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Hands-on OnePlus Concept One: smartphone with ‘invisible camera’

Hands-on OnePlus Concept One: During CES, OnePlus presented a special smartphone, with 'invisible cameras': the OnePlus Concept One smartphone.
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Hands-on OnePlus Concept One: During CES, OnePlus presented a special smartphone, with ‘invisible cameras’: the OnePlus Concept One smartphone. The camera lenses are normally not visible and only appear when the camera application is opened. How invisible are those cameras really?

Hands-on OnePlus Concept One

OnePlus x McLaren

The Chinese manufacturer has been cooperating with McLaren for years. Both companies are all about speed, so the match seems to be perfect. The collaboration has already resulted in special editions of normal smartphones, but this time a concept smartphone has also been presented. That happened during CES 2020, in January of this year. The emphasis here is not only on the design and its unique elements, the Chinese company has also performed a special trick with the cameras on the back.

The camera lenses on the back are hidden by dynamic, electrochromic glass and only become visible when the camera is in use. The company calls this solution ‘electronic CMF’. That means that in this case you will see a smooth, black line running down when someone looks at the smartphone from behind. This benefits the design, as it is not interrupted by elements that are further apart from the device. Fortunately, this can also have a practical now.

Electrochrome glass

The glass of the OnePlus Concept One uses organic particles to change its transparency. That way, the glass covering the camera lenses can change from black to completely clear in a matter of moments. When the camera is not in use, the entire back of the phone is smooth and smooth. The special glass also offers a practical advantage: it functions as a built-in polarizing filter. This allows users to take sharp and more detailed photos even at high brightness.

The OnePlus Concept One’s invisible camera has  been thoroughly tested and measured for speed. The OnePlus Concept  One takes 0.7 seconds  for the glass to switch from very dark to completely clear – that’s faster than the camera itself needs to activate itself. That speed is unique in the industry – and uses little or no power. The OnePlus team tested over a hundred different options for almost eight months to achieve the best possible combination of looks, speed and power consumption.

Of course, the camera lenses don’t really disappear, but they are behind an extra, thin layer of material. You may have encountered the same type of material before, for example on an airplane. The windows of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, for example, have the same type of material, with which you can darken the window within seconds. The panoramic roof of the McLaren 720S sports car (who doesn’t have it?) Also has such a glass on board, which in this case blocks the sun.

In practice

Despite the fact that the smartphone will not be released on the market in its current form, it is interesting to hold the phone for a while and use it briefly. We were able to do that last week at OnePlus’ Dutch headquarters. There we tried out the OnePlus Concept One and looked at the extent to which the electrochromic glass actually hides the lenses. The technology may be coming to the OnePlus smartphones, but nothing has been announced at the moment.

And yes, we can conclude that the extra layer does its best to hide the camera lenses. He is even doing very well. If you hold the OnePlus Concept One smartphone normally and someone looks at the back, you will not see any camera. The back is sleek and smooth and you immediately see the value of this aspect. It looks very nice, while you do not have to compromise on the quality or capabilities of the photo cameras on the device (the quality is comparable to the OnePlus 7T series).

Hands-on OnePlus Concept One – Playing with light

However, if you hold the phone at an (admittedly, slightly odd) angle to the light, you can still see through it. You will then see the border of the three camera lenses, because the light then falls on them perfectly. But it really isn’t more than that. You can see what exactly you will receive in the picture below. In general, we can therefore say that this design ensures that the cameras are indeed invisible, so that at least the back has a beautiful, very sleek design.

Hands-on OnePlus Concept One

Of course you may wonder what the practical use is of hiding the cameras. There is none. It is a means that allows OnePlus to distinguish itself from the competition, while still offering a smartphone experience that we are used to from the brand. Of course you can use the layer as a special filter, with which you can take special photos (movement is then rendered cloudy, while the environment around it is very sharp), but that is extra functionality for the camera module.

Then we have other parts of the design, such as the single, gold parts and the back which is made of ocher yellow papaya leather. These are elements that make the smartphone unique, that make you long for a time when OnePlus more often added remarkable or cool backs to its smartphones. You can also ask yourself here whether it is something that will stay good in the long term (leather can break and get dirty), but that it looks special and very neat, is in any case indisputable.

Hands-on OnePlus Concept One

Whether the technology is usable or not and whether or not it comes to other OnePlus smartphones, the OnePlus Concept One smartphone does exactly what it is intended for: presenting a concept that we may be enthusiastic about, Thus, Hands-on OnePlus Concept One. In terms of design it looks very cool and very neatly finished, but you can discuss the practical use for a little longer. In any case, the Chinese manufacturer shows that it has more to offer than just offering the latest specs within the new phone.

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