When cellphones first entered the market in the 1980s, it was obvious that form had been sacrificed on the altar of function. There was nothing remotely aesthetically appealing about the good old ‘brick’, from its bulky body, to its scrawny pull-out aerial, to its bland black hue. Luckily, the brick is long gone and has been pushed aside for sleek, colourful devices. Form is now every bit as important as function, and the two need to complement one another to ensure an even better smartphone experience.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
The journey of cellphone design enhancement has been a long one. The very first mainstream mobile phones were rather nondescript – black, formless, and cumbersome. In those early days, cellphones were primarily used as business tools and were exorbitantly expensive. Because it was a new technology, design was not the primary consideration for mobile phones; in fact, it wasn’t considered at all.
However, as cellphones became more mainstream in the early 2000s, and the consumer audience for this product grew, aesthetic appeal became far more important. Brands jostled one another for their share of the mobile phone pie, in an effort to secure and maintain their place on the winners’ podium. One of their battle grounds was design. In the early days of the smartphone era, phone design was far less uniform, and each brand devised their own unique ‘look’. Users were also able to customise their phones to reflect their personality – phone colour, size, and shape variants all communicated something about the person who was holding the device. Consumers also expressed themselves through their choice of funky phone covers, colourful wallpapers, and distinctive ringtones.
Smart, beautiful, or both?
One of the smartphone designs that really caught the eye of design lovers all around the world was the Motorola RAZR. It was slim, sleek, and beautiful. This slender flip phone came in a range of striking colours and slipped easily into your pocket. Even its thin buttons were elegant. Unfortunately, it didn’t rate very highly in terms of technological advancement, but nevertheless became one of the top best-selling mobile phones of all time. This emphasised that users were demanding more of their cellphone aesthetics than ever before. Phones could be objects of beauty, and not just utility.
When the smartphone era really began to take off around 2007/2008, phones became ‘smart’ not only in their functionality but in their design too. Gone were the clunky keys of their predecessors; instead, they were replaced by ‘invisible’ keyboards, which only came to life when the user summoned them. As a result, their screens were larger, which not only made the phones easier to use but also highlighted a shift towards valuing the visual. The shape and size of the phones got even sleeker as technology progressed.
However, this technological advancement also brought with it uniform design, and these days it can be difficult to find something in a phone’s aesthetics that can uniquely distinguish it from its competitors. In contrast to most phone manufacturers, however, Huawei has increasingly delivered more in terms of device design. This is especially evident in our new Huawei P20 series, which is an exquisite combination of art and technology for the fashion forward. The aesthetics of these devices are striking, especially when it comes to colour, as they exhibit vivid and gradual changes in hue, rather than solid, motionless colour. This unique effect is caused by light refracting off the surface of the phone, and can be found in all of the colours in our range – Twilight, Midnight Blue, and Black. Another aspect of our Huawei P20 series that adds to the design experience is its FullView Display, which blends seamlessly with the phone’s rounded edges. This allows for an exquisite visual experience when viewing media on the device, or even just using an app.
It’s clear, then, that mobile phone design has come a long way since the era of the bulky, black brick. This design evolution is a promise of appealing aesthetics on the horizon, and it will be exciting to see where the next step in the journey takes us.
By Akhram Mohamed, Marketing Director, Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa