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5 issues I have with Motorola’s bendy phone bracelet

‘Innovation’ is an oft-uttered buzzword in technology, but for those in the trade, they can’t spell it without the letters R and D. We often get sneak peeks of them straight from manufacturers looking to entice future buyers and please current investors, and that’s exactly what Lenovo is using the MWC 2024 stage to do.

In November, during the company’s Tech World conference, it brought out an extra-tall phone that could literally bend over backwards and, with the help of a clasping latch, be worn on a wrist as a bracelet. That concept is making the press rounds this week, but some form of this bendy bracelet phone has been under the Lenovo spotlight since 2016 (via Android Police).

I’ve got a problem with it, though. It shouldn’t be a phone. No, I assure you I’m not a Luddite, and I’ll explain what this idea should actually be.



Motorola Rizr rollable concept phone first look: Making foldables look boring

Motorola has shown off a concept rollable phone at Mobile World Congress, with a screen rolling up and down at the touch of a button.

1 Materials and everyday use could be better thought out

Sweating the fabric and durability details



Let’s discuss how the current concept has been built out. By now, we should be pretty familiar with flexible displays on devices like Samung’s Galaxy Z series or the new Razrs from Lenovo subsidiary Motorola — this particular concept device has a particularly tall display at 6.9 inches across. There have always been challenges, however, to making a flexible, but durable cover screen to go on top of the display.

With Lenovo’s concept, there are also certain challenges that you don’t see with one of today’s foldables, which has a single crease point, versus this girthy (a term I don’t use lightly) bendable that may have multiple near-crease points across its surface. Reconciling the physics there is remarkable engineering, and it’s not a problem I have with the device.

To give it its shape, the display is housed in an accordion-like casing with arching bellows that can stay in place for as long as is needed. On this demo unit, the case is covered in what appears to be a fabric-like material… and that’s our first point of contention.

While I’m fairly certain that an on-the-market bendy phone will stand up to some lather and rinse action in the sink, do you really want to perform that kind of time-consuming laundry maintenance on, of all things, your phone?

I’m not the biggest fan of fabric wrist straps on analog watches. They achieve a desirable look for a lot of people, but they also need a little water and detergent every once in a while to keep their colors bright and flying. The great thing about wrist straps, however, is that you can unhook them from the watch case before you go to wash them, and then dry them. While I’m fairly certain that an on-the-market bendy phone will stand up to some lather and rinse action in the sink, do you really want to perform that kind of time-consuming laundry maintenance on, of all things, your phone?

The alternative being your phone becomes a literal sponge for bacteria chowing down on your accumulated lipids, liquids, proteins, and minerals.

2 Adding another accessory feels unrealistic

When already remembering chargers and cases — now, don’t forget your bracelet



The phone itself, which has no running title other than the rather lame “adaptive display concept,” is not what you attach to your wrist in order for you to wear it like a bracelet. No, you have to wear an actual bracelet to do that.

Specifically, it’s a clasp with two magnetic pads (our colleagues at Android Police illustrate the mounting process perfectly and have some other thoughts about it). This helps keep the device in place with your wrist instead of rolling around on top of it — which would be terrible because it won’t even wrap fully around the thin wrists of their hand models in these pictures. Software does save the day here as the intention is not to use the whole display, but maybe half or even just a quarter of the real estate when the device is bent in this fashion. While the full panel remains on, the active area should adapt to what’s easily accessible. Making sure the phone is able to stay in place as you swipe and tap is important.

It’s also just not fun. You see, I have a sneaking suspicion that we barely put up with carrying the charging cases for our wireless earbuds everywhere we go. I’m sure a few engineers are hard at work on ways to charge your earbuds through some sort of direct power source. No, you don’t need to charge what I’m calling the “underbracelet,” but it’s still another item you need to keep an eye on to make sure you’re able to slap your phone onto your wrist when you want it. And it’s another thing you can easily lose behind a cabinet, inside the couch, or under a car seat.

This concept can stand on its own two feet — I apologize because I once again do mean this literally — or even just one. You can use it as a table or as a nightstand display of sorts. You don’t need to use it as a wristphone, but if Motorola advertises it as being able to be a wristphone, it would suck not being able to use it as a wristphone.

Maybe one of those engineers can spend some time working on a way to have the phone around your wrist and keep it in place without those magnets.

3 Heavy and uncomfortable wrist wear

A hot and weighty issue to carry around



Regardless of how the phone attaches to your wrist, you also have to remember that this will be a fairly weighty affair. A typical smartwatch weighs about an ounce, all told. The Galaxy S24 Ultra, which is a device comparably sized to the phone on display, weighs eight ounces. Even a device with mid-range specs these days will weigh six ounces at the minimum. You could probably get in some resistance training by wearing the thing all day.

Also, remember that thing about the wrist producing sweat and oils? It’s not just the weather and exercise you have to worry about — if you decide to play a graphically intense game of Arkanoid on that extremely long display for some godforsaken reason or if you decide to start shooting 4K video from the wrist, the phone will get hot. It’s probably a great replacement for a hand warmer or even gloves during winter. Definitely not a good time when it’s T-shirt weather, though.

4 Only a front camera limits modern uses

Where are the cameras on this other than selfie mode?

The only camera on the bendable concept is the selfie camera embedded at one end of the display. It’s probably not the best camera in the world, and it certainly won’t give you the best angle of your face if you’ve got the wrong end up on your wrist.

And there aren’t any cameras on the back, either, for the obvious reason that photo sensors don’t do well bending this way and that. Not to mention that the lens situations and the requisite thinness of the form factors would limit any theoretical options for focal lengths, especially in the telephoto range.


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5 Display options are missing something

Is there a better way to wrist it?

Narrow might be the way to go if Motorola or Lenovo is keen on seeing this concept through. Make it a lighter device and have it serve lighter functions much like 2018’s Palm Phone did. It’s a companion, a more engaging smartwatch replacement, but can still be used in full screen mode for a few full-fledged apps.

Better yet, try a wrist-wearable with Motorola’s Rizr concept from last MWC. Have a “rollable” display substrate coming out of a compact, scroll-like housing and wrap-around your wrist that way. It wouldn’t need as much physical mass to deliver the same amount of usable screen acreage.

Is a wrist-worn smartphone even the right idea to pursue at this point? A question of “how” instead of “should we?” If you think that smartphones at large are already heavy to pocket and tough on your fingers and find yourself wanting just a little more room and a few more things to do on a smartwatch, then yes, you might want to write a couple of emails to your closest friendly Motorola representative. And while you’re at it, make sure you forward that email to Samsung and OnePlus, too.

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