Opinion, Smartphone

Smartphones With No Ports – Who Asked for This?

Update 8 December, 2019, 12PM: This article was originally published on 25 January, 2019. It has been updated to include the rumour of a port-less iPhone in 2021.

Every smartphone maker wants to release a product that is truly unique; something only that particular manufacturer can put forward. In the process to do just that, we’ll come across…some interesting products. The latest one? Smartphones with no ports.

That’s right, we’re talking about a smartphone that has absolutely no ports. No 3.5mm headphone, no charging port, and guess what? No buttons either. Do we need a phone like this? Do we want a phone with such limitations? We’ll take a look at this “trend” in this article.

Let’s talk about the Meizu Zero first, which is touted as the “world’s first holeless phone.” As its name suggests, Meizu’s new device has practically zero openings. Well, except for two small holes: one for the mic, and another to reset the device if anything goes wrong.

To make up for the lack of ports and buttons, the Zero has a couple of interesting features. For one, charging is done with the company’s “Super mCharge Wireless” technology; it promises up to 18W wireless charging. Not the fastest charging rate we’ve seen, but it’s definitely not bad either.

What about data transfer? That’s done via wireless USB connectivity. According to Meizu, this method allows the Zero to transfer data as fast as a conventional USB 3.0 connection. Buttons, on the other hand, are replaced with virtual ones on the side of the phone. These buttons should work similarly to the Huawei Mate 30 Pro‘s touch-sensitive sides, which also uses haptic feedback.

Design wise, the Zero sports a full ceramic unibody, along with small bezels at the top and bottom of the 5.99-inch QHD OLED dual curved display. Yes, there are no notch to be found here, and the top bezel is large enough to house a 20MP front-facing camera.

Other specifications of the Zero include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, a 12MP + 20MP dual camera system, and Meizu’s mSound 2.0 technology – this turns the whole display into a speaker, eliminating the need for a speaker grille.

As futuristic as the Meizu Zero is, the reception for the smartphone is decidedly lukewarm. In fact, the Indiegogo campaign for the Zero failed to meet the goal with only 29 backers. According to Meizu’s founder and CEO, Jack Wong, the port-less phone was merely a marketing stunt, and that it was “never intended to be mass-produced.”

Anyway, besides the Meizu Zero, there’s also the Vivo Apex 2019. Of course, the Apex doesn’t have any ports either, but unlike the Zero, Vivo’s device doesn’t even have a front-facing camera. Evidently, the Apex 2019 is still just a concept phone like its predecessor.

Concept phone or not, the new Apex does have better hardware than the Zero. These include a faster Snapdragon 855 chipset, 256GB of internal storage, a whopping 12GB of RAM, and 5G connectivity via Qualcomm’s X50 modem.

Instead of the Zero’s ceramic body, the Apex 2019 also opts for a “Super Unibody” curved glass design. Despite the glass back, however, the Apex doesn’t support wireless charging – it uses a magnetic connector on the back of the phone for charging and data transfer.

Other features of the Apex 2019 are similar to the Zero, including a pressure-sensitive frame in place of physical buttons, as well as a dual camera system, though Vivo has yet to detail the technical specifications.

Interestingly, the Apex also ships with an in-screen “full-display fingerprint sensor,” which covers “almost the entire screen.” We’re not entirely convinced the sensor truly covers the phone’s whole display, but its active area should be larger than current iterations of the technology.

The reveal of these two concept phones may be the start of a worrying trend: will more phone makers release phones with no ports? After all, it’s been reported before that Apple considered removing the Lightning port from the iPhone X.

In fact, a new research note from noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is suggesting that Apple will do just that with its highest-end iPhone in 2021 to “provide the completely wireless experience.” Sure, 2021 is some way off, but if a large company like Apple is considering to do so, we won’t be surprised if other manufacturers will follow suit.

Nonetheless, we do hope the idea of a port-less phone won’t catch on. There’s no real benefit to doing so, and it will only inconvenient consumers even further. We haven’t even completely transitioned to USB-C yet, and it’s been many years since the standard was introduced.