Smarter Phones

What if the design of our phones improved the relationship we have with technology?

Project team
Léa Berger, Andy Trewin Hutt, Ben Polhill, Jo Barnard
Project type
Morrama concept

We want to change the way people interact with their phone through design.

We set out to design a phone that was not only technologically advanced but also considers human factors, particularly in its physical design. We explored 3 different concepts, each bringing a different solution to the problem.  

Smartphones are everywhere, most of us have one and use it everyday. They are helpful in many ways. But for a few years now, there has been a growing concern around the affect of increasing levels of phone usage on our psychological wellbeing. A rise in mental health issues has been heavily attributed to smart phone addiction, particularly in teens and young adults.

Smartphones give us instant and unlimited access to online content including social media; which is right at the heart of the issue.

In an effort to address this problem, there has been a growing number of solutions entering the market. Phone concepts focused on minimal functions,  completely removing access to social media and other distractions; Apple and Google attempting to make people more aware of their screen time through push notifications; even third party apps that will strip your home screen to nothing but a search bar.

We’ve taken a different approach and set out to change a persons interaction with their smartphone through subtle changes to it’s physical design, attempting to improve their behaviour and start using their phone as a tool for better things.

We want balance, not extremes.

Whilst carrying out research interviews something that came up a lot was from people was “my partner is addicted to their phone”. Really what they mean is that they don’t feel like their partner, friend or family member is “in the moment” when they spend time together.

Phones have become commonplace at social meetings, often sitting at the same table, bringing frustrating distractions to conversation. The screen lights up and the users eyes immediately flicker to the screen, one hand instinctively reaching out to turn the phone over in a faint apology, trying to show that they are still paying attention to their dinner guest.

A phone that makes you forget about the screen.

This first phone concept celebrates the back of the phone, capitalising on that instinctive behaviour to turn your phone over to prevent distraction. The overall form and a recessed screen have been designed to encourage users to naturally place it face down when not in use. A second display on the back shows the time so the user isn’t tempted to look at their screen and get distracted by notifications, and the introduction of a voice assistant button enables the user to easily pull other information and functionality without direct access to the screen.

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Turn your phone upside down, breath in and relax.

Smartphones can facilitate a lot of our daily tasks. Whether it is for work, looking up directions or communicating with relatives, they offer a wide range of apps that answer all our needs. However sometimes it all feels a bit overwhelming and we just want to switch off; easier said than done when multi-coloured notifications keep popping up on our home screen.

This phone offers the opportunity to switch from an enhanced mode to a reduced “mindful” mode in an incredibly simple way: by simply turning your phone upside down.

The mindful mode gets rid of most applications and limits the smartphone use to “tools” (weather, calendar, clock, calculator…) while letting you make phone calls and take pictures.

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It should be pull rather than push.

Sometimes it can feel like the amount of information and notifications we receive from our smartphones is  difficult to control.

In this concept we’ve set out to give the user the choice to pull this information when they want to, and to emphasise this decision we’ve turned it into a physical action. The asymmetrical back of the phone angles the screen away from the user when the phone sits on a flat surface. In its resting position, the phone will not show any notifications. In order to check them, the user pushes down on the bottom of the phone, tilting it towards them. Once they release, the phone once again sits back discreetly.

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