Phones That Feel Like Magic

What does being able to hold technology in your hand mean?

Since the iPhone was released, mobile devices have changed from being feature driven devices to being about accessing software that solves needs and that entertains.

People don't care about features anymore.

The more your phone has features, and the more they stand out, the worse the device will sell.

The phone isn't what users buy.

The phone is a computer in disguise. It's what people use to give them the best software experience. In one sense, maybe the ultimate goal is to come as close as possible to holding the software. Holding the software and making the phone as invisible as possible.

Feature phones were popular for a little while, but for the most part they died out. Still, some manufacturers are blending feature phones and smartphones (see HTC Surround). The problem is that the only thing features do in a world of rich mobile OSs is get in the way.

The screen, the camera, the processor, and the physical controls of a phone each need to be the thought about individually, and then how combine into a single device also needs to be considered. When they are each brought together, their purpose should be to get out the way and become hidden. They only deliver the software experience.

If the phone's power and design become too much a part of the phone and get in the way of the software, then the software and the phone are in conflict with each other.

I'm thinking about for the first time what needs to be thought about when you're designing something that you hold in your hand.

Compared to things that sit on a desk or in a room, handheld devices are different.  You can grab them, and you can bring them with you. Any device that I use as much as I use my phone must have some qualities that give it different connection to its the user.

When I think about the other portable tools:
  • I've kept my Nintendo DS longer than any other consoles I've owned…
  • I've had the same wallet for six years…
  • It's hard not to want to bring my iPad where ever I go…
  • I can always find reasons to buy products that are smaller/faster…
I wonder what these connections mean for society.

Kids who only two years old are growing up holding these things in their hands. They might even learn how to read and write with their parents besides them, and with an iPad in their lap.

Maybe getting in and out is what people want, and maybe what they want is for hardware to be invisible and mobile experiences that feels like magic. 

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