear camera placement.

The design of the 8T Concept consists of a curved body bearing a color-changing wave pattern on the back. The pattern is made with a metallic oxide film that allows it to shift between silver and dark blue depending on the electric current passing through it. 

OnePlus 8T Concept

(Image credit: OnePlus)

The color-changing ability serves a purpose thanks to the other big new feature: a mmWave radar built into the rear camera module. It uses the same signals that power mmWave 5G to detect and track user motion. As shown in the videos provided by OnePlus, the mmWave sensor has a few different functions. It can be used as a form of gesture control, with the color-changing back acting as one big notification light. 

OnePlus 8T Concept

(Image credit: OnePlus)

More interestingly, OnePlus shows the sensor as able to detect another person's breathing. The demo only shows the phone measuring breaths per minute, with the back changing color to reflect how fast you're respirating. This function could have some useful health monitoring applications if OnePlus expanded on it, perhaps in tandem with the teased OnePlus Watch that we're also expecting from the company.

OnePlus 8T Concept

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Some phones have tried radar functions before, such as the Google Pixel 4 and the Huawei Mate 40 Pro. While these systems can work well, their applications are currently quite limited, and the controls can be finicky to use. While OnePlus' radar works smoothly in the videos, it's impossible to know how well it would behave in a real-life scenario.

OnePlus 8T Concept

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus' last concept, the Concept One, appeared at CES 2020. In our hands-on, we were entranced by the phone's color-shifting glass that hid the rear cameras, the same technology that makes the color-changing back of the new concept work. Some of the parts are a little dated now, such as the 90Hz display and pop-up selfie camera, but it's still very stylish and indisputably unique.

This concept looks a little more like a real phone. Assuming OnePlus can get these features working reliably, we'd be delighted to see this feature appear on the OnePlus 9 or later flagships from the company. Sadly, though, the OnePlus 8T concept is going to remain just a concept for the time being.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.