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OnePlus Concept One hands-on: OnePlus has a new vanishing trick

The OnePlus Concept One is trying to hide its camera module using some clever tech. Is this actually useful?

Published onJanuary 7, 2020

I’ve seen a lot of concept phones over the last few years, and generally, they’re all pretty similar. Usually, a company makes a phone so weird that no one will ever really want to own it. But the point the OEM is trying to make is that they can make a phone with some weird new tech. Not that they actually will — or should, for that matter.

OnePlus took a different approach with its new Concept One phone. It probably won’t release it, but it is confident it will actually use the technology in the near future.

OnePlus’ big push with the Concept One is the use of electrochromic glass. This is the tech that can turn glass opaque, and you’ll find it in luxury airplanes and fancy hotels. The main use of this tech is to hide the cameras in the phone, which, for this phone in particular, seems a bit moot. I say this because OnePlus has fitted three cameras into a slot between two big pieces of Papaya Orange leather. This phone looks good, even with the cameras in plain view.

But with other phones, particularly ones with unattractive camera arrays, this tech makes more sense. For example, I’d personally prefer it if the camera setup in the new Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite disappeared altogether. Electrochromic glass would solve that issue.

OnePlus Concept One back at angle 2

The second, functional result of this glass is the ability to use it as a variable neutral density (ND) filter. OnePlus says it’s able to achieve up to ND8 with this glass, meaning it can cut eight stops of light from entering the lens. That spec will allow for things like longer exposures, a wider aperture in highly lit situations, and other benefits.

By all other accounts and measures, the OnePlus Concept One is essentially a new variant of the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edtion. It has the exact same internals but was made specifically to show off the new camera-hiding technology. It won’t be sold in the form you see in this article, but OnePlus says it’s actively looking into how to make the tech better for future devices.

OnePlus’ current version of the Concept One takes just 0.7 seconds to switch from opaque to transparent, which it says is the fastest in the industry. OnePlus also says its electrochromic glass is the most transparent you’ll find today, promising us that it won’t affect the clarity of the camera module.

That’s a lot of bold claims for an industry it’s just entered into, but we’re eager to see if it can live up to the hype it’s attempting to create.

What do you make of the OnePlus Concept One? Would you like to see electrochromic glass on other phones? Let us know in the comments.

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