The Moto Edge 50 Ultra revived the wooden phone, so can we get a Lego one next?

The Moto Edge 50 Ultra revived the wooden phone, so can we get a Lego one next?

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What is essential is invisible to the eye, but the Little Prince forgot to add something.

Not every great phone out there is defined by its chipset, graphics processing unit, or its silky-smooth operating system.

Some phones are cool just because they look cool.

The Motorola RAZR V3, despite being 20 years old and despite not having a touchscreen, will forever be one of the coolest gadgets made by mankind. Like the “banana” Nokia 8110 (“Wake up, Neo…”), or the Sony Ericsson T610, and more.

They all have character.

Take a look at the RAZR V3, this thing is pretty as a peach:

So, aesthetics matter. We’re getting evermore powerful handsets every year – faster, better, stronger – but they kind of… look the same.

Back in the day, I could tell (with certainty) what phone a stranger was rocking by a glance from across the street. Today, this is impossible to pull off. Especially if I’m looking at the front of a phone, not its back.

Designers have to try harder and do better – I think we all agree on that. Even if you think today’s smartphones are in their peak physical form, their design has to change eventually. We have to move away from the all-plastic, glass-back or titanium frames at a point in time… and find new materials to build out budget, mid-ranger and flagship handsets.

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So, let’s talk about what the future phone could be made of!

Motorola has revived the wooden phone

The reason I’m meditating on phone designs: Motorola unveiled its sparkling-new Edge 50 Ultra that landed with a wooden back just the other day.

Of course, if you’re a hardcore Motorola fan, you’d know that this is far from their first attempt at bringing wood to a smartphone:

Exactly 10 years ago, the Moto X was a hit and users could get a wooden back made out of:

Apart from the bamboo option actually being a bamboo, the rest of the aforementioned backs were all made out of the same wood – then customized to give them the corresponding look of walnut, ebony, or teak.Pros of a “wooden” phone:

  • Smokin’ hot: A wooden back screams “NATURE!” and it’s stylish; it appeals to users who prefer organic materials over synthetic ones. The intricate grain patterns and warm tones of wood can give each phone a distinct and timeless appearance.
  • Feeling good, feeling great: Wood offers a warm and natural texture, thus a comfortable grip is guaranteed. Personally, I often find wood more pleasant than cold metal or smooth glass. The tactile sensation of wood can create a more intimate and inviting user experience.

Cons of a “wooden” phone:

  • Will it last? Wood may be more prone to scratching, denting, or cracking compared to some metals or glass. Without protective coatings or treatments, wooden phone backs can show signs of wear over time, impacting their longevity.
  • Maintenance: Generally speaking, wood requires special care to prevent damage from moisture, heat, or prolonged sunlight exposure. I’m aware that wooden backs are not exposed to the same weather conditions as a yacht, but, at the end of the day, it’s still wood.
  • Heat: Wood can discolor or degrade when exposed to high temperatures, although modern manufacturing techniques can mitigate this risk. If future SoC have poor cooling, this could be a (burning) problem.
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On the compatibility with wireless charging and possible issues: this isn’t a real concern, as there are custom-made wooden phone cases that are MagSafe-compatible, for example.

What else is there?

Beyond wood, several alternative materials offer a blend of functionality, durability, and environmental consciousness:

  • Ceramic: Known for its luxurious finish and scratch resistance, ceramic is an excellent choice for premium smartphones, despite being heavier and prone to shattering upon impact. Ceramic phone backs can withstand daily wear and tear while maintaining a pristine appearance.
  • Bio-plastics: Fancy term for a material derived from renewable sources like corn starch or sugarcane, but require careful evaluation of durability and performance.
  • Recycled materials: Phones crafted from recycled plastics, metals, or e-waste components minimize reliance on virgin materials, contributing to sustainability efforts.
  • Metal alloys: Aluminum or titanium alloys provide strength and durability while maintaining a premium appearance.
  • Glass composites: Hybrid glass-polymer or glass-fiber composites offer both strength and aesthetics, reducing the risk of shattering compared to pure glass backs. Reinforced glass materials enhance durability without compromising on design.
  • Natural fiber composites: Think of bamboo, cork, or flax fiber composites. They are lightweight and environmentally friendly, but require thorough evaluation for durability and functionality.
  • Carbon fiber: Recognized for its strength and lightweight properties, carbon fiber offers durability and a modern aesthetic. However, it can be expensive and may interfere with wireless signals unless designed appropriately.
  • Aerogel: Known as one of the lightest solid materials, aerogel is extremely porous and consists of a gel-like substance that is mostly air. It has remarkable thermal insulation properties and is often used in space missions and scientific research. This is going to be hard, but using aerogel will be a thing in the near future, I’m sure.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Since it’s the end of the week (almost), why not take a deep breath (hold it) and see what else we can pull out of the hat to build a phone with.While entertaining, these are not practical for everyday use – not unless we master the laws of physics:

  • Porcelain, a.k.a. “Fine China“: it’s posh (and your grandma will love it), just don’t drop it. Just don’t.
  • Lego bricks: Imagine a customizable phone back covered in Lego bricks, offering endless design possibilities but with sharp corner concerns. This could be classified as a weapon – those who’ve stepped barefoot on a Lego brick, will understand what I mean.
  • Shape memory alloys: These alloys can return to their original shape after being deformed. That’s what the future holds for the foldable (book style and flip form factor) devices!
  • Feathers: Imagine your next iPhone or Galaxy S in soft, fluffy feathers. Just don’t laugh out too loud if you’re tickled during calls!
  • Bubble wrap: Who wouldn’t enjoy popping bubble wrap on their phone case for stress relief? However, protection against drops may be compromised by the lightweight and compressible nature of bubble wrap.
  • Whetstone: It’s going to be heavy, but a phone made out of whetstone would be indispensable when you’re in a desperate need of slicing your tomatoes paper-thin: just sharpen your knife on your phone!
  • Pizza: Everybody loves pizza! Its unsurpassed aroma will be there for you every time you pick up the phone – just be cautious of attracting hungry onlookers… (Okay, I’m hungry, it’s pretty obvious!)
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With the help of AI, here’s a sneak peek at those outrageous concepts:

Sure, the last few examples are too crazy, but exploring new materials in smartphone design sparks creativity and innovation, pushing boundaries and inspiring fresh ideas. So why not dream a little dream about it?

Share your craziest ideas in the comments below!

The smartphone realm needs a fresh idea or two, don’t you think?

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