Transparent Cellular Phone: Can This Concept Come To Life?

Dhir Acharya - Jan 15, 2021


Transparent Cellular Phone: Can This Concept Come To Life?

The transparent cellular phone may be the next futuristic smartphone concept that will come to life. But how far have we gone and what has been achieved?

So far, foldable smartphones have been the most futuristic and technologically advanced handsets we can actually buy. It took phone makers multiple years to come up with different approaches, developed prototypes, refine, and manufacture real models that we can use on a daily basis. But while the technology and engineering for foldable phones haven’t been fully developed yet, tech firms have already taken the next step. A great example of this evolution is Samsung and its transparent cellular phone concept.

transparent cellular phone
What is a transparent cellular phone?

What is a transparent phone?

In January last year, Samsung filed a patent that was then published on August 27 of the same year. The patent describes the technology required to make a transparent phone. Apart from that, the technology could be applied to TV screens, game consoles, laptops, and other consumer electronics products.

Basically, an OLED panel is used as it consumes less power, produces a higher brightness, and responds faster than LCD screens. The OLED display features a transparent luminous display panel that light can travel through. This way, content can be shown on the transparent screen but users can still see through the device.

It can be either a flat screen or a flexible panel that is foldable, bendable, or rollable, according to the description in the patent application. The patent includes a great deal of detail about different components and layers needed to achieve transparency.

The patent images illustrate a device with a large transparent screen and small bezels. From these images, 3D renders of the concept have been created to better visualize the technology.

transparent cellular phone
What a transparent cellular phone could look like

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a transparent cellular phone?

While it’s a long way until we can achieve a truly transparent phone, we have already seen some obvious up and downsides of a see through phone based on the early prototypes introduced over the years.

The very first and most obvious disadvantage that comes to mind is where to put components like the camera and the battery if the handset is transparent on both sides? They cannot lie behind the display like they are now. This means the phone needs large bezels to cover key components. It worth noting that this large bezel is not described in Samsung’s patent. However, the patent says that the screen may be partly transparent only, which can be a solution to this issue. At the same time, manufacturers have been looking for a way to minimize components while maintaining their functions.

transparent cellular phone
Render of Samsung's transparent cellular phone concept

Another concern with a clear phone is the viewing experience. The problem with a transparent cellular phone is whether our eyes can distinguish between the background and the foreground. For instance, when looking at several icons on the home screen, your eyes can be fatigued if there are different elements in the background.

Lastly, does transparent phones have any actual values? You can have a phone with a double-sided touchscreen, which is useful for multitasking because you may run different apps on either side of the phone. For instance, when you take photos, the transparent display can act as a viewfinder.

Nevertheless, the advantages currently cannot outweigh the costs to develop such technology.

transparent cellular phone
The patent illustrates small bezels

Over time, there have been various types of electronics products released with a transparent display, such as LG’s 55-inch transparent OLED Signage. Manufacturers have also announced several transparent OLED TVs including one by Haier.

In the past, Samsung also introduced transparent displays for its B2B channel in addition to the OLED Signage it released for promotional purposes or showing a welcome message. These products, however, came out 5-10 years ago and we have barely heard anything about transparent screen tech in recent years.

Nevertheless, Samsung’s recent patent suggests that the Korean tech giant is still exploring possibilities to make a transparent cellular phone.

transparent cellular phone
An image in Samsung's patent

What was the first transparent cellular phone?

Back in 2013, a Taiwanese company succeeded in developing a prototype of a transparent phone that actually worked. The firm in question is called Polytron, which created a mobile phone with a see-through screen and visible camera unit, memory card, and circuit board. The phone also has a working SIM tray, microphone, and an SD card slot. But it didn’t have an operating system.

transparent cellular phone
Polytron's working transparent cellular phone prototype

To create the phone, Polytron relied on a technology called Polyvision Privacy Glass that allowed the handset to become transparent when there’s an electric current passing through it. Besides, the company used microscopic wires fed directly into the glass to make it almost invisible to the human eye.

>>> Nokia 3.4 Review: Long Battery Life, Decent Screen, But The Cameras Are A Huge Problem

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