Today at Lenovo Tech World ‘23, many things happened. There was a lot of talk about AI. Nvidia’s Jensen Huang and his leather jacket were there. There were some celebrities I was probably supposed to recognize. And Lenovo dusted off its bendable phone concept and let it out into the light for nearly two full minutes!

Almost two hours into the keynote, Lexi Valasek with the Motorola Innovation Research team took the stage with the latest iteration of Moto’s bendy concept phone. Like the one Motorola showed off at Tech World 2016, a couple of years after it was acquired by Lenovo, it’s a large smartphone built around a flexible OLED display that can bend backward to wrap around the wrist, cuff-style.

This version does seem more advanced than the one we saw seven years ago! We only saw that one go into snap-bracelet mode (with a frankly upsetting crunching noise), while the 2023 model can do a couple more poses, from the happy worm to a tented mode — which, if we’re feeling less generous, is really just an incomplete cuff mode.

Motorola’s new prototype has a friendly orange fabric backing. When Valasek snapped it onto her wrist, she did so over what looked like a watch but seems to be a blank metal square held on with a watchband. It might be magnetic and seems to be there to prevent the phone cuff from flying off your wrist every time you move your arm.

The 2016 prototype audibly crunched as vlogger Meghan McCarthy put it on her wrist.  Image: Lenovo

This year’s prototype seems to snap onto a metal cuff. If I were a betting man, I’d say that’s a magnet to keep the phone from flying off your wrist.  Image: Lenovo

I also didn’t hear a crunch this time, which is reassuring. 

Valasek spent about a minute of the two-hour event talking about the concept and another minute or two using it to demonstrate some on-device wallpaper-generation feature and then walked off. That’s almost double the screen time the last version got in 2016. 

Is the bendy phone going to happen? Probably not like this! A minute feels like the sweet spot right before “Oh, that’s cool” wears off and people start asking questions like “What happens if I rest my wrist on a table?” or “What happens if I move my arm too fast?” or “How would I take a call?” 

But it’s still nice to see a remnant of that ol’ Moto spirit, and you can draw a pretty straight line between the folding tablet concept in Meghan McCarthy’s other hand in the video from 2016 to the Moto Razr Plus, a real phone you can buy today. That video, incidentally, is full of gems, from the reveal of the one and only Google Tango device to a lengthy discussion of Moto Mods — may they rest in peace. 

We look forward to seeing the bendy phone again at Tech World 2030.

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