Finding New Form Factors


Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and also distinguishes between modern mobile phones. You only enjoy one of those processes. “A touchscreen rectangle with wireless and a few buttons for old times’ sake” now describes 100% of all successful smartphones. The only distinguishing factor is what they won’t let you do: Windows Mobile won’t let you take part in the modern age, Google won’t prevent you from wrecking your handset, and Apple won’t let you do anything until it’s been approved by the Secret App Committee.

One reason smartphones are more monotonous than a photocopied phone book is that there is only one way to fit something in the human hand, pocket, and purse without being awkward. Everything from anatomy to fashion conspires to construct an endless army of expensive rectangles, which insist that they’re as different as night and day despite having less personality than a dead Cyberman. Attempts to be slightly different work as well as slightly changing your DNA – the results are either trivial, or hideous and fatal. (If you don’t believe us, look at this ludicrous split-slide-out keyboard monstrosity, or the “Honestly not a BlackBerry” HTC ChaCha.)

That’s why we say the “form factor” should go f-itself, as it’s already alliteratively equipped to do. Phone companies should go all out with new designs, and it just so happens we’ve got some great ideas for them.

Apple should just announce that the iPad was really the iPhone 5. That’ll get people. Not only does it mean that they’re already at iPhone 6 (and surely building towards the release iPhone 7), it’ll obey the old adage of giving the audience what they want. And Appleficionados want to show that they’re a better Apple fan than you. There is no other explanation for day-long queues on released day. We don’t know how these dullards ended up so desperate that smartphone ownership now makes up the bulk of their self-esteem, and we really don’t know how such dysfunctions-given-form earned the hundreds of pounds to buy one, but we do know one thing: we have to keep crazy people that busy. Hauling around an immense iPadphone will keep them safely distracted and tire out their stabbing arms.

Symbian on the other hand get a stone axe, hollow out the handle and stuff some electronic guts in there, that way the owners get to be just as obsolete as their operating system but now have something useful. Don’t get us wrong, Symbian was wonderful, but Nokia’s conversion to Microsoft aged it faster than Dracula being exposed to sunlight filtered through a cross-shaped wooden stake.

Microsoft get to round off the edges of their new smartphone, paint it white, and put a round black button with a white square in it on the front. That way they can at least be honest about their OS design “inspiration.”

Google Android? Anything. ANYTHING. Stick your smartphone in a toaster, or a conch shell, or wire your wireless into a pair of socks so you have an excuse for changing it more frequently than the book you’re reading. Android should embrace the utter openness of the format, flaws and all (every random shape should have at least one bit that snags or tears or electrocutes you.) This isn’t to idolize the format, but to embody its strengths before Google forgets them and continues down the Appley path of “Wow, we’ve actually got lots of phones out there now, better start controlling them.”

Why should we have so many silly shapes? To celebrate the smartphone’s apotheosis. It’s become so indispensable that within one generation it will no longer exist, so we should have as much fun with them as possible right now. Because giving our grandchildren a new phone will be like giving them an extra appendix – they’ve already got one installed in their body.


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