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Color-changing glass could be coming to more phones in 2021

Could electrochromic glass be next year's big smartphone design trick?

Published onDecember 11, 2020

OnePlus Concept One backside up 1
  • Chinese brand nubia REDMAGIC has teased a color-changing smartphone.
  • The device seemingly makes use of electrochromic glass to switch its rear plate from opaque to transparent.
  • Similar technology is tipped to feature on more smartphones in 2021.

We’ve seen color-changing electrochromic glass make an appearance on the OnePlus Concept One earlier this year, but it wasn’t clear if it would be the next big design trick used on smartphones. Now, it seems that the technology could become a little more common on devices in 2021.

In a video posted to Weibo (h/t: MySmartPrice), Chinese brand nubia showcases a REDMAGIC phone that seemingly employs this technology. The phone in question features two transparent panel strips on its rear which highlight the device’s innards. At the touch of a button, the panels darken and hide the internals. Touching the button again reverts the trick, showing off the internals again.

It’s unclear if this device is a production example of a forthcoming nubia smartphone or merely a concept or dummy for testing. The triple rear camera array does resemble that of the nubia REDMAGIC 5S, though.

Whatever the purpose of the device, there’s no indication that the phone can switch to more exotic colorways at will. The two options in the video are opaque or transparent, with nothing in between. However, Chinese rival vivo showcased its color-changing glass technology back in September which allowed that particular device to morph between silver and blue.

Of course, both nubia and vivo’s use of the tech is purely for aesthetics, but there are practical reasons to use electrochromic glass on phones. OnePlus’ use of the tech on the Concept One doubled as a filter for its rear cameras, allowing for more exposure control in bright scenes.

It’s likely we’ll see more firms joining nubia, vivo, and OnePlus in the color-changing glass field. Per tipster Digital Chat Station, a number of other companies — including OPPO — are currently exploring the technology and plan to mass-produce devices with color-changing properties next year.

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