Deconstructing Product Design
The iPhone is once of the most anticipated mobile phones of all time, and it was probably anticipated even before Apple started working on it. Like all Apple products, there is a minimal number of buttons (two buttons, a volume rocker, and a silent switch). The rest of the phone interaction is done through its touchscreen. The touchscreen also handles multi-touch gestures such as the reverse pinch and pinch to zoom in and out. With the iPhone, Apple planned, cleared and paved the road for future touchscreen devices.
This product illustrates how well trained we are to expect failure from our technology. Much of the “delight” this product offers is merely the successful delivery of the promised performance. There are any number of nicely executed little details (i.e., the zwoop sound effect in the full-screen IM chat) but those are just details, not the core. And there are any number of poorly implemented solutions (i.e., trying to navigate through a long podcast without the iPhone scroll wheel, trying to scroll through a lot of contacts when there’s no find function) that highlight how much slack we’ll cut Apple if not for the cool factor than at least for not hammering us like every other technology company.
Sleek sophistication, typical Apple ease of use, the ultimate modern day accessory… what’s not to love about the iPhone? Sure, people will always find reasons to pick holes in what Apple does, but can anyone deny the commitment, the quest, nay, the obsession the designers at Apple have in bucket loads? Nothing that isn’t absolutely necessary will be found on anything Apple, like the digital era homage to the Haiku… the bare, beautiful minimum to achieve more then we ever thought could possibly fit in one’s palm. To carry your music library, watch your favourite movies, check your mail, surf the web and countless more essential and not so essential applications – oh and make phone calls too, all wherever you happen to find yourself. So typically stylish and ultra cool… the iPhone is practically sub zero.
I love the fact that iPhone is not just a set of functions that I pay for, and have to carry around in my phone even though I have no use for some of them. iPhone is very customisable, so has the potential to be whatever tool I would like it to be.
I love my OG iPhone, don’t get me wrong. But will I ever be able to send a multimedia (picture) text message? Its a $400+ phone and you can only Email pictures? Motorola and every other company at least fulfills that simple request.
The idea of having one is better than actually owning it.
I like the big screen. A screen with so much area is not seen everyday in the cell phone world. Having said that, it brings the classic problem of more surface area getting dirty, which is inevitable in one way since you’re using your fingers to operate and navigate. That also hinges on another question : Is this meant for the every day utility guy, who’s always doing something with his hands. “Oops..and here comes a phone call, how do I attend it without soiling the phone?”
The other classic problem is that because of the absence of actual buttons, you have to use two hands at any time to operate it. Atleast this is what I have seen in a majority of Apple Iphone users. While Apple may get more people exercising this way, I prefer a single handed mode of operation. So will others like a business commuter walking on the street of NYC who has a phone in one hand and a heavy bag in another.
Some things to think about.
The iPhone, now surpassing ALL other cell phones as the market leader, may be the first and most important “timeless” cell phone design. Why? Because it has no buttons! Yes folks, as your needs rapidly change, as they undoubtedly will, you will not be burdened with antiquated and/or useless buttons or pained by the lack of an obvious feature-set advancement (so they claim) simply because all your needs can be addressed by an application or a software update. Is this good industrial design? Arguably, no.
The design itself is inherently difficult to hold, impossible to keep clean, fragile, expensive, and inefficient in its power usage. The iPhone lacks numerous ergonomic and usability considerations that no other modern product would be permitted to exist without. And yet it is a coveted object of worship for the new Apple religion and the layman’s idea of “good design”. So all my complaints as a designer aside, would I happily accept one for free? Damn right I would. But I will argue that the beauty of the iPhone is not really its industrial design, it is the software design, the absolutely brilliant marketing, and the best setup of product infrastructure and product culture EVER known.
Kudos Jobs, kudos.
As long as the wireless marketplace continues to offer choices in interface design, the iPhone is a great design. I’d hate for us all to be expected to use it, especially those of us who are blind.
An object that provokes fascination and desire. It succeeds as most Apple products do, by appealing to a range of emotional levels.
I like that your picture is of the first version ever of the iPhone. While users can now enjoy kilotons of 3rd-party software, the real beauty of the first model, where it thoroughly exceeded expectations, was in it “actually works as demonstrated” factor. Computers and modern cell phones have made us expect complexities, crashes and have more generally asked their users to, more often than not, think like engineers. The first iPhone took the computer away from that. It did complex information handling like a kitchen appliance. It might be headed, now, in a different direction — but it made way for a new kind of devices.
The human is the accessory here … we have crossed the line of cognition and identity. I enjoy ethnographic analysis with iPhone users as I distantly hear ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ as I watch them in fear and worship.
Iphone is the pinnacle of minimalism mobile design. What’s the next step?
Is the most perfect example of emotional design of the moment. The Iphone is not the best cell phone, it’s too big, heavy, slides from your hand sometimes, it’s fragile for hitting the ground, it has software fails as any other device. It’s not a perfect camera, with no flash, not a perfect ipod, not a perfect alarm clock, internet access, etc…not the best ever in anything. But with it’s fun and pleasant approach, makes every owner smiles frequently, makes “not yet owners” wish for one more than anything originating a real fan-club with no eyes for little fails and all hearts for it’s emotional design.
It’s not a cellphone. It’s a computer.
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