Transparent mobile phones: you’ve seen them on the silver screen and even in fairly low-budget sitcoms, but will you soon be able to call one of these futuristic gadgets your own?
Clear mobile phones and transparent tablets have been on tech lovers’ mind for a couple years now.
In 2015, Samsung introduced the fictional “Starkphone,” for Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Tony Stark (Iron Man) in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
You can even spot transparent mobile phones and clear tablets on kids’ shows, like Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger.
But alas, these are just glass props. So when are we getting those uber cool clear smartphones and tablets? Well, according to some reports, transparent (and — gasp! — bendable!) smartphones could be available as soon as 2016!
The Polytron Transparent Smartphone Prototype
The first transparent smartphone was unveiled by Polytron in 2013. It utilized liquid crystal molecules to form the smartphone screen. The molecules are controlled by electric currents. When they’re randomly aligned, light can pass through the seemingly translucent glass, but when powered up, the liquid crystal display’s molecules are aligned in a specific order, creating an opaque appearance.
But this Polytron prototype had a few flaws, the most significant one being that it’s not actually capable of making phone calls (a major problem when talking about a smartphone!)
Polytron’s clear smartphone prototype also wasn’t completely transparent and components such as the SD card and microphone were visible (and not so attractive) – but the latter is a problem that Polytron says it will solve by placing tinted glass over the lower and upper portions of the phone.
Lenovo’s Zuk Transparent Display Smartphone
In August 2015, Lenovo’s unveiled the prototype of its Zuk transparent smartphones, called the Zuk Z1.
The Zuk Z1 was unveiled in China and unfortunately, Lenovo has not yet announced any plans to make the online-only brand available to consumers outside of Asia. But it’s just a matter of time before more and more of these clearly cool prototypes are refined into market-ready models.
Clear, Foldable Smartphones?
Adding an extra element of cool to those clear smartphones and tablets is the potential for bend-ability and fold-ability.
New, high tech materials have been developed that allow for transparent, flexible smartphone displays that could theoretically be rolled up and stowed in your pocket!
Transparent flexible screen displays are two pioneering technologies that are the focus of development at major tech companies such as LG and Samsung (which together, account for half of the worldwide tech market share).
Samsung even owns a patent for a flexible smartphone frame and screen that could be affixed to your clothing, making it possible to wear your technology (i.e. while running or exercising) without the need for a separate band or clip.
Like nearly all cool bits of technology, transparent screens and displays are already in the military. They can already be found in use as heads-up displays in fighter jets (among other vehicles.) But you can also find transparent displays in a few consumer devices such as Google glass.
So while these incredible transparent smartphones and displays aren’t available just yet, it could just be a matter of months until tech lovers are geeking out over an incredible clear and flexible smartphone, tablet or phablet!