What Is The Future Of The Handset?

As the technology levels out, the competition for best user interface is becoming out the feel of the device in the users hand and its stylish look.

The major announcements at this year’s Mobile World Congress have mostly revolved around Android handsets. The heavy competition is pushing companies to be more adventurous with their designs both aesthetically and functionally. A common theme this year has also been the emphasis on photography and music quality out of the handsets. Let’s look at the style, imaging, and sound trends in more depth. In this post I’ll talk about the handset design highlights, and in Part Two I’ll look at imaging and sound.

Style, Baby

After years of me-too look-alike phones (mimicking you-know-what in many cases), or just plain ugly phones, Android is finally getting some handsets that try to be a bit different and a more stylish. We are seeing more interesting uses of materials, shapes that try to break out of the basic rounded rectangle (at least within the tight constraints of such a small device dominated by a flat display on one side), and nice detailing that again breaks out of the minimalist mold. Overall build quality is better too.

Asus – The maker of netbooks is rapidly transitioning into an innovative maker of tablets. Maybe too innovative – it’s new Padphone is made up of modular smartphone, tablet (really just a display which the phone plugs into to provide the smarts), keyboard dock, and stylus…but wait, there’s more, because the stylus is also a Bluetooth headset! This maybe a bit too much, but if you look at the less complex Transformer Prime, you will see a beautifully executed, very thin and light tablet that also plugs sturdily into a keyboard dock, so it can be used like a mini laptop. The aluminum case comes in subtly-chosen colors, and has a lovely spun metal pattern that is not only attractive but functional, as it makes the case fairly grippy. [image above]

HTC – HTC’s new One series of phones was one of the biggest announcements of the show, and they are beautifully done. Very sleek, minimal without being boring, nice surface treatments, clean detailing. HTC One X:

 

LG – Their latest Optimus phones are more on the blocky side compared to HTC but still very thin, and are taking a fashion accessory approach to their materials and detailing.

 

Motorola: Love it or hate it, the Droid Razr’s edgy design looks like nothing else. The carbon fiber back is interesting to look at and touch (and also a little grippy). But the thin-ness advantage is almost negligible at this point compared to newer offerings, and many new phones are getting too thin to hold securely while making a call.

Nokia: To their credit Nokia was one of the pioneers of really trying to create a different look for their smartphones. They haven’t gotten as much press as the Android phones, and are maybe evolving a bit too slowly (the new ones look almost identical to the year-old ones), but they are distinctive, and the design matches well with Windows 7 Mobile’s minimalist style.

(Continue reading here.)

[Written by Adam RichardsonReprinted with kind permission from design mind, a publication of global innovation firm frog.]

Design Mind is a publication of global innovation firm frog that is updated daily to keep the design and innovation community updated with fresh perspectives on industry trends, emerging technologies, and global consumer culture. Learn more about design mind and frog.

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