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MWC Barcelona: Quirky gadgets offer a glimpse into the future

Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2024 had everything – a transparent display laptop, 3D tablets, and a power bank disguised as a smartphone

Visitors test the Lenovo Thinkbook Transparent Display Laptop Concept during the third day of the Mobile World Congress 2024 in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024.
Visitors test the Lenovo Thinkbook Transparent Display Laptop Concept during the third day of the Mobile World Congress 2024 in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (AP)

From a glimpse into a sci-fi future courtesy of Lenovo’s transparent laptop to smartphones that can wrap around your wrist. The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which recently concluded, had plenty of weird and the quirky products that went beyond what one considers a traditional clamshell smartphone. Let’s take a closer look.

ThinkBook Transparent Display Laptop concept: Rollable displays are a thing of the past. The buzzword for 2024 is ‘transparent’ and Lenovo is here to show you why. Lenovo came to the MWC conference with one of the most sci-fi concept devices out there. The 17.3-inch ThinkBook Transparent Display Laptop is straight out of the future. It’s a laptop where you can peer straight through the laptop’s glass screen. It’s got a bezel-less 17.3-inch MicroLED display, with up to 55 percent transparency. This happens when the pixels are set to black and turned off. This concept comes under Lenovo’s Project Crystal and is supposedly the first in the world. Lenovo has no plans of converting this into a retail project, but it is a cool idea, nonetheless.

Motorola’s bendy smartphone: A concept that is cooler than reality. Something you’d like to see but not one that you’d use any time soon. That’s Motorola’s bendy smartphone for you. The company, owned by Chinese tech giant Lenovo, has showed off a bendable smartphone, one that can bend in various ways, at MWC. Primarily, it was shown off as a smartphone that could wrap around a wrist. Depending on when and how the phone is wrapped, the information on the display changes. If it is wrapped around your wrist, then the apps will appear at the top, for easy reading and usage. The concept bendable smartphone has a 6.9-inch OLED screen.

A model presents a Motorola prototype with an adaptive display used as bracelet during the Mobile World Congress (MWC).
A model presents a Motorola prototype with an adaptive display used as bracelet during the Mobile World Congress (MWC). (AFP)

Samsung’s Cling Band: Not to be outdone by Motorola, Samsung came to town with the Cling Band. It’s a flexible smartphone that can transform into a wearable smartwatch. Again, this is a concept device, and won’t be released for many years. Samsung has had ambitions to turn OLED into flexible and bendable screens for many years now. It’s like those slap bracelets of many people’s youth. The Cling Band, in candy bar mode, looks like a regular smartphone. But when you slap it onto your wrist, it curves and fits like any other bracelet, except with a huge screen.

Infinix and E-Color Shift: Infinix has brought a lot of concept phones over the years to CES and MWC. For 2024, the company has a new prototype technology that it is calling E-Color Shift. The back of the phone can change colours. It’s not something that they haven’t showcased before. What’s different for 2024 is that there are more colours to choose from. Furthermore, the back is divided into individual segments, and each of them can be controlled individually. All this is achieved thanks to E Ink Prism 3.

A power bank disguised as a smartphone: A mere four years after Avenir Telecom brought an 18,000mAh power bank with a smartphone in it, the company is back at it again with something even bigger. Avenir Telecom has now packed a smartphone into a 28,000mAh battery. The smartphone, or rather the power bank, is being sold under the Energizer brand. The device is called the Hard Case P28K. The company claims that the smartphone can easily last over a week of regular usage. It’s got an IP69 rating and is rugged. Talk time is rated at a whopping 122 hours, while standby time extends up to 2,252 hours (or about 94 days).

There is one major downside though: its size. The Hard Case P28K comes in at 27.8mm thick and weighs 570g! It’s over three times the thickness and weight of an Apple iPhone 15.

A man uses the new Honor Magic 6 Pro smartphone during a presentation on the eve of the Mobile World Congress (MWC).
A man uses the new Honor Magic 6 Pro smartphone during a presentation on the eve of the Mobile World Congress (MWC). (AFP)

Magic 6 Pro’s eye-tracking feature: Yes, people are now able to move cars by just using their eyes. Honor came to MWC with the Magic 6 Pro flagship smartphone. The smartphone had a trick up its sleeve that no one saw coming. It has an eye-tracking feature that can perform various tasks. One of them was to move an actual car, via an app with remote controls. Simply gaze at the smartphone and the car can move. It’s really neat, even if it is impractical. The app simply has four commands. Engine start, engine stop, backwards and forward.

While this isn’t a practical feature, Honor hopes that this will help their smartphones be differentiated from the crowd.

ZTE’s glasses-free 3D tablet: 3D-capable phones were all the rage back in 2011. There was the HTC Evo 3D that not only was able to capture 3D photos but could also display them on screen. It mainly gave people headaches and the whole fad fizzled out. ZTE is back with a glasses-free 3D tablet, the Nubia Pad 3D II. The tablet relies on liquid crystal lenses and rapid AI processing algorithms to generate 3D content on the screen, and all of this works without requiring any special 3D glasses.

Playing Doom on a lawn mower: This one’s really odd but yes, you can now play the cult game Doom on a lawn mower courtesy of Husqvarna. The company’s Nera robotic lawn mower has enough processing power to be able to play Doom. One can hook up two mowers to a server and play some multiplayer Doom.

Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He posts @IMSahilBhalla.

Also read: MWC Barcelona: OnePlus Watch 2 catches the eye

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