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Foldable, swappable, invisible: 12 visions of tomorrow's tablet

Designers are busily reimagining the humble tablet. Take a look at these futuristic concept designs and decide which are likely to become reality.
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1 of 12 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Even though the tablet is only a few years old as a part of the mainstream computing scene, plenty of designers are coming up with ideas of how to remodel it. Few of these concept devices are likely to see the light of day in their current forms, but they provide an insight into the problems that manufacturers are trying to tackle, and how the tablets of tomorrow might look and function.

Kristian Ulrich Larsen's Flip phone concept imagines in a three-screen device that can function as a standard smartphone, but can also flatten out into a tablet form factor.

Image  Kristian Ulrich Larsen (idkul.com) 

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2 of 12 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

With the ability to expand your content onto multiple screens or have multiple apps running on separate screens, it's possible for the user to do more productive and creative things, says Larsen.

Image  Kristian Ulrich Larsen (idkul.com)

 

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Part of Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects group, Project Ara is working on a free, open hardware platform for creating modular smartphones — trying to do for hardware what Android has done for software. Ara hardware is built up from an endoskeleton, the frame that holds it all together and modules that could be processors, a keyboard or an extra battery.

Image  Motorola

 

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Similarly, ZTE has designed a modular phone called Eco-Mobius, which makes it easier to switch out different elements — such as the screen and camera lens, core memory and processors, and battery.

For example, instead of buying a tablet and a smartphon, you could simply buy a larger screen and extra batteries to power it.

Image  ZTE

 

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5 of 12 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Better integration with other devices is an issue that manufacturers are examining. This concept tablet, shown in a video by glass-maker Corning, is sharing content with a larger wall screen, for example.

Image  Corning

 

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Curved displays are just beginning to appear in the market, offering some respite from the monotonous black slabs we've become used to. But bendable devices are already being worked on: Samsung has shown off its YOUM flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) display, for example, which uses extremely thin plastic instead of glass, making it bendable and harder to break.

Image  Samsung

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After bendable comes foldable — this Samsung concept shows a tablet-sized device with a foldable screen.

Image  Samsung

 

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8 of 12 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

The same concept video shows this — a small tablet with a flexible screen that can be stored rolled up in the 'wand' part of the device on the left.

Image  Samsung

 

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Here's another, larger, foldable tablet concept: the 'tablet book' by UK designer Phil Pauley

Image  Phil Pauley (www.philpauley.com) and PAULEY (3D visualisation of the concept; www.pauley.co.uk)

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10 of 12 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Rather than fitting in your pocket, this A3 design would be much more of a laptop replacement.

Image  Phil Pauley (www.philpauley.com) and PAULEY (3D visualisation of the concept; www.pauley.co.uk)

 

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11 of 12 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

See-through screens and augmented reality show up a lot in concept tablets, although augmented reality hasn't — at least so far — proved to be the user experience breakthrough many expected. Here's a Corning concept device serving up augmented reality scares on a trip to a national park.

Image  Corning

 

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12 of 12 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Here's a Samsung concept that really is futuristic: a tablet with transparent screen (and other internals) that's also flexible, can display web pages and take a photo — all at the same time. Don't expect to see this one in your local retailer any time soon.

Image  Samsung

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