Most discussions about smart-phones seem to be focused on hardware features like processor speed, camera capability etc and OS features. There is no denying that all the above are important.
But many of us seem to be ignoring some really awesome innovations achieved in the design of the phones themselves. (with the exception of discussions about Apple products).
I strongly believe that Design innovation isn’t dead and in fact it has taken a new direction in the post-iPhone era. In this post we shall take a look at some of the outstanding designs that are available in the market in the smart-phones category.
#1.Nokia Lumia 800 / N9 (Plastic Monolithic Beauty)
Nokia has done what has never been done before in the smart-phone segment. It used a unique injection molded polycarbonate plastic mono-body design which exudes simplicity and yet gives a sense of sophistication.
The plastic body gives an added advantage for being more suitable to the antennae. The body is made with such fine precision giving it a seamless blend in with its beautiful glass display. It gives the image of the phone being monolithic.
Nokia’s persistence with plastic body comes from not just its years of experience with the material but also the fact that plastic adds greater color to the body of the smart-phone. In the monochromatic world of smart-phones, Nokia intends to stand out with vivid and alluring colors.
Here is the designer’s story about it.
#2.Samsung Galaxy Note (Fabulous Phablet)
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. –Steve Jobs
The Samsung Galaxy Note finds a place in this post about designs because of the famous Steve Jobs quote above. Introducing the Phablet to the world, Samsung redefined not just category perceptions of the industry but created a few design innovations along the way.
It got the perfect balance between a screen small enough to avoid the ergonomic issues associated with large screens while maintaining a size that will allow it to be effectively used as a tablet. Samsung with one fell-swoop has provided an awesome option to people who were struggling with a smart-phone and a tablet wherever they went.
The issues with the phone being too big or the tablet being too small are minor when considering the functionality of the interface and the features of the hardware itself. Samsung Galaxy Note boasts of a giant 2500mAh battery which beats most smart-phones for its long-term use. The stylus has made a grand and meaningful comeback in the form of the S-pen in the Galaxy note.
The S-pen isn’t just for pointing and scribbling anymore. With its inbuilt button which performs important functions such as taking a snapshot of the screen which then opens in an image editor ready to be edited and sent and for opening up the menu screen or performing the function of the back button. Clearly, Samsung Galaxy Note is a leap forward in design functionality and innovation based on meeting unfulfilled needs.
A legend in design, Apple is always expected to better its designs with every new iPhone. The iPhone 4 got rid of its old curved back and its slightly thick dimensions to bring in a slim 9.3mm thick body and a new stainless steel and alumina-silicate glass industrial design. The glass fits in both on the front and the back to give the iPhone a royal sheen.
The edges lined with a special forged steel that is said to be stronger than regular steel. The wow factor of the iPhone 4 is the high-resolution display, that Apple termed “Retina Display” with text so crisp and clear even when in the maximum zoomed in mode.
Retina Display is a take on Apple’s claim that the phone provides such higher resolution comparable to that of the human eye.
#4. Nokia E7( Tilt Slider Qwerty Keypad)
Nokia E7 brought out its clear Backlight Display technology combined with its brilliant looking tilt slider qwerty keypad that made the phone a worthy successor of the now legendary Nokia communicator E90.When flipped open,the screen is placed at an angle that is easy to see the screen while typing, giving it great ergonomic appeal and making the phone ideal for sitting down and typing or holding it in your hands to text.
While thumb typing, the phone is brilliant to type at high speeds , even those with slow typing speeds are able to average 30-40 words per minute. The combination of qwerty and touchscreen is perhaps the best possible form factor solution in mobile phones bringing together the best of both worlds.
E7 is clearly marketed as an enterprise device but has several appealing factors for average consumers as well. Nokia E7 will remain one of the greatest examples of design engineering changing the way people perceive qwerty keypad phones and Nokia itself.
You may check the designer’s story in the video below.
#5. Dell Venue Pro (Windows Qwerty Phone)
Dell Venue Pro came out sometime in the end of 2010 and remains one of the best designed Windows 7 phones to date. This may perhaps be one of the only Windows Smart phones with a portrait mode slide out qwerty keypad.
It has a beautiful and sleek design with liberal use of chrome sides mixed with angular cuts and rubberized plastic at top and bottom. The 4.1′ curved Gorilla Glass screen with AMOLED display is a delight to use and is extremely responsive.
The clarity of the images on the screen is unmatched. This phone gives great appeal if you are an avid text user and are looking for a luxurious phone.
#6.Motorola Defy (Water Proof and Dust Proof)
Motorola might have heard the prayers and cries of anguish of a few folks with butter fingers when it came out with the super sleek and super rugged Motorola Defy specially designed and positioned for Rugged use .
The screen is made of Gorilla Glass preventing scuff marks and other unfortunate effects of being careless or just a little too adventurous.
To the untrained eye, the only hint of Motorola Defy being rugged are the Torx head screws that clamp the side sections to the rest of the body and the flap jacks covering the earphone and USB port. These flap jacks and coverings make the phone waterproof.
This is perhaps the greatest ingenuity in the design of a seemingly rugged smart-phone. Motorola Defy caters to a niche yet important segment of users who have so far not had the option of a smart-phone due its inherent fragility or have been turned off by the options that exist in the feature phones segment. Clean, Sleek and Rugged, Motorola Defy is a keeper for all butterfingers in the world.
#7. Sony Ericsson Play (Gamers’ Smart-phone)
Sony Ericsson made the ultimate gamers’ smart-phone early 2011 with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. The highlight of the phone is the Slide-out game-pad and shoulder buttons that looks similar to the Sony Dual shock controller from its popular Playstation Game Consoles.
This phone is ideal for those who have a need for a PSP and a Playstation Portable. The main design of the phone has stayed true to the other Xperia series of phones with just an addition of a search button which also adds great usability to the Xperia line of phones which earlier had just the 3 buttons for home, return and Menu.
The game play experience in the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is undoubtedly more enriching than the typical touchscreen smart-phones and meets the need of both a PSP and a Smart-phone and this would indeed be the phone for any gamer to buy.
In the pre-iPhone era the innovation and creativity was more towards form-factor with countless interesting shapes and ideas floating around in the market. Today, in the age of the smart-phone it seems form-factor innovation has taken a more meaningful step.
That of not making creative designs or weird shapes but to add more meaning to the functionality of the phone. Phones of tomorrow will challenge the perceptions people have for screen sizes and materials. I hope for an exciting future in smart-phones with even greater innovation and creativity in the hardware as much as in the software.