The smartphone has become the modern-day Swiss Army Knife, functioning not only as a portable telecommunication device, but also as an alarm clock, calculator, camera, music player and even bank – all rolled in to one handy pocked-sized multi-tool.
But there are some features out there that take the humble mobile phone that one step further, with some even entering the realms of science fiction. Here are just a few crazy phone features that have appeared (and disappeared) over the years.
One of the first phones with a pico-projector squeezed into the handset was the Logic Bolt in 2009, which featured a 10 lumens projector for 640 x 480 video. However, the battery could only last 2 hours in projection mode, so a second battery was included with the phone.
Over 30 projector-enabled phones have since been released such as the Samsung Galaxy Beam i8530, but they’ve never really caught on, perhaps due to limited battery life, bulky handsets and other low-spec device features.
However, released this year, the Moviphone seems to have stepped things up a gear, with a 50-lumen laser projector that 720p resolution at up to 100 inches, along with mid-range smartphone features.
Back in 2012, Softbank’s Pantone 5 107SH smartphone made the headlines as the world’s first phone with a built-in radiation detector. Launched in Japan the year after the Fukishima nuclear accident, the phones featured a Sharp Corp radiation reading chip capable of measuring radiation levels within 20 percent accuracy.
Since then, a number of radioactivity counter apps have been released, including Radioactivity Counter, which claim to measure individual exposure to radiation using a smartphone’s built-in camera.
Eye tracking technology, which puts you in control of your device by using your eyes, has been around for decades. While there were pre-launch rumours in 2014 that the Samsung Galaxy S4 would feature eye tracking technology, the ‘Smart Scroll’ feature actually relied on facial recognition and tilt to scroll up and down. Meanwhile, its ‘Smart Pause’ feature would automatically pause a video if you turned your head away from the screen.
In early 2017 ZTE’s Hawkeye phone also promised to allow users to scroll through pages based on eye movement, with a self-adhesive back to make it hands free. However, the Chinese company failed to raise enough funds to develop the phone through their Kickstarter campaign and the project was cancelled.
In 2016, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the University of Georgia developed software that can turn any smartphone into an eye-tracking device. Israeli developer Umoove also created the first ever software-only face and eye tracking technology for any mobile device.
While the buzz surrounding eye tracking technology continues, it’s yet to become a standard feature in smartphones.
Over the last few years, manufacturers have been battling with screen size, getting closer and closer to the edge – but bigger screen also means bulkier handset. So, what if you could fold a tablet-sized screen in two and fit it in your pocket?
Once again, ZTE makes our list with another crazy feature: unveiled at this year’s Mobile World Congress, their Axon M is a dual-screen phone where the second folds backwards in a reverse-clamshell design, effectively doubling the screen size. While they weren’t the first to come up with the concept (Kyocera Echo launched a dual screen phone in 2011), they are so far the closest to achieving seamless dual screens. The phone was however criticized for its hefty handset and the clunky hinge mechanism holding the screens together.
A fully foldable screen device has been a long-running, high-profile industry pursuit, with several phone makers said to be in development – but nobody is quite there yet. Back in 2011, Samsung showed off a prototype of a foldable phone which at the time wasn’t ready for market. This week, Samsung has finally announced it will unveil details of a foldable smartphone later this year, so we could actually see the firm’s fabled foldable, flexible, bendable phone by the end of 2018. Commonly referred to as the Galaxy X, the handset will reportedly have a 7 inch display which can fold in on itself like a wallet, possibly thanks to an unbreakable, flexible OLED panel.
See our article on the Top 5 Strangest Mobile Phone Designs Ever.
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