The year 2017 saw a shift in smartphone design where edge-to-edge, full-screen displays slowly started becoming mainstream. In 2018, the boundaries were pushed even further, offering higher screen-to-body ratio, but it did that adding an element (notch) that still divides opinions. But then, there were some innovative smartphones too that caught our attention.
It wasn’t just the notch that OEMs tried to get rid of. The physical fingerprint scanner is also slowly being eliminated from smartphones, just like the 3.5mm audio socket. Here’s a look at the most innovative smartphones of 2018.
With the NEX smartphone, Vivo killed the notch in an innovative way. Based on the APEX concept phone that was showcased at MWC 2018, the Vivo NEX comes with a pop-up selfie camera. The camera is hidden inside the frame, and only pops-up when you open the camera app and switch to front camera. The whole system is motorized, and Vivo says it can withstand continuous usage for over two years. Adding a pop-up selfie snapper allows for a true all screen display with screen-to-body ratio of over 86 percent.
But the pop-up selfie snapper wasn’t the only innovative feature. The smartphone also comes with an in-display fingerprint scanner, which does away with the physical one, thus creating space for adding other components.
There was one more feature in the Vivo NEX that not lot of people talked. The company also got rid of the earpiece, and replaced it with Screen SoundCasting technology. It uses bone conduction to transmit audio waves.
ZTE Nubia X
ZTE’s Nubia X features top-notch hardware, without the notch. The highlight of the smartphone though is the dual display. Up front, you get a 6.26-inch display running at full HD+ resolution and 19:9 aspect ratio. It is an edge-to-edge display, without any notch. So where does the front camera go?
Well, there is no front camera on the Nubia X. If you want to click selfies or make video calls, you need to use the dual rear cameras. But to make things simpler, the company added a secondary 5.1-inch HD+ display at the back, allowing you to use the smartphone both ways.
But the ZTE Nubia X is not the only smartphone with dual display. The recently launched Vivo NEX Dual also has a similar concept where you get a 6.39-inch full HD+ display on the front, without any notch. At the back, you have a triple camera setup, which also doubles as selfie snapper. And to make things easier when clicking selfies, there is a secondary 5.49-inch full HD display at the back as well.
Oppo Find X
Just like the Vivo NEX, Oppo also found a way to kill the notch by introducing mechanical sliding cameras on the Find X. In case of the Find X though, both the selfie camera and rear cameras are hidden under the slide up mechanism.
When you click the power button, the motorized mechanism pops up to revel the selfie snapper, which is coupled with a 3D depth sensing unit for face unlock. At the back, you get dual cameras – 16-megapixel + 20-megapixel units. The pop-up mechanism comes into play every time you want to unlock the smartphone, click selfies, or even use the rear cameras for clicking selfies.
Xiaomi Mi MIX 3
While Oppo and Vivo added mechanical pop-up cameras, Xiaomi added a manual slider to hide the front cameras. On the front, you get a 6.39-inch full HD+ display and when you want to use the front cameras, you just need to slide the display panel downwards. There are dual sensors – a 24-megapixel + 2-megapixel depth sensing units.
On the similar lines, there is Honor Magic 2 which also comes with a slider mechanism. However, while the Mi MIX 3 comes with dual cameras at the front and the back, the Honor Magic 2 comes with triple cameras. At the back, you get two 16-megapixel sensors, and one 24-megapixel black and while sensor. And, on the front, you get a 16-megapixel primary sensor, and two 2-megapixel depth sensors.
Asus ROG Phone
This year, smartphone makers also focused on the niche gaming users and we have seen the likes of Razer Phone 2, Nubia RED Magic, and Xiaomi Black Shark. All these smartphones come with some or the other features to enhance the mobile gaming experience, but it was Asus who took a setup further with the ROG Phone.
It is the first smartphone to come with an AMOLED display with refresh rate of 90Hz and response time of 1millisecond. To keep the thermal levels at low, the smartphone comes with 3D vapour-cooling chamber and a physical fan. The smartphone also comes with two USB Type-C ports, touch sensitive controls on the frame that act as triggers, and RGB lighting LED logo at the back.
Watch: Huawei Mate 20 Pro First Look
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Huawei launched the P20 Pro at an event in Paris in the first half of 2018. It was the first smartphone to come with triple rear cameras. The Mate 20 Pro, which was launched in October this year in London, takes a leap further. The smartphone also comes with triple rear cameras, but replaced the monochrome sensor with a wide-angle lens. It also comes with a dual edge curved display and a notch on top, along with the 7nm Kirin 980 SoC.
While these are the usual features that we are likely to see on most other smartphones too, there are two key innovations here. The smartphone comes with a 4,000mAh battery with support for 40W fast charging which can charge 70 percent battery in 30 minutes. It supports wireless charging, which is something that you will get in most other flagship smartphones too, but where Huawei leapfrogs is with the reverse wireless charging. Yes, you can use your Mate 20 Pro to charge other wireless charging supported smartphones.
ZTE Axon M
Showcased at MWC 2018, the ZTE Axon M comes with foldable dual screen displays. When folded, you get displays on the front and back, and when unfolded, you have both the screens side-by side. Both screens can run individual apps, or you can extend it as a secondary display. For instance, your homescreen can be open on screen one, and the app drawer / Settings menu, and more on the second screen.
There is also an extended mode where both screens turn into a single screen giving you a tablet-like experience. There is a hinge on the right side that holds both the 5.2-inch screens together, and it is pretty sturdy too. While other smartphone makers are opting for tall aspect ratio displays, the ones on ZTE Axon M run on full HD (1080p) resolution.
Samsung Galaxy A8s
2018 was a year when we saw a lot of notched display smartphones, going from wide-notches to tiny water drop style ones. And now, towards the end of this year, we have the likes of Samsung Galaxy A8s, Huawei Nova 4 and Honor View20 setting the tone for the next year’s display technology.
The Galaxy A8s is the first smartphone to come with an in-display selfie snapper, where Samsung has done away with the notch. Instead there is a small punch-hole within the display where the selfie camera is fitted. The Huawei Nova 4 and Honor View20 are other smartphones that will get the similar display solution.
One of the top flagship smartphones of 2018, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is worthy of this list because of the much-improved S Pen. The stylus has been the heart of Galaxy Note-series, but this time around it comes with Bluetooth connectivity. You can use it as a remote for media control, change slides of a PowerPoint presentation, as a remote shutter for camera, allowing you to click photos from a distance of up to 20-30 feet, and more.
But what’s interesting about the tech is that it comes with a tiny battery with a supercapacitor that can charge the S Pen in just 40 seconds. And on full charge, the S Pen on Bluetooth mode can last for up to 30 minutes. We have seen fast charging technologies on Huawei, OnePlus, Oppo, and Vivo smartphones, and if and when supercapacitor comes to smartphones, we can expect a full battery top up within minutes.
It was indeed an interesting year, and we can’t wait to see what’s next. For 2019, one advancement will be the phones powered by next-gen 5G technology. While that is on the network part, we are also going to see a handful of smartphones with foldable display tech. Samsung has already teased its foldable display smartphone at the Developer Conference, and it will be unveiled sometime next year, and also go on sale in select markets. We are excited to see what more innovations smartphone makers will bring in 2019. If you are also expected, keep watching this space as we will bring you all the coverage related to innovative tech advancements. Till then, stay tuned.