Get ready to never need a cable to charge your phone again

The Vivo Apex 2019.
The Vivo Apex 2019.
Image: Vivo
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One of the biggest hassles with smartphones is that they die. Phone owners are constantly scrambling to find cables and sockets to charge their phones, which many have come to rely on as their primary computers. But that may be changing.

Other than foldable phones, another trend emerging at the start of this year is even more abstract. Phone manufacturers, perhaps driven by a desire to make smartphones look like the things we’ve seen in science fiction, seem intent on creating devices that are just solid pieces of glass and metal, with no openings or seams. It’s a simple aesthetic that Apple has been pursuing for years, but most modern phones still have openings for a charging cable, maybe a headphone jack, and speakers.

Two new devices signal that future devices might be even more minimalistic. Today (Jan. 24), Chinese manufacture Vivo unveiled its Apex 2019 concept phone, which it says has “no openings, seams or bezels for a simpler user experience.” It also doesn’t have a front-facing camera, making the front of the device almost entirely one giant screen. It has a fingerprint scanner built into the display to unlock the device, and the company has come up with a new type of cable called the “MagPort” that magnetically attaches to the phone to charge it. (In response to a question about wireless-charging capabilities, the company told Quartz that it is doing research into the technology, but the Apex phone is more concerned with exploring a new product form.)

Yesterday, another Chinese phone maker, Meizu, released a device it’s calling the Zero, which it says also has no openings, not even for a SIM card. It’s also promising, according to The Verge, to deliver fast wireless charging. Unlike the Apex, the Zero has a small black bezel at the top of the phone that includes a front-facing camera. There’s no information on when this phone will be available, but the mobile industry’s big conference, Mobile World Congress, takes place in Barcelona next month, so it’s possible we’ll learn more then.

In both cases, however, the “no holes” claims are a bit specious, as both phones still have holes for microphones, otherwise they wouldn’t make very good telephones if you couldn’t talk into them.

Much like what we’re seeing with bendable phones, it seems likely that these are the first of more devices to follow. Practically speaking, this seems like a trend that will make lives more difficult for consumers. First phone makers came for the headphone jack, upending a standard that’s worked well for over 100 years, then they came for the home button, making us learn complicated swiping gestures to use our phones, and now they’re coming for our charging cables. Hopefully this means we’ll start to see wireless charging ports pop up everywhere, or it’s likely a lot of us will be struggling to charge our phones on the go.