Despite the impassioned demarcations drawn between iPhone and Android devices by their users, the reality is the basic physical designs of modern smartphones share more similarities rather than any significant differences. Squint and an iPhone becomes a Galaxy, an HTC device resembles an LG phone. Simply put, our phones pretty much look all alike.
So there’s something welcomed and admirable about a reimagination breaking from this yawn-inducing mold. The ALO smartphone is indeed different – a strangely executed concept conceived by French designers Jerome Olivet and Philippe Starck [***UPDATE below], an aluminum unibody coated in “a gelatinous, supple and natural envelope” that can heal itself from scratches, and jettisons the traditional screen interface altogether.
The futuristic Fortress of Solitude meets sabertooth tiger canine design is imagined engineered with haptic and temperature-based feedback, operating under control of an advanced AI to commandeer the usual litany of tasks away from the screen and over to verbal interaction between user and phone using natural voice command. Not all is lost from current phone designs: the ALO still sports dual cameras, because even in the future selfies will still be a thing.
From Jerome Olivet:
Alo provides a fully vocalised interface in all phone functions, reads SMS and emails, and even allows them to dictate their messages rather than typing them.” The phone’s camera acts as an ‘eye.’ Among other things, it allows the reader to read the texts he detects or to identify the faces. It also allows you to project a 3D hologram to view a movie or message.
As noted, ALO is only a concept, but a working prototype is being planned in league with English telephony brand, Thomson. Starck’s portfolio already includes designing Xiaomi’s Mi Mix smartphone, so it’s not inconceivable we’ll see some of these ideas spill into an eventual prototype, if only for design exploration. We haven’t seen such an unusual phone design since the BeoCom 2 Cordless Telephone – the operable telephone in elongated banana form from the early 2000s, but it’s a welcome and provocative idea that challenges thinner, flatter, and wider is a foregone conclusion in mobile device design.
*** The ALO concept has taken a controversial turn, with Philippe Starck and Jerome Olivet offering contradictory claims about the phone design. Starck came forth to charge Olivet had put forth “false information”, accusing Olivet of recycling a 20-year old design Starck conceived solo while serving as Thomson Multimedia’s artistic director. In an official statement Starck states Olivet promoted “false information” with the purpose of creating “artificial buzz”, and has threatened to “oppose any misappropriation or recycling of his past work”.