Before this year is through, we’re likely to see a procession of new smartphones launching with incredibly thin screen bezels, such as LG’s G6 that was just announced at Mobile World Congress last month. Or Samsung’s Galaxy S8. Or, as rumor has it, the special anniversary edition iPhone that we’re all expecting to blow us away. Designing his idea of what that Apple phone will look like is digital artist Gabor Balogh (who previously showed us an attractive vision for what smartwatches should look like):
Gabor’s concept ties the borderless screen in with a new augmented reality (AR) system that would essentially turn the iPhone into a window unto the world around us, with handy information superimposed on top. That’s been the AR premise since as far back as apps like Layar in 2009, but it’s never properly panned out. Having said that, Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone on the record with his belief that AR will be bigger and more compelling than VR, which, taken together with Apple’s acquisitions in this field, suggests Apple is taking the technology seriously.
I’m a real fan of the synergy that’s on display in these concept images. Augmented reality has always been quite a clunky thing, with app designers struggling to figure out how to both display the useful information and keep the visuals uncluttered (i.e. the augmentations would often get in the way of the reality), but when you have a boundless screen, there’s plenty of room to set interface components out of the way.
This being a concept, it does take some liberties with the physical constraints of our somber real world. The display, for starters, has no bottom bezel whatsoever, which looks futuristic, but would be a nightmare to handle and is probably impractical in engineering terms anyway. Then there’s the issue of battery life, which would quickly drain away if you spend all your time with the camera on and filling a significantly larger display than previous iPhone generations. And the idea of obtaining people’s heart rate, body temperature, and breaths per minute with a quick scan of your camera is simply fanciful. Cool, of course, but fanciful.
If anything, looking at this implementation and thinking about the things standing in its way makes me think that Apple’s first foray into AR would probably come on the iPad rather than the iPhone. Working with a bigger battery and screen would ease many of the constraints that currently get in the way of a phone doing good AR (and I just don’t see Gabor’s concept as particularly realistic, even if he does endear himself to me by featuring one of my photo essays in the image below). But still, the awesome thing about exploring concept images and ideas of this kind is that they provide ample food for thoughts about the future of smartphones as a whole.
All images courtesy of Gabor Balogh