We would be lying if we told you we weren’t expecting this… but not necessarily so soon. What with Apple ditching the headphone jack, and many phone designers opting for in-display fingerprint sensors — it’s obvious that phones will soon be all-screen, all-wireless and… all sci-fi.
Two announcements in China this week produced devices that are, for lack of a better word, holeless. The Meizu Zero and Vivo Apex are both devoid of physical ports, be it for USB-charging, a headphone jack or even speakers. If you look closely, there are a couple of holes for microphones… but none you can plug anything into. If the loss of all the ports wasn’t enough, both devices have dispensed with physical buttons of any sort for navigation.
Will buttonless, portless devices be the norm in the near future? We’re not entirely sure how the public will adopt devices like these. We’re only in the conceptual phase of finally realising our sci-fi folding screen dream (until Samsung’s 20 February announcement, perhaps).
Meizu Zero — The ‘naked’ phone
The Meizu Zero doesn’t even have a SIM card tray, instead it uses eSIM tech to connect to a network. The result is a handset that’s a solid piece of ceramic with a couple of camera bumps and small bezels. There’s no speaker grill, because like some of Sony’s recent TVs, the screen functions as a speaker. The phone can be unlocked with an in-display fingerprint reader, and it uses 18W wireless charging (that’s even speedier that Huawei’s 15W version) to power up the inaccessible battery.
You’d expect a portless phone to bet totally waterproof, right? Well, it turns out those blasted microphone hosts mean this fellow is only rated IP68. Maybe next time, eh?
All other navigational buttons have been replaced by touch-sensors. Something we’re not completely convinced about — people like knowing they just pushed a button. On the other hand, it does give haptic feedback — so you’ll know if you’ve just cranked up the volume accidentally while trying to mute a blaring phone in a meeting.
We’ll need to reserve judgement until we have our hands on one (if we get our hands on one). Because it seems this model is slated to be commercially available, unlike Vivo’s Apex concept phone below.
Vivo Apex 2019 — This is getting awkward
Vivo’s latest concept 5G device is called the Apex 2019 and, unlike the Meizu, device this one has a tiny microphone slit below the screen. A visible cue that this thing didn’t just slide out of an alien spaceship and land in China. But, other than that, you won’t find a USB port, speaker grill or SIM tray on the Apex.
The body is made of ‘Curved-Surface Waterdrop Glass’ and is completely covered in glass to look like a ‘waterdrop’ around the edges. Sounds… safe? We’d likely get a cover for this one prematurely.
This one can be controlled via a set of three pressure-sensitive capacitive buttons along the right-hand side for power and volume. We assume. The fingerprint sensor is the most intriguing part of this one, though. Vivo claims that the device has a full-screen, in-screen fingerprint sensor, which means users can place their finger anywhere on the display to unlock it. Now that’s novel.
Like the Meizu, the Apex 2019 will rely on its screen to act as a speaker and earpiece. It’ll feature a ‘MagPort’, a magnetic pogo pin connector, for charging purposes in lieu of a USB-port, and it’ll have eSIM capabilities to replace the SIM tray.
An all-screen, wireless future perhaps?
If someone can just perfect holograms and lightsabers — out sci-fi future will be complete. We’re on a good track to soon have flexible displays, and a portless world is likely not as scary as we’d imagine. Though these devices still make us feel slightly uncomfortable. It’s feels like we’re being asked to relinquish all control — we can’t press a physical button and get that satisfying ‘click’ when locking the device, or adjusting the volume. And how do we do a hard reset if the need arises? All questions we hope to have answered when we actually get to test these in person.