The Wild West Days of Phone Design

I do miss the Wild West days of cell phones, before we’d all settled on glass rectangles. It’s always fun to watch competing manufacturers trying to figure out the ideal form for a new thing, and it’s not the home runs as much as the swing-and-a-miss designs that I find the most interesting. In particular, that five-year span just before the first iPhone came out is when designers seemed to have a lot of latitude to experiment… More here.

Isn’t it strange how the best and most quirky designs appear when a product is in its relative infancy (click the link above for some true quirkiness). It is almost like the manufacturers see the most popular form win and then they all fall in line. This happens in cars, watches, phones and so many other major product categories.

3 thoughts on “The Wild West Days of Phone Design

  1. Cool stuff! but you could argue that the minimalism of the “fondle slab” design has emphasized flexibility and moved this same kind of design question inside of individual apps, rather than the artifact.

    And in a way, Newton set that winning flexible “design”, and Palm shrunk it, and iPhone ran with it.

    (But thinking more “is app design the new phone design” – interesting to remember that the way almost any app that uses text will support the same system keyboard, for obvious reasons. So in this mindset, the blackberry “keyboard on bottom” physical design still lives on as a ghost in how 90% of apps are setup.)

    1. OK, you have thought about this much more deeply than I have😁

      1. Or at least I’m willing to spew out on it more 😀

        Oh, I guess i would say that the idea of foldable phones has brought back some interesting design decisions, and we’re in another zone where the best practice isn’t clear, and choices for the back casing might be more relevant. But folding like a book vs folding up and down like a Nintendo GBA SP, and having extra screens or no… all some places where design evolution (if that’s not a contradiction) still happens

Leave a Reply to kirkjerk Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close