Glass smartphones coming this year, says Taiwanese firm

Polytron is showing off a prototype for a partially transparent smartphone

Sam Yu won't name the handset makers involved. But the executive at Taiwanese firm Polytron Technologies is confident that consumers this year will see the arrival of partially transparent glass smartphones.

"It will happen near the end of 2013," he said on Wednesday, as he showed off a prototype device. "Trust me."

The prototype phone was, however, not functional. As not all the components used in the phone can be made invisible, the company's glass technology may at least allow for a portion of the smartphone to remain see-through, with the rest covered behind casing, according to Polytron staff.

Unlike today's smartphones, which are often encased in plastic or metal and filled with opaque circuitry, Polytron is proposing handset makers build their products with its specially designed glass that can contain near invisible electrical wiring using patented technology. The result can create a transparent effect, making the phone see-through, the company said. (Videos can be found here and here).

Yu, general manager for Polytron, has been showing off a prototype device, built from a light piece of glass. Certain components such as the battery, camera, and memory card are still visible, but the remainder of the phone, including the screen, is transparent, he said.

"I like things that are novel and look beautiful," he said, adding that the patent for the technology was developed four years ago. "Current mobile phones are heavier, but with this glass you can make it much lighter."

Polytron is a subsidiary of U.S.-based Polytronix and focuses on glass technology. One of the company's main products is its "Polyvision Privacy Glass", which can flip between transparency and a near-opaque cloudy white with a flick of a switch.

Polytron has mainly focused on providing glass for construction projects, but Yu said he believes its technology can also be applied to electronics. On Wednesday, he also displayed a nearly transparent USB memory stick that will start selling later this year, and a speaker system embedded into a thin slate of glass.

Other companies, such as Samsung, LG, Fujitsu, have also shown off similar concepts, such as dual-sided transparent touch screens for phones, or see-through displays for laptops. Yu said he had no idea how much a transparent phone would cost buyers. But he believes his technology will help make transparent electronic products a reality.

"All handset makers are looking to work with us," he added. "The technology is mature."

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Tags smartphonesconsumer electronicsComponentsPolytron Technologies

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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