Good phone design is a requirement, not a luxury


Good design is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity that changes not only the look of a smartphone but also how it feels in our hand, how it makes us feel when we are, and how we connect to it on an emotional level over time. When it is right, you will eventually want to keep the product for a long time.

Design matters a lot, but some hand it over as a luxury product that adds no value to the end product and goes so far as to mock those who prioritize good design as much as the latest processor or AMOLED display. This is influenced by some well-designed or at least design-emphasizing products with high pricing, but it is also misleading. That is why we must appreciate it.

Friendly, well-being design

I remember being part of a media briefing with a major manufacturer at a trade show a couple of years ago, and several members of the group I was in laughed at how some Product Reviews would talk about “hand comfort” or feeling. device. The entertainment came from the fact that several agreed that as long as the phone fit in the hand at all, everything was fine. I assumed all these people just bought pants with the right leg length and didn’t care about the size of the waist. After all, it would be enough to cover the important pieces, and the rest was just an insignificant detail, no matter how awkward or unpleasant it was.

Huawei P40 Pro Andy Boxall /

I hope opinions have changed since people better know how design affects the day-to-day use of the phone. Combining design with looks alone is a problem because it goes so far beyond simple aesthetics. A good example is the sweeping ghost with which most of us interact with the phone today. Swipe up to get to the open apps, right to go back and down to see notifications. For this to work well and feel comfortable and natural, software and hardware design must be together.

Huawei P40 Pro shows how good a phone can be when the design is right. There’s a piece of CSS glass on the bottom of the device, so when you swipe up, there’s no resistance at all. No break between glass and frame. It’s an ergonomic pleasure and one of the carefully considered design features on all the phones I’ve seen in recent years. Smooth, physical movement perfectly synchronizes the situation on the screen with the timely haptic alarm, elevating the whole experience just above the “sweep” to make it feel and memorable.

Killability and carefully considered ergonomics combined with the right materials can help designers create a device that means something. Former design manager at the dead luxury brand Vertu, Hutch Hutchison, (now on mobile launch Xor) exactly why this matters:

“We have smartphones and they are great but impersonal. I look at mine and it doesn’t matter to me. That’s why Vertu was special – you had a personal relationship with the object. Xor started the suggestion that he was a personal object. I wanted to leave behind harsh shapes that weren’t ergonomic. This is a friendly thing and should feel good. ”

Where it still goes wrong

I love the phrase “a friendly thing that should feel good”. It’s not just about phones, but everything we’re physically connected to, from chairs to clocks and car interiors to table lamps. Phone makers often also have the hardest time getting it right.

Kindness quickly weakens even the smallest compromises. One aspect that has become more and more of an issue in recent times is balance, due to the prevalence of larger camera modules full of sensor masses, some of which are surprisingly large and heavy. They are always placed on the top of the phone and the designers need to balance the weight so that the phone is not very heavy.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’m not a designer, so I don’t know what an ideal weight distribution is, but I do know when it feels “off”. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, and Asus Zenfone 8 Flip everyone comes to mind when we talk about the balance being not quite right. None of them are sharply unbalanced, but use them for hours in an upright position and you’ll soon start adjusting your wrists and grip to get the phone at the right, comfortable angle.

It is the subconscious and the result of technology that forces the designer’s hand. Huawei chief designer Quentin Ting said that the design of phones was sometimes like “dancing on the shackles” because everything from internal components to manufacturing has to be considered in the design of the device itself.

Gavin Ivestor, Bang and Olufsen’s design manager, explained the importance of balance in our product that we like and the effort it takes to get it right. He described the Beoremote One remote: “The balance is in your right hand where you hold it and it wasn’t easy to achieve. The batteries are heavier and denser, so we put them in the palm of your hand so you can control the mass. It’s not easy to do in a seamless product. It’s a lot. harder to do, but we think the benefits are worth it. ”

The details of the design matter

When one ergonomic aspect is disabled, other things tend to be observed more. An unbalanced product can force you to grab more of it, which can reveal whether the pages narrow to a sharp edge or the frame is too slippery, and when you swipe less used parts of the screen – double-swipe to leave the game, for example – the ridges of the body face the glass. It’s uncomfortable and removes the joy of probably using a probably great smartphone.

Porsche Design Monobloc actuator

Poor design options cause fatigue, and the more we use a phone that doesn’t sit quite right, the less enjoyable it becomes. I’m not talking about fatigue the same way you’d get after running a marathon, but about the almost imperceptible irritations we naturally compensate for every day, like walking with a pair of shoes where the sole is worn. Change your shoes and you immediately think, “why didn’t I do this before?” The same is the transition from a poor quality phone to a well thought out phone.

Applying a strong design philosophy has a positive effect on both visual comfort and usability. Porsche Design follows follows Ferdinand Porsche’s belief that form should follow action, but it never prevents a company from innovating. Look Porsche Design Monobloc actuator clock (above), and see how the traditional buttons on the case have been replaced with a rocker. It is beautiful and functional, but still immediately apparent in what it does, and therefore its use is extremely natural.

In phones, the need to include a feature when constraints based on the device’s internal layout or budget means that this maximum is sometimes overlooked and the desired kindness disappears. Take phones like Oppo Find X3 Pro, where the screen fingerprint sensor is set so low on the screen that you have to adjust your grip and risk dropping the phone in order to use it. On other phones, the virtual keyboard suffers in the same way, leading to frustrating typos and again an increased risk of dropping the phone. Another problem is setting extra buttons for virtual assistants or camera drivers on the side of the phone case.

While there are probably compelling design or marketing reasons for making these things happen, good design should come in to remove the restrictions placed on it elsewhere so that usability does not suffer.

Good design lasts

When all this comes together, you not only have a unified, functional and beautiful device in your hand, but crucially it also feels part of you. Dongseok Lee, Samsung designer Galaxy Book Flex laptop I said best, “The user will finish any product.”

We should not abandon design just for colors or basic shapes. We should take the time to understand most of what it plays on everyday smartphones, and place a similar importance on choosing a device with good design in the same way as with other technical aspects. It encourages companies to pay as much attention to design as to functionality.

For too long, sophisticated phones made of touching, comfortable materials, expertly judged symmetry, curves and lines, all in a functional but beautiful form that fits our hands, were found only at the top of the market and later, but are mistaken for luxury that no one needs to have. Now brands like Asus with the Zenfone 8 we invest in serious design thinking for phones that don’t break your bank account. It turns out that smart design doesn’t have to go hand in hand with an unreasonable price tag.

The next time you buy a phone, pay attention to what it looks like, feels, and makes you feel personal. In our reviews, we talk about how long the device will last based on durability and technology, but the right design needs to be talked about in the same way. The more comfortable you are with the smartphone you choose, the longer you tend to keep it, and it should be the primary factor in buying any product today, regardless of cost.

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