The cookie-cutter approach to designing mobile phones could disappear in the next few years as designers get more daring and more personal.
"All phones today do the basics well," says Shiv Bakhshi, an analyst at research firm IDC. "But that won't be enough in the future."
We asked a dozen designers and industry leaders to predict how mobile phones will change and to guess when the technology behind the new concepts will be available.
Here are some concept phones, which, like concept cars, are meant to demonstrate new ideas, not serve as prototypes of actual soon-to-be-released devices.
Nokia's Morph - it's a phone, it's a bracelet!
Morph is made of flexible materials that mimic the suppleness of spider's silk. It is designed to, well, morph between what looks like a traditional mobile phone and a bracelet. "Using nanotechnology, the phone can change its personality to become whatever is most suitable for the task at hand," says Tapani Ryhanen, head of strategic research at the Nokia Research Center in Ruoholahti, Finland.
The phone's electronics are expected to be so small that they'll be invisible to the naked eye. This will let designers make the phone transparent, Ryhanen says.
The Morph could also help you live more healthfully, says Nokia. An array of microscopic sensors could measure environmental hazards, such as carbon dioxide levels, or sense a diabetic's blood-sugar balance.
Technology timeline: Seven to 15 years.
The Handphone - a phone on your fingers
Created by Massimo Marrazzo of Italian design firm Biodomotica, the Handphone has a microphone shaped like a ring that slips on the end of your little finger. The speaker is on another ring that slips on your thumb, and a circular phone controller and radio sit on the back of your hand, held on by elastic string.
Anyone who has ever motioned toward his mouth and ear with outstretched finger and thumb to imitate making a call will know how to use Handphone. "The gesture is natural for people," says Marrazzo.
By definition, Handphone is not hands-free, but dialing, picking up and hanging up can be done with voice-activated controls.
Technology timeline: Available now.
P-Per - Two touchscreens back to back
The P-Per is a thin device that looks like two iPhones glued together. "It has a [touch] screen on each of its two sides," says Karole Ye of independent design firm Chocolate Agency, in Shenzhen, China. "Mobile phone and messaging are on one, and a camera on the other."
Technology timeline Three or four years.