Case Closed

Chinese Phone-Makers Ditch Ports and Buttons

It takes a lot to stand out in the smartphone business these days. And sometimes, a lot less.

Two Chinese smartphone manufacturers are showing devices that take sleekness to a new level, virtually eliminating all ports and buttons. Their minimalist approach is creating a great amount of buzz ahead of Mobile World Congress 2019.

Meizu’s Zero smartphone lacks any physical buttons: no power button, no home button, no volume buttons. It has no speaker grille or 3.5 mm audio jack. It doesn’t even have a SIM card slot.

Another Chinese phone-maker, Vivo, has presented a sleek concept smartphone with a similar design. The device, dubbed Apex 2019, doesn’t have ports or buttons and there isn’t a front-facing camera either.

Meizu and Vivo aren’t using any technologies that we haven’t seen before, but they have pulled all the latest components into one nice package. Trends such as e-SIM, in-display fingerprint sensors, and under-display piezoelectric transducers capable of pumping sound through the screen through vibrations are providing device designers with new tools on the march to make phones with no bezels. The manufacturers have replaced physical buttons with virtual ones, and even skipped the standard USB port for charging, relying completely on wireless charging.

The result is a slick design that’s ahead of the curve and that will certainly attract attention at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona. Meizu’s Zero will have limited availability in China and Vivo’s Apex 2019 is only a concept. Their roll-out will depend on operators’ ability to handle e-SIM technology and consumers’ willingness to accept some of the compromises such as slower and sometimes less convenient wireless charging.

The companies haven’t revealed details about pricing, but devices like these will certainly be in line with prices of flagship phones, given that they integrate the latest components and technologies and the added cost of a wireless charging pad.

We expect more new devices to head in this direction, as smartphone makers investigate any opportunity to differentiate in the crowded smartphone market.