I tried the future of phones – Motorola's wearable concept surprises and delights

The Motorola Adaptive Display is a folding phone you can wear on your wrist – but would you ever actually want to?

Motorola Adaptive Display
(Image credit: Motorola)

Tucked away in a secret hotel meeting room away from the main Mobile World Congress show, which takes place in late February each year in Barcelona, I got to experience Motorola's forthcoming innovations – and the standout product was the foldable-phone-meets-wearable concept called the Motorola Adaptive Display. Could this be a glimpse at the future of the best phones?

First announced back in October of last year, the Adaptive Display isn't precisely an MWC 2024 reveal, then, but it's the first time that I – and a small handful of other invitees – were able to get a behind-closed-doors full hands-on touch-and-try session with the concept, which explores the future of phones and how we might interact with these integral tech devices every day. 

In its flat position, the Adaptive Display – and I do wish Motorola had awarded this concept with a cooler name, quite honestly – looks pretty much like a regular phone. The back is a material finish, however, so that tactile difference is the first clue that this is a whole other kind of phone. Flexing it is easy: I was able to bend it through various stages into its maximum of a C shape with no fear of breaking the device.

Because the Adaptive Display doesn't angle through a single hinge, as per the best folding phones, whether folding it only partially – for on-desk self-support mode, as shown in the above gallery of images – or folding it to the maximum, it means the battery unit within is actually divided into many multiples. That's why the rear has that ridged appearance, with lots of battery strips connected together to allow for a fluid and convincing fold.

Why would you want to fold it into a full C shape though? This is where the Adaptive Display reveals its most interesting aspect: you can wear a little wrist bracelet and then magnetically attach the phone to your wrist, in a wrap-around form, and it becomes half phone, half wearable. It's nothing like a smartwatch, of course, and I found it rather bulky to wear – but with the screen smart enough to understand its positioning, it then automatically only permits an aspect of the display to be used. 

This 'mini display' is a lot like the cover display you'll find on the Motorola Razr 40 Ultra. More of an at-a-glance screen, but one where specific app shortcuts and even apps miniaturised to the given display area, can be launched and interacted with. Much more sensible than having a full phone wrap-around on the wrist. Prodding the device is no bother for stability either – indeed I was able to shake my wrist vigorously with no threat of the phone detaching itself and going flying across the room. Which is certainly for the best, as that wouldn't be a great look when interacting with a pricey phone concept.

This is just a concept, though, one that presents a fascinating idea, and helps to blur the boundaries between wearables and phones. It won't make it to market in this form, but it could open the door for other wearable forms, be they phones specifically or different communications devices that could work in this format. The Adaptive Display is why I love shows such as MWC 2024: to get a glimpse of the future, however whacky or unlikely, and feel a spark of surprise and delight from that.

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike is the Tech Editor at T3.com. He's been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and, as a phones expert, has seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone too (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech and audio aficionado his beat at T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a tech stone unturned he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for 10 years, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.