The Mobile World Congress is essentially fashion week for smartphone brands: Everyone’s trying to make a statement, but not everything you see will make it into stores. As is tradition, MWC 2019 had no shortage of absurdist gadgets.
Foldable phones and 5G were the two dominant themes at MWC 2019: Huawei and Samsung both showed off their flexible devices and a swarm of companies announced plans to support the successor of 4G LTE. Stretching the definition of “mobile” was also Microsoft, who kicked off the conference by unveiling their next generation Holonens, a new version of their unsold augmented reality headset, which will be available in stores starting later this year.
But even the most unworkable designs offer clues about where future smartphone innovation may be headed. Among the most eye-catching launches of the year were a series of devices that had even mobile aficionados asking “Why?”
4. A 18,000 mAh Battery That’s a Phone, Too
Battery life is a crucial spec that many consumers look to when choosing their next smartphone. Battery maker Energizer sees this as a branding opportunity, and used the Mobile World Congress to unveil its Power Max P18K Pop handset with a 18,000 mAh battery.
The American battery company claims this brick of a handset provides a seven-day charge at average consumption, or up to two full days of non-stop video playback. It comes with a 6.2-inch display, three rear cameras, and dual retractable selfie cams. That’s all for the relatively low price of 600 euros or roughly $682.
Apple is already making iPhones marginally thicker to improve battery capacity but this particular device, clearly not designed to be confined to human pockets, still feels impractical. We officially declare the P18K Pop as certified “Oh Lawd He Coming” on the Chonk chart.
3. Nubia’s Smartwatch With A Camera
Whether it’s a wearable smartphone or a smartwatch with a camera remains to be seen, but the Nubia Alpha is a creation that definitely got people talking.
The phone-watch hybrid takes the idea of a flexible display and wraps it around your wrist. Its elongated display comes in at roughly 4 inches diagonally, make calls, take photos with a 5-megapixel lens, and comes with a built-in fitness tracking. It also supports gesture controls. Nubia stated it’ll be available in Europe and North America starting in April starting for about $510.
The Chinese phone maker teased the concept a few years back and revealed a prototype for the first time this year. First impressions were mixed: The phone’s one-of-a-kind aspect ratio makes interacting with photos and media on the device feel outright strange. But, as the folding screen emerges as the successor to traditional smartphone — the Nubia Alpha offers a plausible answer to the question of what’s next?: Flexible, bendy screens that can be shaped to suit the wearer’s needs.
2. An “Unbreakable” Modular iPhone Clone
The Doggee S90 is a crowdfunded iPhone copycat that comes with four different types of attachable cases. The small Chinese company launched a Kickstarter campaign for its modular device on January 15 with a goal of $10,000 and absolutely crushed it by raising more than $350,000 as of February 14.
Doggee’s previous S80 device was praised for its long-lasting battery life. This time the company is letting users make the most of its 5,000 mAh battery some very manly modular accessorizing: It’s said to come with a Night Vision Camera Module, Power Module, Walkie-Talkie Module, Game Module, and the 5G Module.
Despite the hook-ups, the device is still going to be a mid-to-low tier smartphone that the company says will cost $300. It’ll pack 128GB of storage, 6GB of RAM, a 16 MP rear camera, and a 8 MP selfie cam. Its main selling point is the relatively impressive set of specs for such a low price, plus if you want a few extra features you can pick up one of the cases.
1. LG’s Phone Case With an Extra Screen
Finally, LG decided to skip foldable phones this year, sort of. In addition to rolling out a 5G capable device — the V50 ThinQ 5G — the company also rolled out a new accessory: An attachable, second display that doubles as a phone case. The company announced a dual-screen case that comes with a built-in 6.2-inch screen to compliment the V50’s 6.4-inch screen.
The accessory offers double the screen real-estate, comes with its own battery, and supports multitasking functionality. But seeing that it weighs 4.6 ounces and is 0.6-inches thick, it’ll notably increase the V50’s size, making it a situational case that might be a tough sell.
LG stated that the V50 will be available in the United States exclusively through Spring in 2019 but has yet to reveal a price. Once the phone drops, expect to hear more about how its accompanying screen case offers you a foldable phone-like experience without the drawbacks of using an expensive emerging technology.