By now, you’ve likely heard about OnePlus’ concept phone, the appropriately named Concept One. While the details of this new phone were shown off before CES even started, there’s more to the whole “hidden camera” thing than we initially thought.
So, for those who may not have seen the news, the Concept One by OnePlus has a first on a smartphone: it uses electrochromic glass to hide the rear camera array and flash when it’s not in use. When the camera app is closed, the rear glass covering the camera array is totally opaque. Fire the camera up and bam, the cameras and flash are exposed instantly (well, in 0.7 seconds) as the glass goes transparent.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: what a novelty. And I feel you on that! I was thinking the same thing when I saw the preview. Like, why? There’s no practical reason for this. Then I got a chance to talk to OnePlus about the Concept One, and they showed me the feature that made the hidden camera thing click for me: it doubles as a neutral density filter. Bro, what?!
The camera transitions between opaque and transparent, but that doesn’t mean it’s stuck in one state or the other. It can be adjusted to varying levels of transparency, which allows it to filter out unwanted wavelengths in bright light situations (that’s what an ND filter does)—like shooting in direct sunlight.
Don’t get me wrong here, that’s not a true necessity on a smartphone, but the pro photographers out there would surely appreciate having the option without any needed hardware add-ons to get the job done. It’s practical, it’s cool…but it’s still pretty niche. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.
Of course, there’s another argument to be made for electrochromic glass aside from the ND filter, though it’s a little vainer: it makes phones look better. Think about it—we live in a time when it’s not uncommon for phones to ship with three, four, or even five rear cameras in some cases. That can be a real eyesore, but if the back of the phone is black (and manufacturers ditch the camera bump), wouldn’t it be nice to hide all those beaucoup lenses when you’re not using the camera?
Personally, I’m here for it. I often lay my phone on the desk screen-down as to not get distracted by the unstoppable barrage of notifications that seem to plague my life on the daily, and to look down at a seemingly smooth, constant, untainted glass back would be quite pleasing. I long for the day.
But I digress. The Concept One is just that—it’s a concept. It’s not going to be released to the public at any point, though I’m sure it would sell very well. It’s a damn good looking phone—perhaps the best-looking thing OnePlus has ever produced. The Papaya Orange leather, elegant stitching, and sexy PVD aluminum to give it a gold shimmer are all gorgeous. It’s like a super classy sportscar—you know, like a McLaren.
None of that matters, though, because you can’t buy one, at least not in this form. And probably no time soon. But what you will likely get one day soon is a consumer-ready phone that is the result of all the research and development that went into the Concept One.
I’m here for it.