The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) gives us at peak at what type of products we’ll see in the coming year. In early January, reporters from around the globe arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada to find out what the big trends will be for the coming year. This includes everything from TVs, cars, accessories, computers, tablets, toys, audio equipment, and even mobile phones. There is always at least one innovation that surprises even the tech journalists that have seen it all.
This year, with Qualcomm (the company makes the processors found in many mobile phones) delivering the keynote address at CES, it’s no surprise that we saw quite a few innovative mobile phone designs. If anything is certain from what was on display at the show it’s that the future of mobile phones is anything but predictable. From bendable phone screens to dual-sided cell phones, we’ve rounded up some of the hottest CES mobile phone news.
RETHINKING FUTURE MOBILE PHONE SCREENS: YOUM AND WILLOW GLASS
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What if a cell phone display didn’t have to remain straight and rigid? What if it was flexible and could curve around the sharp edges of a cell phone? That’s the idea behind Samsung’s YOUM display concept. Essentially, it’s a flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) display made of thin plastic. The benefit of using plastic is that it can bend around surfaces, giving manufacturers a way to re-imagine cell phone design. Think about it: a cell phone could have the smooth, curved shape of an iPod and a display that wrapped around the entire device. Get a peek at what future mobile phones might look like in this video of Samsung’s presentation at CES 2013:
Speaking of bendable displays, Corning showed off its version of bendable glass called Willow Glass. The technology was originally unveiled in June 2012, but people got to check it out at CES 2013. The interesting thing about the technology is that it is actually glass and super thin – about the width of a piece of paper. With display technology like that, just imagine how lightweight phones could become in the future.
If Corning sounds familiar when it comes to cell phones, it should. The company is also the creator of Gorilla Glass the tough, scratch-resistant glass found on popular phones such as the Samsung Galaxy and a plethora of other mobile devices. If you’ve dropped a mobile phone onto a hard surface and it’s still in tact, chances are it has Gorilla Glass.
SMARTPHONE + E-INK = YOTA
When you hear Yota in connection with CES 2013, you might think that some gigantic manufacturer like Sony is going with a Star Wars theme and has the wise, little green character talking to booth visitors giving out sage advice. In this case, you’d be wrong. It’s not Yoda, but Yota, a new phone design aimed at solving one of the biggest challenges smartphones face: battery life.
The YotaPhone announced by Yota Devices is an Android smartphone on one side and an e-ink device on the other. The phone measures 4.3-inches, so the screen size is big enough for reading on the go comfortably. On one side – the more vibrant side – is a 720p HD LCD display (great for watching mobile videos). It’s the side you would use for most of your smartphone activity. Although we should note, you won’t find the basic buttons for using an Android, instead you’ll use gestures to navigate the mobile phone.
Flip the phone over and there’s an e-ink display. It’s the same size as the front display and you can even send an image from one screen to the other. Some apps are designed to work on both screens. The real idea here is that e-ink displays don’t take up nearly the battery life of vibrant HD displays. Use the e-ink side of the phone for apps that don’t really require a color screen, such as surfing websites, sending texts, reading twitter streams, or even as an e-reader.
FUTURE MOBILE PHONES WILL BE SLEEKER AND DO MORE
CES isn’t the show dedicated to the mobile phone industry. Those shows will be coming soon, first with Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain at the end of February 2013 and then CTIA in May 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. At CES, we do get a peek at what we can expect to see in the future. We probably won’t see mobile products with Willow Glass or YOUM for at least a few more years, but it does signal that the mobile phones are going to get slicker.
While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a dual-style phone, the YotaPhone looks like a move in the right direction trying to solve a real smartphone challenge: battery life. Maybe you remember the Samsung Upstage: one side was a standard cell phone, flip it over and it’s an MP3 player. There was also the Kyocera Echo, a mobile phone that had two displays that could become one. These are variations that look at all of the phone’s real estate, which is why future mobile phones will likely look different than what you carry today.
What do you think of the new mobile phone technologies at CES 2013? Do you want a two-sided phone? What would you do with bendable glass?
Joni Blecher, RealPlayer Blog Editor - Joni started covering technology back when cell phones didn't have color displays and quickly made a name for herself in the mobile industry as CNET's "Cell Phone Diva." In addition to covering everything mobile, she has launched and edited multiple blog sites. When Joni started appearing in product review videos, she fell in love with the story-telling format and honed her video skills to include producing and editing videos. Joni has made appearances on CNN, BBC, CNBC's Bulls Eye, and Good Day New York to discuss the latest in technology. When she's not spending her time writing or shooting video you can find her exploring and tasting the latest food trends.
Follow her on Twitter @JoniBlecher