From the Editor's Desk: Weird phones are the future
This past week I just got done reviewing the LG Wing, which by all accounts is not the best Android phone you can buy for $1000. Reviews from other publications have been mixed too, with some outlets praising the unique form factor and the experiences it enables, and others complaining of the slow 60Hz display and questionable software choices.
You can get a far superior overall smartphone for $1000 (or less) elsewhere, from the likes of Samsung, OnePlus or even LG itself. Even with the support of Verizon in the U.S., I doubt the LG Wing will sell in huge numbers. But despite this, and my own indifference towards the phone as an overall package, I'm glad it exists. The Wing, like the Microsoft Surface Duo, is an example of a manufacturer having the courage to ship an imperfect device that might prepare the ground for more polished products in future.
There's a reason LG's referring to its new series of smartphones as the "Explorer Project," after all.
That's why I'm eager to see what's next for the Explorer Project. What will that be? Well, the slider phone that was first teased at the end of the LG Wing event last month is a good bet. The few seconds of video show a device with a main screen that slides up to reveal what's presumably a secondary display area down below.
This is an idea that's been rattling around in LG's collective brain for a few years already. It was one of the designs considered internally at the company for the V30. "Project Joan" as it was called, got far enough along for concept renders to be produced showing how it might work. Images leaked by Evan Blass at the time showed everything from a virtual BackBerry Priv-style keyboard slide-out, to contextual map results and audio controls.
A modern version of Project Joan is likely what we'll see when this new LG slider phone comes to market, and I'm genuinely excited for it. Rumors are already swirling among Twitter leakers of Samsung possibly pivoting hard towards foldables in 2022 and beyond. Apple is said to be exploring several different kinds of hinged handsets. There's even that rumored Pixel foldable slated for late 2021.
Flat, single-screen phones aren't going anywhere anytime soon. This section of the market has become so mature and so commoditized that you have to try pretty hard to screw it up. But the phones of the future, especially at the high end, will probably bend, fold or flip. And it's going to be devices like the LG Wing, as imperfect as it is, that get you there.
Other odds and ends for a working weekend:
- Next week is Pixel 5 launch week, and there'll be plenty to talk about. Until then, check out Daniel Bader's unboxing of the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, which introduces two fresh takes on the design we first saw with the Pixel 4a. Just based on the announcement event last week, the Pixel 5 sure looks like it could be the most competent Pixel in years.
- After the better part of two months daily-driving the ASUS Zenfone 7 Pro, I'm definitely looking forward to getting back on a phone (se above!) with wireless charging.
- Also launching imminently: the OnePlus 8T. OnePlus's mid-cycle refresh won't be accompanied by a "Pro" version this time, but the latest leaks have revealed quite a different looking OnePlus phone. (And finally, a win for flat screen fans.)
- Oh, and Apple might be doing something, too. For all the hot takes about the lack of 120Hz and the giant (but likely reduced) notch size, there's no denying that Apple sets the pace for the mobile industry, and the October 13 event will be fascinating to watch. Expect plenty of Android phones with flat sides next year.
That's it from me for a few weeks. Stay safe.
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Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.