Changing the Way we use our Phones, and what this Means for the Future of Design

When mobile phones were first released, it was miraculous that you could make a phone call no matter where you were. We quickly become accustomed to this technology, and more features were added to our phones. Next came text messaging to replace pagers, and calendar functions cropped up on our screens. Phone books were extended and eventually, simple games were added to the interface, such as Snake. This was all before the iPhone was released in 2007, exactly 10 years ago this year.

The iPhone revolutionised the way we use our phones, and if you look at the battery saving functions on your phone, you’ll see that making phone calls is probably not the number one reason you unlock your phone throughout the day. The way we use our phones has changed drastically. Phones have become more akin to mini computers in our pockets with the capability to make a phone call, rather than a phone capable of carrying out computer tasks. We check emails, play games, take pictures, record videos, use social networks and even pay our bills from online banking. The transformation is groundbreaking. But what does this mean for design?

Design makes new trends possible. For a long time, we were attached to physical keypads and this meant that the screen size was limited. Advances in touchscreen technology meant that we could finally do away with most of the physical buttons on the device and the screen was freed up for more creative tasks, like editing photographs or shooting HD video. One design trend that is set to revolutionise the way we use our phones is haptic feedback which is all set to shake up the smartphone market. Those small vibrations you feel when you use your phone is haptic feedback in action, and as the vibrating sensors get more advanced they will be used more and more. This means we can expect to see a much more responsive experience with our phones giving real-time feedback on tasks through a series of twinges and buzzes.

Smartphones are also getting bigger and we’re toeing the line between smartphones and tablets. This change in preference is the result of emerging markets calling the shots on how things should function. In China, where smartphone designers are tasked with catering to an emerging middle class, the phablet (phone meets tablet hybrid) is more popular than the regular-sized smartphone. In 2017, 203.7 million phablets were sold in the Asia-Pacific region, compared with 35.1 million in 2016.

And finally, our increased appetite for functionality comes to a head as more and more users demand easier multi-tasking capabilities. This means that app developers not only have to envisage how users will use their own app, but they also have to think of a way for the user to switch to another app with ease.

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