OnePlus’s “Camera Vanishing Magic”

Handset makers are always committed to making a variety of innovations in their products, such as collapsible screens or higher screen refresh rates. OnePlus is no exception, but OnePlus’s innovation is to make the camera “disappear.” According to Wired, OnePlus is working with McLaren, the British carmaker, to use the same glass technology as high-end car sunroofs and airplane windows on OnePlus One, a new prototype of the OnePlus.

The glass technology described above is mainly used on the camera of the new machine. The effect is that as long as the user is not running the camera application on the device, the camera will be in a “disappearing” state;

While OnePlus plans to showcase the concept phone at the upcoming CES in Las Vegas. But OnePlus also says it’s just a concept and there won’t be any product launches anytime soon.

Pete Lau, co-founder and CEO of OnePlus, told Wired that OnePlus has overcome many engineering challenges while exploring boldly. Pete Lau says OnePlus will first produce a portion of the device for a small number of users, and with their feedback, study the possibility of making the device available to more users.


In fact, the glass technology on the OnePlus Concept One camera is the same as on the Skylight of the McLaren 720S Supercars. At the time, Xi Zeng, creative director of OnePlus, saw the glass on the 720S while visiting McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, UK. He began to imagine applying this glass technology to small smartphone devices.

OnePlus engineers are very interested in this and will begin working on it by the end of 2018. Pete Lau says they face many challenges in the Concept One process. For example, the electrochromic glass also needs to be covered specifically for the back of the smartphone, so thickness is a problem. However, Pete Lau claims that in the current design, the overall thickness of the concept phone has increased by only a tenth of a millimeter.

In addition, electrochromic glass relies on electrical energy to move from opaque to translucent, so engineers must consider how to adapt the technology to the same amount of power as possible in daily use.

Before and after calling the color-changing glass

Speed is also a problem. If the transition from tinttoy to transparent glass causes you to miss the critical moment slot stakes in the need to take a picture, the technology is a bit redundant. The OnePlus has worked hard to make the switch in the glass state in less than a second, compared with the electrochromic glass windows on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that take seconds to change from transparent to opaque to colored.

Finally, there is the reliability factor – the demonstration of this feature must be accurate when the product is first introduced. As a result, Pete Lau says engineers are working to ensure that overall build quality meets company standards.

Andrew Dent, executive vice president of research at Material ConneXion, a New York-based consultancy, says there are also problems with the life of electrochromic glass. Overall, he doesn’t think the glass is suitable for smartphones, he adds:

If the user keeps switching modes, this will cause the discolored glass to degrade over a period of time and will not be able to convert the color state perfectly when switching. Moreover, the realization of the state transition of the chameleon glass itself is not an easy task, it is not a single layer that can be stripped, but a combination of glass and polymer layers. In addition, electrochromic glass is expensive, but for small personal devices, each device may use only a few grams of material, which is not cost-effective.

OnePlus has also responded to Andrew Dent’s cost concerns: Concept One is not currently mass-producing, so production costs are not a big problem, and costs will be reduced as technology matures.

Disappearing mobile phone parts

Prior to that, the OnePlus had been notable for innovative technologies such as a matted glass back cover, a pop-up camera lens, and a 90 Hz display refresh rate. In all of these areas, OnePlus is a pioneer.

As things stand, however, The OnePlus has a relatively small share of the global smartphone market. As a result, many media believe that OnePlus’s innovation on Concept One may not make a particular splash until some of the more mainstream handset makers start developing “disappearing technology” – despite plenty of evidence that it is called “unburdened” it is becoming a fashion.

Pete Lau says the core of this fashion is a completely uninterrupted screen experience; lenses, bumps, buttons, speakers, ports, and more can disappear from personal electronics.

Pete Lau’s argument seems to make sense. There have been recent rumours, for example, that Samsung’s future phones will feature off-screen fingerprints and pinhole cameras so that users can’t notice them, and Ming-Chi Kuo, a prominent Apple analyst, has also claimed that Apple could completely deplug the charging port in its 2021 iPhone range.

Gadi Amit, founder and chief product designer of New Deal Design in San Francisco, says these cyclical changes in technical product design are not new. Technical requirements first determine the existence of certain buttons, knobs, or ports, and over time designers try to push for simpler designs. He cites the first mass-market televisions as an example:

When television first appeared in large numbers in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a knob on the front of the machine. Eventually, we entered the design era, and television became a magical black box with no obvious buttons.

Gadi Amit also warns, however, that, in fact, disappearing designs will eventually put more burden on people, possibly because of the poor availability of products and, worse, the inconvenience for people with disabilities. This will be a double-edged sword.

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