Monday, August 21, 2006

A Quantum Leap for Cell Phones

Innovative cell phone interfaces...

"It's likely to evoke the children's song inquiring, "Where's the button?" On Aug. 21, designer Pilotfish and sensor maker Synaptics are releasing a prototype of a cell phone, and the funny thing is, it doesn't have any buttons.

Instead, the Onyx device understands signs and gestures, thanks to the sensitive touch pad covering most of its surface. It opens and closes applications when swiped by one or two fingers. The phone recognizes shapes and body parts. Lift Onyx to your cheek and it will pick up a call. "The goal of this concept was to show people a completely different way of designing and making a phone," says Mariel Vantatenhove, senior product line director at Synaptics (SYNA). "We think that the market is ready for some sort of change." A sea change is more like it.

The cell phone as we know it—mostly those snap-shut clamshell types or the flat, rectangular candy bar devices—are in for a major makeover. Or so it seems from the barrage of prototypes from individual designers, boutique firms, and even large technology companies in recent months.

SLAVE TO FASHION. Earlier this year, Nokia (NOK), the world's No. 1 cell-phone maker, worked with 25 British college students to prototype their cell-phone visions. Among them: a cell-phone necklace whose beads light up to signal an incoming call and an origami-like cell phone. Then there are the outlandish designs already on the market. For instance, consumers in Japan carry mobiles reminiscent of macaroons and cakes.

Mobile-phone makers are increasingly having to take cues from peers in the fashion industry. In mid-2005, the average person bought a new cell phone every 18 months. But by May of this year, the cycle had shortened to 17.6 months, according to a J.D. Power & Associates survey of 18,740 consumers. "Cell phones [are becoming] so increasingly personal, they tend to be a slave to fashion," says Richard Doherty, director of consultancy the Envisioneering Group. "And the fashion cycle for clothes is one season."

Recognizing this trend, CTIA, an association of wireless companies, has come to host "Fashion in Motion," a runway show for fashion couture, at its annual conference. The winner of this year's first-ever $10,000 CTIA scholarship for a ""Fashion in Motion" product, Manon Maneenawa, designed the Triple Watch Cell Phone, a mobile that can be reassembled into a wristwatch or an alarm clock."   (Continued via BusinessWeek)   [Usability Resources]

No button interface that relies on signs and gestures- Usability, User Interface Design

No button interface that relies on signs and gestures

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