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This company gave us a sneak peek at the future of smartphone design

The Tecno Phantom X2 Pro held in a person's hand.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the year’s premiere showcase for everything smart. While there are sure to be some big headline grabbers, some of the most exciting announcements from this massive show aren’t the phones and other devices, but the more subtle reveals. That’s exactly what’s going on with these concept materials from Tecno Mobile.

Tecno Mobile is one of the largest phone manufacturers in emerging markets like India, Africa, and the Middle East, and while Western audiences aren’t likely to have heard of the company or come across its devices, with a revenue of $1 billion in 2020, it’s always worth keeping an eye on what Tecno has planned for the future.

Tecno came to MWC 2024 with a number of different announcements (including an AI-powered robot dog), but some of the more interesting may have slipped under your radar, even though they may end up defining the future. While these announced materials are just concepts at this point, and we don’t have a release date for any of them, they provide an exciting snapshot into what the future may contain for smartphones.

Game-changing color displays and 3D effects

Tecno Mobile's concept of a 3D back glass.
A concept image of a 3D effect on back glass. Tecno Mobile

To this point, 3D effects aren’t something we’ve seen much in smartphones (outside of the RED Hydrogen One). Tecno is taking steps to change that, as it’s working on a new way to visualize a 3D experience on smartphones. But give up on those hologram dreams, as this won’t be a 3D projection that pops out of the screen — it’s a 3D effect for the back glass. If you’ve used one of those moving images with an angled surface, you know what to expect, with the depth-of-field, color, and suspended elements changing as you move the phone.

Also mentioned was a display tech called “chameleon coloring technology.” That name doesn’t tell you much, but it could be a bigger shake-up than anything else mentioned in this announcement. In an industry first, it’s a display technology offering a full-color spectrum, with a particularly fast response speed in milliseconds. Tecno also claims it will have a long life span, and very low power consumption to boot.

The next generation of strength and style

Tecno Mobile's textured glass back plate.
Tecno’s new textured glass. Tecno Mobile

Tecno also announced it is working on some next-generation designs for materials for phones and cases alike.

First on the list is layered fiberglass. It’s lighter than glass of the same thickness, but it’s stronger and more resistant to bends, offering serious strength advantages over regular glass. It won’t have the same shine as glass, of course, but Tecno is working on adding an optical coating to add a metal-like luster, which has the added advantage of also being fingerprint-proof.

Glass isn’t out of favor entirely, though, as Tecno has been developing a new colored and textured glass for phone bodies. Created by mixing different molten glasses, the result is a glass backplate with a gem-like shimmer or a solid effect that mimics ceramic, but without the weight and thickness of real ceramic.

A number of new types of leather were also debuted. Fragranced leather is exactly what it sounds like. Microcapsules of scent are added to PU leather during creation, adding the smell of your choice to the final product. These will fade over about a year, as long as they’re not exposed to too much sunlight, high temperatures, or “violent rubbing.’

Tecno's new renewable fiber on the back of a phone.
Tecno’s case made from renewable materials. Tecno Mobile

Other advances are aimed at changing vegan leather into something more environmentally friendly. Existing PU leather, while animal friendly, is a disaster for the environment, as it’s made from plastic. Organosilicate fabric leather aims to replace PU leather entirely, using a synthetic organosilicate coating instead of polyurethane (PU) while still offering durability paired with an easy to clean surface. There’s also a fiber phone cover in this same vein that isn’t made from leather ,but from recycled plastic bottles, which can then be recycled again after it’s done protecting your phone.

Tecno Mobile's colored leather.
Tecno’s colored leather case. Tecno Mobile

The final product to be shown off involved a new process of blending colors into standard leathers. Currently, leather cases make do with simple and limited designs, as the technology simply isn’t there to add too much to a leather surface. Tecno is hoping its new process will add the ability to add much more complex artwork to leather cases, and based on these concept images, it’ll lead to some stunning cases if it pulls it off.

Tecno’s already impressed us with its design chops on existing phones — namely, the Tecno Phantom X2 Pro and the Tecno Phantom V Fold — so it’s exciting to see the company has plans to take things a few steps further with these material concepts.

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