IFA 2023 is a proving ground for a lot of weird and wonderful things, but none piqued our interest more than the idea of the Honor V Purse. It’s a foldable phone that’s supposed to double as, you guessed it, a purse. Or a handbag if you're living in North America. That’s what Honor claims, anyway, but in reality this device is a phone. Nothing more, nothing less. Oh, but unlike the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 it has a shoulder chain.
I can get behind the Honor V Purse’s general idea. This is a foldable phone that keeps the foldable display on the outside, meaning both halves of its screen are visible at all times. The idea here is that the V Purse is supposed to be a fashion accessory you can wear out in the world. Loud and proud. The wearer also gets to decide what’s displayed on the screen, meaning that they have some sort of accessory for every occasion and outfit. How many leather or fabric purses can claim to do that?
So far so good. The V Purse even has the aforementioned chain to help carry it around, but that’s about as close as it gets to functioning like an actual purse. The problem is the V Purse is literally just a phone. Yes, you can use it to pay for stuff, but there's no way you're finding any space between the screens for mascara, car keys or any other gadgets and wires you carry around.
Perhaps the more worrying thing, as far as I can see, is the expectation of carrying the device around in the least secure manner imaginable - with an emphasis on it being in full view of the people around you.
I may not be a purse expert (or even the desired target audience for such things) but I’ve always assumed the whole point of a purse is the ability to put stuff inside it. Big or small, fashionable or plain, the holding ability is the purse’s raison d’etre. Without that you just end up with an annoying lump you have to carry around for no good reason.
So really the Honor V Purse is just a phone with a chain on it. It’s a very purse-like chain to my untrained eye, but the chain isn’t what makes a purse a purse — and neither do Honor’s purse-like wallpapers.
Had Honor wrapped a foldable phone screen around some sort of clutch and thrown that on stage at IFA, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I'd be talking about how delightfully ridiculous the idea is, and possibly even praising the fact that Honor developed an actual purse for just about every occasion.
And I'm not downplaying Honor's technical ability, either. In fact, the company's other phone (the one you'll actually be able to buy) received the Best Phone award from the Tom's Guide Best of IFA 2023 Awards.
But throwing out what looks like a refurbished version of the Huawei Mate Xs, and calling it a purse seems less kooky and silly to me and more downright perplexing.
Now, I could be completely mistaken and the smartphone-buying public has been clamouring for just this kind of innovation for years on end. But, I think what has got me concerned the most is something a bit deeper. Every few years it seems like tech companies forget that women regularly buy and use technology and "gadgets" just like men. So, they take it upon themselves to launch products directly marketed and brand as being “for” women, often with copious amounts of pink thrown into the mix.
The problem is these products always seem like they’ve been designed and developed without consulting any actual women. Part of it may be cultural differences and I take that on board, but Honor is an international company exhibiting at a European tech show. If you are female and you do disagree, please let me know in the comments section below this article.
But like 3D displays, smart fridges and companies called X, “lady tech” is one of those ideas that keeps popping up every few years, despite the fact nobody wants or asks for it.
Of course, all this is by-the-by because the Honor V Purse is a concept device, and isn’t actually going on sale! As such, I can't help but be a bit sad Honor didn't go all in on something completely bonkers but still somewhat more interesting than a pretty phone with a chain.
I’ve seen concept devices of flexible displays wrapped around all sorts of crazy things, including retro-looking TVs, toasters and even smartwatches. We know Honor is capable of some really awesome stuff but a phone cosplaying as a purse just isn't for me.
Still, there's always IFA 2024. And, in the meantime, you can check out our hands-on review of the Honor Magic V2: the best designed foldable phone yet.