Honor has unveiled the Honor V Purse concept phone at the IFA 2023 Conference, a foldable phone you can wear like a bag. This curious new smartphone’s folding screen can be clipped in place with a handbag-style clasp attached to a rear bumper, which contains the phone’s camera array. This screen was displayed a variety of attractive, interactive designs, from glittering stars and jewellery animations to rippling, color-changing faux-crocodile skin.
It’s less than 9mm thick which is slender for a mobile phone, never mind a foldable - it’s thinner, for example, than the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. The joint is durable, as it can allegedly be folded over 400,000 times, ensuring a long life. It’s packing a nodule on each corner which can be used to attach a variety of interchangeable straps, from leather to chain depending on your style.
And that’s… really all we know right now. No release date, price, or specifications on the screen, battery life, camera array or functionalities have been revealed. Honor’s launch was accompanied instead by a lot of fanfare, including a bona fide fashion show featuring models holding Honor V Purses, and a slick video with talking heads from big brands such as Burburry and British Vogue, talking about what it would mean for fashion and art.
All very impressive stuff, and it’s clear Honor is attempting to lead the charge into a brand new ‘phy-gital’ category space: using your phone as a stylish purse, instead of as a functional wallet.
As a phone, we can’t talk much about the Honor V Purse, with scant details to go on. We often talk about phones in terms of what they can do, and what parts they’re made up of, and Honor has given us no information of this kind, yet. We don’t know when it’s going to be released in Honor’s native China, let alone in other markets, or how much it’s going to cost - although one panel attendee with insider info told me it was more affordable than they expected. We were not allowed to touch the phones, as they were kept in a roped-off area. The Honor Magic V2, Honor’s latest flagship foldable (check out our early Honor Magic V2 review if you haven’t already) was available for press to get hands-on and play with, like most of the tech exhibited at IFA.
We can talk about the phone as a wearable though, and it’s definitely breaking new ground here with the first ‘smart purse’ format with a handbag-style loop. On the other hand, using screens as a fashion accessory isn’t an entirely novel concept, as we do the same thing with smartwatch faces. We pick a face we like, and that’s the version of the watch that people see, especially if the watch has an always-on display option like the Apple Watch 8, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 range or the Garmin Epix Pro, on which I deliberately chose a burnt-orange face reminiscent of an analog adventure watch. But doing it with a wraparound foldable phone? That’s new. And if you want to show it off, why not wear it like a handbag, I guess?
In Honor’s keynote presentation, CEO George Zao said our phones had essentially replaced our wallets. Although I still like a weathered (alright, tattered) leather wallet, plenty of people I know, including my wife, regularly walk out the door with just a phone. Thanks to Apple Pay and Google Wallet, your phone has got everything you need, from credit cards to boarding passes.
And that’s precisely the idea: even if you’re wearing a chic outfit with no pockets, sling the Honor V Purse over your shoulder and you’re good to go, providing someone else has your house keys. It’s a fun concept phone, and certainly provoked some interesting conversations on the IFA floor about how smart tech and style were going to collide in the future.
The examples they showed of the ‘skins’, I guess we can call them, were striking and visually arresting; from interactive pandas to animations of jangling charm bracelet-style jewellery, each one keyed as a widget to a particular app on your phone. My favorite was an animation of purple fur, which moved as you dragged your finger across it. Impressive stuff.
However, although the presentation was glossy and the phone looks great, I’m not convinced it’s a category-creator in the way Honor wants it to be. It’s going to be a long time before I see people on the street slinging their phone over one shoulder, but concepts rise, fall, then rise again - look at Google Glass a decade ago, and Apple Vision Pro now. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 series already looks like a physical wallet, and it’s not hard to see a ‘Flip’ version of the Honor V Purse concept living in someone’s pocket, bursting into life as it’s drawn out thanks to ambient light sensors rather than an always-on display.
It’s going to be a while before we know any more about the concept, and even longer before we see it on shelves, but I’m willing to bet by the time wraparound screen phones are widely adopted as customizable fashion accessories they’re going to take a different form than the wearable version of Honor V Purse. Still, someone had to try it first.
When it comes to customizable, fashionable smart tech, the field is already dominated by the smartwatch, and that’s not a situation I see changing anytime soon. We already have on-watch payments, customizable screens featuring changing patterns that respond to movement, watchOS and WearOS versions of essential apps like Whatsapp, and the ability to receive and make calls phoneless thanks to LTE options. I see a not-too-distant future where leaving the house with your best Apple Watch and no phone isn’t just limited to going for a run: the biggest barrier right now is battery life, and that will lengthen with time, trial and error.
The downside is, of course, that it’s harder to scroll through TikTok and Instagram on a watch. Until we have that figured out, maybe a wearable phone isn’t a bad idea after all.
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Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.
Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.