Next-gen phone designs should focus on humans

Next-gen phone designs should focus on humans

Summary: Phone designs must move away from being "stupid rectangles" and focus on human-friendly features, notes designer, while another predicts new designs will emerge and stand out from current slew of black glossy devices.

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The black and glossy phone design that currently swamps the market is not suitable for all mobile devices, say market observers, who add that more focus is needed on human-friendly features.

"Basically, all phones are stupid rectangles," said Guido Ooms, co-owner of Netherlands-based design studio, OOOMS. Commenting on the current smartphone design trend, the designer said: "The big screen of course is nice to have, but besides a big screen, there is nothing that defines the shape."

According to Ooms, the current design of phones has "nothing to do with humans" and instead evolved from the production process. "I think there can be huge improvements as soon as we stop just looking for the newest technologies, and focus more on the design from a human perspective," he added.

For instance, he questioned why users should need to buy a protective cover for their devices when phonemakers can make a "durable shockproof phone" that can be held nicely. "People are not perfect--they drop things. Therefore, products should not expect the user to be perfect as well," Ooms said.

Lim Chee Koon, course manager for diploma in product and industrial design at Temasek Polytechnic, added that the "big screen, button below design"--made popular by the Apple iPhone--is not a suitable design for all mobile phones.

Instead, the context, user, cost, utilities and applications are main considerations of how a user interacts with the phone, Lim said, noting that it would be beneficial if a touch-screen phone can provide genuine tangible feedback.

The "black, glossy, high-tech looking phone" is a favorite option for most people, but he predicted that other designs would soon stand out among the mass of black.

Lim explained that phones with nostalgic design, such as the Just 5 Easyphone, along with the use of trendy material such as color, texture and finishes that "keep up with fashion" should see increasing popularity.

He also expects new features to be included in phone designs, with more companies that were not traditionally phone design companies such as Dell and Google entering the telecommunications space following Apple's success in the mobile smartphone market.

"Imagine a phone branded under Osim--it would probably have a massaging feature," he said, referring to the Singapore company which is widely known for its massage chairs.

A spokesperson for Korean electronics giant, Samsung, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that the company was "not in a position" to comment on the market design trend for phones. However, he shared that the company was focusing efforts on "a smartphone that could fill out with services and contents".

"The collections of simple and minimalist design will be offered to our customers with bigger screen," he said. "Samsung will also create valuable user experience with smart and intuitive user experience design."

One phone user envisions a futuristic phone. Game tester, Wes Wong, said he would like to have a phone that is the size of an Apple iPod Nano with holographic keyboards, but with privacy filters, so he can see and walk while sending text messages.

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Software

Liau Yun Qing

About Liau Yun Qing

The only journalist in the team without a Western name, Yun Qing hails from the mountainy Malaysian state, Sabah. She currently covers the hardware and networking beats, as well as everything else that falls into her lap, at ZDNet Asia. Her RSS feed includes tech news sites and most of the Cheezburger network. She is also a cheapskate masquerading as a group-buying addict.

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  • Indeed. The current trend in smartphone designs revolve around the rectangular slab of glass. Hopefully we'll see some new innovative designs and shapes with more organic, intuitive user interfaces. There is a lot of potential here if only hardware manufacturers and software developers are willing to take the plunge.
    JMangotweets