Smartphones are getting bigger, sleeker and more powerful. All that is good. But they are also getting very boring. Apple borrows from Samsung. Samsung, in turn, looks at Apple. HTC looks at them both and the Chinese borrow design cues from everyone. It is a vicious circle.
In fact, the phone industry has become incredibly conservative from a design perspective. It is an industry where there is an obsession about product attributes that one can measure empirically. How fast is it? What is the storage capacity? How big is the screen? How sharp is it? In essence, this is a comfortable space to compete in. You know that four is better than two and it doesn’t take much to convince people about that.
But the obsession with absolutes means that true design innovation has gone out the window. When was the last time you were truly taken in by the design of a phone? As Jony Ive, Apple’s design genius, once said, “Different and new is relatively easy. doing something that’s genuinely better is very hard.”
And ‘genuinely better’ is something that most companies don’t do well.
The all new Gionee W900 with two 1080p displays seems like a breath of fresh air in the otherwise cliched mobile design market. But even then the form factor remained the same. To take a break from this dreary world, we take a look at a world beyond the dreary phones of today. No, we can’t vouch for how practical they will be, but some of these design concepts are really interesting.
What we would love to see
While clamshells and sliders were once considered cool and chic, the need for a larger display may be the reason why manufacturers bid goodbye to the flip phone design. But, how about a slider that opens up to offer a larger display? Yes, we would love to see a slider smartphone that opens up in such way that the inner section can be aligned with the outer and together it serves as a large display. This would also mean, a more portable device.
Looking at the upcoming flexible/bendable display, we expect some innovations here too. How about a display sleek and flexible enough to be tucked into a tiny compartment? We came across the Samsung One concept that convinced us how cool it would be if a sleek pen could transform into a large screen phone. The pen easily fits into your pockets and pulling out the 6-inch flexible screen turns it into a full-fledged mobile device. To know all updates even without the need to pull out the screen, one could view notifications on the touchscreen embedded on the body of the concept pen. The image below shows the speaker, camera and also a cool charging dock. The question is how small yet effective will the battery be? Nevertheless, we are hopeful and would love to see this concept reach mainstream markets sometime in the near future.
Image: Yanko DesignWith the increasing number of smartwatches and biggies like Apple and Google have taken the plunge into this sector, there could be a point when we could see an intersection of both categories. Now, a standalone smartwatch isn’t something novel, but how about it is capable of doing just about everything like your smartphone. How cool is a smartwatch with a projector that serves as a keypad. Take a look at the iPhone palm concept phone below. This device is truly futuristic and completely adheres to Apple’s weight loss therapy. You don’t have to carry it in your pockets, because the wearable device can be strapped around your wrist. It has a projector that projects the usual homescreen on your palm; your fingers do the rest of navigation using this projected display. The device has a small touchscreen with some shortcuts and notifications. Overall, really cool and innovative!
iPhone on the palm (Image Credit: Design Launches)The smartwatch can also be built of flexible material, like the flexible/bendable displays we see these days, thought not widely commercial. The device can be strapped on your wrist and then unfolds as a phone. A lot of such concepts have been floating online, making us hope that someday they could turn into a reality. These device could further turn into fashionable accessories that can also serve as tech products.
When it comes to design, Oppo and LG seems to show some innovations – LG with its button arrangement on the G3 and Oppo N series comes with a swivel camera. Something on similar lines we can expect innovations on how the camera module is placed and used. Take a look at the Spinner Windows phone with a modular camera module. The device looks uber-premium and chic with a metallic frame.
Image: Phone DesignerWhat we don’t want to see
A phablet still seems a little large when it goes beyond 5.5-inches. But that doesn’t mean we would want to large tablet with a detachable phone. It’s just silly and meaningless. The Fujitsu concept known as “The Part” showing a detachable phone isn’t something we would like. We can manage with slightly larger phablets.
Image: YankoDesignWhile smartwatches are all cool, we hope manufacturers don’t feel the need to look for something even sleeker. We don’t want people speaking into their finger rings. Moreover, additional dongles or clips to control the phone are also absurd, especially considering the smartwatch/band can be strapped onto your wrists. For instance – FlyIdea, a dongle that serves as a wireless earphone to sync your device and use the camera, control music and record videos directly using the dongle, just seems like an additional minute device to carry.