When it comes to smartphones, everyone looks to Apple or Samsung or any of a handful of established phone makers like LG or Google or Huawei to provide innovation, but I think it’s time to start paying attention to a virtually unknown company called Doogee.
Doogee (as tempting as it is to pronounce the name like a certain kid TV doctor, it’s actually doo-jee) is a Chinese company that mostly makes budget phones you couldn’t pay me to ever use. But it’s not these budget phones that are so fascinating — Doogee’s actually busting its ass to make some legitimately futuristic phones that keep making me turn my head.
I first heard of Doogee last summer when the company unveiled the Mix, a phone with an edge-to-edge screen on three of its four sides.
You have understand something. At that point in time, phones with super-slim bezels were still new. The only phones that could credibly claim to have an edge-to-edge screen were from Samsung, LG, and Xiaomi. The iPhone X was just a rumor at this point (and everyone was still calling it “iPhone 8”).
So it was all the more impressive that an unknown brand such as Doogee had managed to pull off a screen, dual cameras, and phone design that so many other phone makers couldn’t, even though the phone’s specs were essentially mediocre.
Doogee’s actually busting its ass to make some legitimately futuristic phones.
More entertaining was the fact that the phone came with one of those phone rings wrapped up in a condom-like wrapper. I kid you not, the wrapper had the text “Stick in hole/feel the world” and “Safe grip and always stand” printed on it. Clearly someone at Doogee has a sense of humor.
The Mix came and went and I didn’t think much of it until I kept seeing leaks revealing the company was reportedly working on a curved phone with a flexible screen, a slider phone, and one with a rear camera that could flip up to become the selfie camera.
Suddenly, Doogee leapt back onto everyone’s radar at Mobile World Congress, where the company not only revealed its new Doogee V (the “V” stands for victory and also the roman numeral for “5” aka the number of years the company has been around) with an iPhone X-like notch and in-display fingerprint sensor, but also a bunch of futuristic phones it promised would launch “soon.”
The first of a trio of interesting phones the company announced is the Mix 3. Doogee claims the phone has a 98 percent screen-to-body ratio, a pressure-sensitive “force touch” screen technology, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and a rear camera that flips upwards to take selfies. It looks pretty damn gnarly:
For comparison, the Galaxy S9 has an 83.6 percent screen-to-body ratio and the iPhone X has an 83.9 percent screen-to-body ratio. Even the Essential Phone, which has the smallest notch of any phone has an 84.9 percent screen-to-body ratio.
The only phone that I’ve seen with such a high screen-to-body ratio is the Vivo Apex concept phone, which also happens to have an in-display fingerprint reader and a camera that tucks into the body (although it uses a sliding mechanism).
As I already made the case, these new nearly all-screen phones are the future. Doogee’s somehow ahead of the game again.
The Doogee Mix 4 is the second that intrigued me. This one boasts an slider form factor with the back sliding upwards to reveal the selfie camera, earpiece, and various sensors. And this phone boasts an even higher 98.9 percent screen-to-body ratio.
Both of these phones will launch in the next several months and although they don’t come with the fastest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip or the very best cameras, they’re still mighty innovative in their own right even if few people will ever get to experience them.
Doogee could have stopped right there — my mind was already blown even though they didn’t even have any units to show the media — but it didn’t.
One of its executives revealed the company’s ambitious product roadmap for its phones. Products in the pipeline “coming soon” include a flexible phone with a curved or foldable screen, a modular rugged phone, and a friggin’ transparent phone. Yes, the company says it’s planning to launch a see-through phone, and even showed a mock-up of what it could potentially look like.
Now, I’m aware Doogee’s promising a whole lot here. Naturally, I have questions, like, where the heck does the camera, or battery, or all of the other parts of a phone go on a transparent device? Maybe Doogee’s just playing us.
And that may turn out to true, but you gotta give the scrappy upstart props for trying. Who else is making such bold public moves? Sure, there are the perennial rumors that Samsung, and even LG, will at some point launch a foldable phone, but so far it’s been nothing but concepts and talk. Who else is being stupidly ambitious and on the record like Doogee?
I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely satisfying to watch a company try to make science-fiction technology a reality or go down in flames trying.
I’m not saying Doogee is ever going overtake Apple or Samsung — high-tech as the Doogee V’s in-display fingerprint reader sounds, it’s slow as balls IRL (see video above) — but at least the company’s swinging for the fences.
Now that all phones are so mature and similar-looking, it’s great to see a company with the moxie to try new things, even if they might fail. I’ll probably never buy a Doogee phone, but I’m definitely keeping a close eye on what they’re doing because it’s some really weird-ass stuff, and I love it.