The ZTE Nubia Z18S has both a bonkers name and one display up front and another display around the rear. The most common reaction to the first appearance of this smartphone on social networks is simply the word: “why?” Because ZTE decided they needed to snag a headline after so much bad press over the past year? Maybe it had to do with the idea that we’ve not had a phone like this in a while, and ZTE decided “maybe if we try this same idea again, it’ll work different this time!”
When it comes to smartphones, luxury is having something available, knowing it’s available, but never really needing to use it. You knew you didn’t need it, but you got one anyway. That’s the sort of indulgence that brought us where we are today in the smartphone industry.
ZTE Nubia Z18S with Dual Screen
— Ben Geskin (@VenyaGeskin1) September 17, 2018
Manufacturers are here in 2018 after a decade of throwing wet noodles against the wall to see what stuck. Now manufacturers go so far as to name their phones after products from Apple and Samsung and don’t attempt to cover up their methodology whatsoever. Have you seen all the notched displays in 2018?
But here comes ZTE with exactly the opposite idea. No notch, just a big display with a very small bezel, plus even MORE display around back because… I suppose that’s the next most obvious place to go once the front is full? Maybe it was inevitable!
— Javier Jimenez (@Juicebox619) September 17, 2018
But since we’ve already seen several devices that did this in recent years and none found any sort of success, maybe it’s time to pack up the bags and decide it’s just a bad idea. ZTE sold a two-screen folder phone earlier this year called ZTE AXON M. In March of 2017 an accessory called Eye iPhone case had an Android phone in it. A concept / patent drawing in December of 2017 showed a wrap-around display from Samsung.
The only good iteration of the backside display, if you ask me, is the InkCase i7 for iPhone. That case used E Ink to display pictures, reminders, and pages of books for low-power reading. It still had a MASSIVE bezel around it, but it was pretty neat – because it used E Ink to exist with a nearly insignificant amount of power draw.
A similar project turned reality was the Meizu PRO 7 and PRO 7 Plus. These phones had a second display on their back, too, but they had it built directly in the phone and had software that made it useful. The most obvious use – as a sort of mirror for backside camera “selfies.”
Surely the ZTE phone above can do that, too, but it’s pretty big. I can’t imagine a full-color screen (with significant draw on battery) is ever going to be useful enough to justify deployment on a smartphone like this. We’ll see if ZTE actually releases this phone soon.