Behind OnePlus Concept One's 'invisible camera' trick: How it works, challenges & solutions

OnePlus Concept One’s big secret is out. The company’s first concept smartphone ditches foldable design for a unique feature that makes OnePlus the first and only company to experiment with electrochromic glass. OnePlus has carefully chosen one area of its Concept One smartphone and fitted it with electrochromic glass for an “invisible camera” array on the rear.

This is the first official look at OnePlus Concept One after the company confirmed its presence at the CES 2020 in Las Vegas this month. OnePlus CEO Pete Lau gave a glimpse of the phone in a short video teaser, which starts by showing OnePlus’ signature Alert Slider and then goes on to reveal the “invisible camera” at the back of the device.

The official teaser for the phone doesn’t show any bumps. Everything is just curvy and seamless or as Lau calls it – “burdernless.” According to The Wired, there’s a lot of McLaren effect in the concept phone, like boasting a papaya orange leather back and a thin glass running down the centre spine, which can be glimpsed in the teaser. The supercar brand also inspired the use of electrochromic glass in Concept One phone.

OnePlus logo seen at the launch of 6T in New Delhi on October 30, 2018.
OnePlus Concept One best feature revealed

The report further confirms OnePlus Concept One to feature the same camera setup as in the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition, which means there will be a 48MP primary sensor paired with a 16MP wide-angle lens and an 8MP telephoto sensor. The video teaser showed a curved display, which means no foldable design. This might be disappointing for some fans who expected a foldable smartphone from OnePlus, but the company wants to impress fans with novelty.

The description for the video gives more information than the teaser itself. Besides confirming “invisible camera,” OnePlus also said the Concept One smartphone features “colour-shifting glass technology.”


OnePlus adds a magical element to its Concept One smartphone, where users won’t need to utter Abracadabra. The invisible camera truly unique and thinking completely out of the box. OnePlus uses electrochromic glass to give the phone’s cameras the power to disappear – at least from our sight.

OnePlus Concept One | first look
OnePlus Concept One | first look

OnePlus Concept One basically has a rear camera setup that is invisible unless it is in use. All the magic lies in the glass that overlays on top of the sensors, which is identical to the optional sunroof on the McLaren 720S supercar or the windows on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The electrochromic glass is of a special type, which changes its tint when triggered by an electrical signal, The Wired explains. In the case of OnePlus Concept One, the trigger is opening the camera app to make the camera lenses appear. Otherwise, the electrochromic glass covering the lenses will remain opaque.

The challenges and solutions

OnePlus is taking a risk with its original idea of including electrochromic glass in its smartphone, but it is backed up well. Firstly, the special type of glass is expensive, but OnePlus isn’t mass producing the Concept One smartphone so that shouldn’t cause a burden on the brand.

But the OnePlus Concept One will be considered for wider availability, in which case, the repair costs must also be considered. The electrochromic glass is made of layers of glass and polymer, which isn’t easily replaced. Over time, the glass is likely to degrade by gaining spots and the switch could weaken. But we are talking about a smartphone here and not a Boeing or McLaren, so the shelf life is comparatively a lot lower. As long as you get a good few years with Concept One, there won’t be any regrets.

OnePlus R&D facility in Hyderabad
Pete Lau reveals more about OnePlus Concept One

Moreover, Lau believes the cost of the technology will come down as it gets matured and gets popular among other brands.

The future is exciting

When we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Fold, we were more thrilled about the future. But OnePlus has shown us with its Concept One smartphone that the future is not just for foldable phones. When Xiaomi revealed its Mi Mix Alpha with a wraparound display, it was surreal. OnePlus could bolster that vision as it took the first step towards “a total uninterrupted screen experience,” Lau said.

Now, imagine a OnePlus smartphone without any visible lenses, bumps, buttons, speaker grills or ports of any kind. That’s the design philosophy Lau wants to take OnePlus towards and we couldn’t be more excited.