ADZero bamboo smartphone prototypes hands-on (video)

We were so beguiled by AD's bamboo-bound smartphone that we had to track down the designer to get some hands-on time with these work-in-progress prototypes. We met up with Kieron-Scott Woodhouse (pun unintended) and he offered to bring along several of the latest prototypes for us to get to grips with. While the finished product will arrive in the bamboo material but smoked to the darker finish. The darker model's button layout is also closer to what we can expect on the final device. The ADZero is still set to launch between the end of 2012 and the start of 2013. Sustainable smartphone fans can browse through our gallery below, or read up on the phone's journey -- and our impressions -- right after the break.

The ADZero may hit plenty of sweet spots for smartphone buyers looking for something a little different. Unlike other wooden offerings, it uses fully sustainable bamboo, is British-designed, with special attention paid to the camera unit, which lays claim to its very own ring flash. It's also running on Android. In a clever move, the technical specifications beneath that stylish shell aren't set in stone, but promise to be comparable to what we'll be seeing on other handsets by the end of the year. The good news is that it'll be running Ice Cream Sandwich -- meaning those physical buttons you see below the screen will disappear in the final model, replaced by on-screen versions like those used on the Galaxy Nexus. The OS will also pick up its own in-house skin, ADAOS, which, at least from the preliminary sketches we've seen, looks unlikely to choke up the typical Android experience.

Unfortunately, the prototype running the latest version of the software was already winging its way back to China, but we did get to spend sometime pawing at prototype models that are -- hardware-wise -- very close to the finished article. The bamboo unibody makes the phone light, and it's an unusual sensation to hold a phone built from an organic material. The designer makes no apologies for the fact that the toughened material may pick up some minor bumps and bruises -- that's part of the concept.

Kieron-Scott, who already knew a thing or two about phones, was spotted by Chinese manufacturer AD following his prototype sketches of Sony Ericsson's smartphone series. His Xperia LED concept (toting a similar ring flash to the one found here) got him noticed and he started work on a series of concept designs, one of which made it as far as a physical design model. This metallic-enamel phone made of copper and Corian, a plastic that has a tactile finish similar to stone. Woodhouse said he went for copper as he was looking to use a material that "told a story and would improve with wear; copper would react with a person's skin." The project moved on to more sustainable options, with bamboo becoming a strong candidate, due to its providence in China -- where the company AD is based. The bamboo currently in use on prototypes has been treated for four years to improve its strength -- and obeys EU regulations on sustainability. Hopefully, the rest of the phone will aim for similar Captain Planet credentials.

Unsurprisingly, given the aforementioned concept designs, Kieron-Scott said he admires Sony Ericsson's current hardware run, although he seemed intrigued by the unibody stylings of the Nokia Lumia 800 we had with us during the interview. AD still plans to launch the device in both the UK and China, with pricing likely to be in-line with other high-end smartphones. Additionally, it'll arrive in boutique stores, rather than mainstream phone vendors, in an effort to capitalize on the phone's unique appearance. The design's certainly got us intrigued, and we plan on getting more time with the ADZero once working models are closer to the finish line.