Phone form factors are static, but accessories fill the gap
The iPhone ended the variety of designs we’d see in our handsets – Android followed, not just in function, but also in form, and while Qwerty phones and designs like sliders still lagged for a while on the Android side of things, it was clear that the time of the all-glass front panel had arrived. Apple and Samsung have made the most of this design, to the point that it’s now standard in every phone you look at, and the latest BlackBerry phones with keyboards look weird.
However, we’ve been stuck with one design for quite some time now. You can make the phone a little thinner or move the buttons to the back, but that doesn’t change much. Samsung has decided to add curved edges to the screen, which is a nice tweak, but not much of a change either, and it’s not something other brands are ready to follow just yet; almost every phone is just another slab.
But while the slab form factor is very useful in some ways – that big screen is great for browsing the web, reading Facebook and Twitter, or watching movies – it’s pretty useless when you’re actually trying to get things going. things on your device, and that’s why there’s a giant aftermarket trying to make these slabs more useful by bringing back those exact design elements that companies removed.
Bluetooth keyboards, phone cases that double as keys, and styluses (built-in or third-party, that you keep in your pocket) are growing in popularity and improving as well. LG recently came up with a foldable, ultra-portable keyboard that rolls up to fit anywhere, called the LG Rolly. The keyboard houses a remarkable design and a feature that allows you to roll the keyboard up into a cube, so it can be more portable when not in use. Microsoft also offers a foldable keyboard that you can slip into your pocket that works with Android and iOS. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Note series of phones have always made great use of the stylus, and Apple recently unveiled the Apple Pencil, although it only works with one iPad model at the moment.
The smaller players have been trying new things to catch up with the big guys for a while too. YotaPhone, for example, came out with a dual-screen phone, breaking up the monotony of the form factor. And BlackBerry remains a strong proponent of Qwerty keyboards, though its success has been limited lately.
Samsung also experimented with unique designs, such as the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, a niche product from the company that was closer to a digital camera than a phone. Nokia did something similar with the Nokia 808 Pureview phone, which was regularly compared to DSLRs.
These attempts have not been very successful, but the large number of accessories that transform our devices – and these often come in the form of shells that you will not remove – show that the panel is now dated. It’s time to embrace new designs again, and these various accessories are a hint towards the future to come.
Check out the latest from the Consumer Electronics Show on Gadgets 360, in our CES 2023 hub.