The iPhone SE marks the return of the mobile handset.

 iphobe se logo

It was Q4 (or Apple Q1) 2014 when I thought mobile was dying.

 

They are sooooo big

Causality of: Culture and The Mobile Handset

The Mobile handset quickly (d)evolved into the “Fauxbile Hands-set.” Consumers screamed for bigger displays. Hand-held computers gave way to ‘Hands-held’ YouTube players and NetFlix streamers. Mobile computing is anything but computing.

It is mobile consumption.

While mobile consumption isn’t bad, when you research the metrics on creators and consumers and see the 98 point spread between them, you know exactly where the device designs are going to gravitate toward.

  • Big Screen Lovin’ Consumers

Here is the really sad part: We took this gift called mobile technology and we turned into TV. You don’t need a computer to watch Netflix…oh yea, you do. We know this because Big Screen’ers also love:

  • Net Neutrality

And…

  • NetFlix

Because the majority of us are buying mobile computers and using them like a small TV. Then the marketing intelligence from device manufacturers say:

Ha! Look at them…they think those are baby TV’s!…Lets make them bigger!

 

So they did…

hands on a mobile habdsetThe perception of sight is an amazing thing. There is no denying that most of us use the sensory data collected by the squishy round things in our skulls, as the sensor-of-choice. Electrical Engineers know it. Industrial design engineers do as well. I think you would get some push back from those in User Experience  designs. In mobile computing, for content creators it’s all about the interface. It Is all about better controls. Easier to use controls with well designed User Interfaces. While some might say content development doesn’t have to be developed on a mobile device, I disagree. Content created for a mobile user for mobile consumption on a mobile device should be created inside the platform for which it is deployed.

And, since UI’s are placed on screens in the mobile device world, controls muse be placed based on the requirements of the displays size. Hell, everything revolves around the size of the display: battery, chassis, digitizer. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the display was designed around the size of one human hand. But allowing the display size to creep so far out of scope because there is nothing to regulate how big it gets seems to be the trend in mobile device design.

This trend is completely 180 degrees out-of-phase with how it should be. Designing a display for a mobile computer handset should happen based on the capabilities and limitations of the human hand. Displays with critical and frequently used controls placed so far out of reach that we have to design new controls with new gesturing so we can reach them is the result. We have to create keyboards that are split in half and must be toggled to reach the correct character. Reachability in iOS is the perfect example:

In the above, if I wanted to view, go to options or update the backend with a save, I have to double tap the TouchID sensor twice, just to get at those controls:

 

iPhone SE

2 of them

Apple almost got it perfect. Current technology power, smaller form factor. But the decision to omit 3D Touch in order to lower the price-point to compete in the ‘mid-range’ wasn’t the only option. To make it a real Special Edition, they could have left the price-point as is, and simply shrunk the device. The consequence would have been less conversions, but then 3DTouch would continue to span iOS and MacOS. Fragmenting the control schema to break the price wouldn’t have been my first choice. They should have at least offered the option for a force touch enabled SE. That’s a deal breaker for me. I can only hope that there is an SE7 or a 7SE.

Analysis

The SE will obviously cater to those who favor control, specifically one-handed controls, and to those who are looking for a handset that isn’t $799. It will impact the rest of the mid-range mobile phone and serve to drive up the competitive quality of those Android based OEM’s who are still incorporating cheap plastics in their designs. Just as the iPhone has set the bar for industrial design trends in build materials and we now see beautiful handsets coming from Samsung, HTC and others. Just like all the other iPhones, the SE will be a huge hit.

Guru logo

From November 2014:

This is way too big for one hand

Some decisions have intended consequences and some have unintended consequences. The ability to engineer a solution that’s a win-win for both the usability of the device and immediate gratification we feel by looking at a big beautiful display isn’t always achievable.

This video is a primer about the competitive discriminators between two technology companies, how one decided to abandon going head-to-head with its competitors mastery of interface concepts and create appeal to the brand by increasing the size of the device. That gets compounded with the overconfidence in its philosophical reasoning behind smaller engineering designs that they get caught off guard.

When it was over, consumers spoke loud and clear and let technology OEMs know that larger displays were a priority. However larger displays require larger form factors and devices are no longer suitable for one-handed operation without a UI compensator.

I demonstrate, compare and contrast two solutions to a common problem to addresses this challenge.

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