An article on Brighthand this week had a statement that surely caused some people to blink. The comment came from analyst Craig Mathias, who said, “We will see relatively little evolution in terms of industrial design going forward.”
I tend to agree with this, in general. Honestly, we’ve seen little genuine innovation in smartphone designs in years. Virtually all models are slabs with a large display and few of small buttons. Yes, there’s some tweaking of that basic design, but that really just means ever-larger screens. All you have to do is look at the the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III to see this. These are latest cutting-edge, flagship models from these companies, and they have the same general form factor.
Even the classic sideways slider is declining in use. The once almost ubiquitous portrait QWERTY is also all-but dead — even BlackBerry is giving it up. There is a market for devices that offer a physical keyboard, but it’s not a big one.
And don’t look for new ideas to come out of left field. For the most part, consumers aren’t interested in innovative designs. Kyocera Echo was probably the most innovative phone released in the last two years, and it flopped and was widely (and unfairly) mocked. The market has spoken: people want safety and familiarity, not innovation.
Maturity Means Less Experimentation
While it might be easy to see this as a bad trend, really it’s just a sign that smartphones are maturing. Companies have figured out what most consumers want, and are giving it to them.
For an example of how this process works, think about laptop designs — this is something that has been mature for over a decade, which means virtually all devices look the same. They are bigger or smaller, fatter or thinner, but they all have the same basic shape. That’s the direction handsets are headed.
Look at it this way: It’s time for smartphones to put their crazy teenage years behind them, settle down, and get to work.