Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Phone design

453 words on

I don’t have much experience with mobile phones. Just the odd observation. And my main impression is that the user interfaces of phones grew uglier, slower and harder to use over time rather than improving. Which is a shame and makes you wonder whether mobile phone companies, i.e. companies which sell millions if not billions of these small technical wonders, are actually good at their job. Shouldn’t they make devices that are a pleasure to look at, a pleasure to touch and a pleasure to use?

Wouldn’t that make sense for both the phone companies as well as the network operators as people might be more tempted to use their phone if using it were enjoyable? Apparently the MBAs think otherwise and instead people run around with phones that are larger, have more buttons, more menus and more settings than their previous phones. With each of those new ‘features’ being situated in the range between half-assed and useless.

And then, recently, Apple released the iPhone which got plenty of coverage and discussion on the web. Obviously we shouldn’t expect all of these descriptions and discussions to be competent as they were invariably written by more-or-less skilled journalists who didn’t even have to pay with their own money for the iPhones or by geeks/fashion victims [and who thought we’ll need to mention these two groups together…] who are able and willing to drop $500 - 2000 for a toy. Only very few will be able or willing to review the device in a way that is thorough, competent or even both.

Of course you cannot compare the hideously expensive iPhone to a freebie phone. Of course I wouldn’t expect a phone costing 5-10% of the iPhone to reach the same level of features, materials or software polish. But it’s not just the touch screen, the iPod or the presumably potent software that makes the iPhone shine. It’s also the exterior design. Particularly when seeing photos that directly compare it to other phones, it becomes obvious that phone ‘designers’ find it hard to even ‘design’ a straight line or a side without holes, logos and buttons.

iPhone, iPod, RAZR phone and some other phone on top of each other


Photo from the arstechnica iPhone review

Quite a shame really. I mean I never saw the point of those flip-open phones, but still, that RAZR thing just looks like ass once you actually look at it. Altogether this makes me wonder whether that huge and rich mobile phone industry actually employs people who are good at designing things. And assuming they do, I wonder whether these people actually get to make a difference. Because with mobile phones finding their way into the hands and lives of billions of people, these designers really should exist and make a difference.

July 16, 2007, 0:53

Tagged as hardware.

Comments

Comment by Dave2: User icon

Toy?

July 16, 2007, 0:42

Comment by wvh: User icon

“phone ‘designers’ find it hard to even ‘design’ a straight line or a side without holes, logos and buttons”

You are right. So, so many consumer devices seem like they are supposed to look sleek and curvy, but instead they just look like someone sat on a lump of Play-Doh.

July 18, 2007, 0:09

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