The latest “slide-phone” from Oppo may put rivals on the back foot,

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Until late 2021, it will not slip into pockets.

Oppo has been on a roll in recent years with various phone designs that have helped consumers question the status quo of their mobile hardware. This week, the phone manufacturer has released its “slide-phone” concept, which features three hinges and a thin-bezel display with a relatively wide aspect ratio. Compared to the market as it stands, this device would certainly turn some heads.

To market a working model of the folding companion device from the movie “Her”, smartphone makers have been firing out their own interpretations of the folding phone aesthetic for the last couple years. Samsung and Huawei are duking it out in the bi-folding, bent-glass arena, while Microsoft is trying to pave the way for dual-screen, digital pocket books. Oppo has joined the mix today with what could be the most interesting design yet.

At the China International Industrial Design Expo, Oppo revealed its new “slide-phone” along with a few other interesting devices. The device was borne of the partnership with Japanese industrial design studio, nendo.

The idea here is that three separate hinges fold the screen over itself in the same direction, successively revealing more screen to “change the form of the phone as needed.” It will also come with a stylus stored inside its chassis.

In a series of tweets, Oppo has revealed some of the device’s conceptual functionality. Fully unfolded, the phone has a 7-inch screen with relatively slim bezels. The top fold, housing the camera array, can be slid along its length to reveal 40 mm of screen that’s “ideal for applications like call history, notifications, and music player interfaces.” In one image, the chassis also appears designed to be used partially bent with its thin stylus, harking back to the days of palm pilots and razor flip-phones.

After the 40mm display uncovered by the first fold comes the 80mm display, which is designed for front-facing photography. The fully extended 7-inch screen will be used for most applications, and the new aspect ratio will undoubtedly come with its own UI customization.

In practice, there may be some issues with this design. App-makers prioritizing gaming and video consumption would have difficulty using this odd new aspect ratio, and the custom OS will almost certainly feel some growing pains.

Perhaps, though, this is simply a unique opportunity for developers to make creative software solutions that utilize this much space within a media app (e.g. live running comment feeds during a widescreen Twitch stream, or three separate windows in a video call).

This is currently still a concept, and we most likely won’t see products on the market until 2021 when Oppo’s rollable phone is also slated for release.

The phone industry is yearning for more creativity as iterative improvements have become the norm and removing the headphone jack has been deemed “courageous.” It seems that phone manufacturers are looking for the next big thing. Whether in ten years we are all using bi-folds, rollable screens, “slide-phones,” or perhaps a mishmash of designs based on preference could be determined in the coming years as these strange and interesting devices become more affordable and gain market share.

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