The design of the Lenovo Legion Y90 gaming phone leaves a question of durability unanswered

Gaming smartphones have spiced up the designs to some extent, but one new design, in particular, raises concerns about its overall durability.

Smartphone designs change almost every year, with brands thinking of ways to stand out from the crowd. Most of these changes happen on the back of the phones, where materials, textures and camera bumps serve as differentiating factors. That said, the standard format for phones has remained essentially the same, with cameras in the top left corner or taking up the entire area at the top. Lenovo’s latest gaming phones throw that formula out the window, but it may come with a hidden price that unsuspecting owners might not want to pay.

Developer: Lenovo

One look at the rear of the Lenovo Legion Y90, and you immediately know this isn’t your typical smartphone. While other phones have a block on one side to house the cameras, the Lenovo phone’s bump is more in the middle of the phone. Even without knowing the Lenovo Legion gaming brand logo, the multicolored “Y” on this island clearly suggests that the phone is meant to be held sideways rather than upright like almost all other smartphones.

That’s because the Legion Y90, like the Legion Duel 2 before it, is a gaming smartphone not just in name or hardware, but also in design. It takes into account how most mobile games are played in landscape orientation and was designed around that convention, even if it means avoiding normal phone conventions in the process. The cameras, for example, sit in the middle, with that RGB backlit bump, so your fingers won’t smudge the lenses while reading.

The phone also has USB-C charging in the middle so you can charge and play at the same time without the cable hanging awkwardly to one side, getting in your hand. Invisible from the outside, two small fans help with thermal management. It goes beyond the typical passive cooling that most smartphones have today, using things like thermal pastes, copper vapor cooling chambers and similar technologies.

While the Lenovo Legion Y90 is definitely interesting from a design standpoint due to its newness, it leaves the door open to an element of uncertainty. Last year, YouTuber Zack Nelson of JerryRigEverything easily broke the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 into three parts during his usual bend test. Those parts included that big central camera bump and the two sides flanking it.

Lenovo’s design was indeed bold and innovative in the way it kept its target audience in mind when building the phone almost from scratch. This design, however, also created structural compromises, especially on the back of the phone. While few people are likely to be strong enough to bend a phone this way, it still leaves the possibility of a horrific accident spelling the end of what is supposed to be a very powerful phone.

To be fair, the Legion Y90 has a slightly different design this year than last year’s model, which visually had three parts anyway. That said, the camera bump still leaves a large gaping hole, which in turn could further weaken the entire surface of the phone’s back. That’s not even taking into account how the phone might be less durable in other ways, like dust and waterproofing. These mini fans invite dust and water to wreak havoc and destroy your phone from the inside. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but we won’t know for sure until the phone is released.

The Lenovo Legion Y90 is certainly an eye-catching phone, at least from the back. Some of us might even recall oddities like the Nokia 5510 or, closer to the theme, the Nokia N-Gage, both of which were designed to be held more like gaming devices than typical phones. On the one hand, it’s proof that smartphone design doesn’t have to be content with the status quo, especially when targeting specific audiences. On the other hand, it is also proof that change for change’s sake can lead to disaster.

Lenovo isn’t the only brand making gaming-centric smartphones today, but it’s certainly the only one embracing this handheld-centric design. Others, like ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers), nubia Red Magic, and Xiaomi Black Shark, have features like internal fans and RGB lighting, but stick to the standard phone form factor and therefore benefit from proven designs. With that in mind, it really does feel like the unique designs of Lenovo Legion gaming phones are built just to be noticed, even if that means compromising the long-term longevity of the device.

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