Smartphone Form Factors

When I started to hear rumors about the iPhone5 earlier this year I was worried. I heard that Apple was definitely increasing the size of the screen. I always thought the iPhone had a great form factor for what people do with a smartphone. Here are my top 10 activities:

  1. Check Email
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. iMessage
  5. Phone Calls
  6. Spotify
  7. Camera
  8. Foursquare
  9. Chrome
  10. Weather

Notice something missing from that list? Phone manufactures often tout the user experience of watching movies on some huge screen, but I never watch extended video clips on a phone. Sure, on occasion I will bring up a clip at restaurant, like showing my relatives a black bear eating from my father’s birdfeeder, but I don’t watch movies or TV from my phone. Laptops and tablets provide a superior video watching experience.

I see a lot of handset manufactures coming out with these huge bricklike phones that do nothing to help my top 10 use cases. Sure a bigger screen is nice, but its not nice when the phone can’t fit in your pocket and weighs ton.
With the iPhone5, my biggest fear did not come true. The footprint of the actual device is less than the iPhone4, even with the extended screen. Its noticeably thinner and lighter, which I really like. I also don’t have to bother with a bumper case since the antenna issue that plagued the iPhone4 is resolved.

While I’m not a fan of all the needless lawsuits going on in the smartphone industry, the prototype device pictures reminded me of the phone I used prior to the original iPhone.
Treo 650

I really loved my Treo 650, it was the first phone I owned that did e-mail well. You could even install “apps” and browse the web in a very limited fashion. It could definitely fit in your pocket, but it was a tight fit to say the least. It interesting to see the “bigger is better” smartphone trend. It reminds me of the SUV trend of the 90’s. At some point there will be a backlash.

Of all the phones I’ve owned over the years, probably the ultimate form factor for it’s time was the Nokia 8260.
Nokia 8260
The 8260 was an awesome phone considering it came out 12 years ago. It was absolutely tiny for the time, had great battery life, and an easy to use interface. Instead of looking to tablets for design inspiration, smartphone makers should spend some time with the Nokia 8260.