"I like to make real things and Iove the physicality of making sculpture"
Tiny error - "love" has actually been spelled with a cap "I" rather than a small "l". (Looks exactly the same in a
sans-serif font, only shows up when you switch to a serif.)
That was a fine essay. Agree completely with your sentiments: I have always felt that the current iPhone was
designed as an objet d'art rather than something to be held in the hand. Nokia has a new smartphone out that appears much more hand-friendly (though I have not
This is not an inconsequential matter: Anecdotal evidence suggests that the iPhone tends to get dropped quite a
lot more than, say, an old-style telephone handset. (And the plastic handset suffered a drop with much less damage
than a mostly-glass iPhone.)
Why is this so? The classic phone handset was a series of hand-friendly curves, with hardly a straight line to be
found. The current iPhone is primarily straight lines, as you have pointed out. (Some enterprising businesspeople
have noticed this and offered a solution, or at least a clumsy workaround.)
Part of the reason for all the droppage is also that the classic handset is larger (more 'graspable') than an iPhone.
That's probably true, and since no one wants to carry an object the size of a handset in their pocket, making a larger
iPhone is not the answer. But that fact merely brings us back to the central issue: That the iPhone is in urgent need of
a redesign to make it hand-friendly. Since it cannot be made larger, pains must be taken with details such as the
small curves and tactile surfaces that are urgently needed to reform a handsome but ultimately sterile and wrong-
This all feels like a really bad design habit that Apple has fallen into in recent years. Consider the original iMac,
which broke the uninspired (to put it mildly) lockstep march of PC 'box' design with a product that emphasized
curves. This was of course strictly for aesthetic purposes, since obviously the iMac was not held in the hand. (Indeed,
the one part that WAS held in the hand - the mouse - was, ironically, done quite badly.)
The second iMac design, of the floating monitor and cut-in-half-bowling-ball base, was a worthy follow-up to
the original. But after that, all iMacs became boring monolithic slabs.
A similar trajectory was followed by the iPhone, which went from fairly curvy to the slab-in-your-hand design of present.
A return to the original iPhone design, however, would be insufficient for Apple. The original product was
curved, yes, but not very thoughtfully so. (All they really did was shave off the hard edges.) Apple is now in a great
position to gather anecdotal evidence about how their product is actually used - and held - and what causes their
product to elude the grasp of so many hands. Apple can also, at this point (dare I say it?), learn from its competitors.
(Especially, again, from Nokia and their new product. which I linked earlier.)
One thing that's evident from the Nokia phone at a glance is that it curves downward, which means it will fit
more comfortably into the complementary curve of a human hand. Apple would object to this, noting that this choice
means that the phone will not sit flat on a desktop.
The question then is: Is the phone intended to sit on a desk, or be held in a hand most of the time? The answer, I
suspect, is obvious. But there's more to it than that. The Philips Sonicare toothbrush is another product designed to
be held in the hand, but its maker also realized that making it round would also cause it to roll off any surface it was
set down on. Their solution was a round handle, with a subtle but well-placed 'stop' that prevents it from rolling once
There have been many products in recent years that have seen considerable innovation in regards to basic hand-
usability. Gillette's high-end Turbo razors have well-placed rubber grips and hardly a straight edge in sight - except
for the blades. But even its blades swivel gently to conform to the curves of the face!
Those are the kinds of details Apple must master in order to get the physical aspect of this phone right. I
suppose they have, up until now, been concerned largely with their software interface and ecosystem, which perform
admirably for the most part. The time has come to reconsider the most basic 'interface' challenge - that of holding it
for long periods of time in comfort.
-- Mister Snitch! (email)