Some people might be surprised to know that there are other faces beyond Jonny Ive in the smartphone design game. Unfortunately, most smartphone heads would rather spend their press events showcasing their endless list of features rather than discussing the story of how their phones were designed to hopefully end up in the hands of consumers. This is where Apple for better or for worse, corners the market.
Well the folks over at the Lumia Conversations blog decided to take a stab at highlighting one of their own. Peter Griffith (real name), head of phone design at Microsoft, sits down with the blog to tell the story of polycarbonate of the evolution of the Lumia portfolio.
“Evolving products is, by its very definition, a gradual process of development. You can’t rush it, but it’s a process that gathers pace as you invest in it. These are the principles we apply when designing phones.”
This seems to be inline with some of the more recent trends by big names like LG, Motorola and HTC. The days of yearly overhauling product designs feels like it’s coming to an end. More and more OEM’s are moving towards cost-saving R&D, and product designs that build upon features rather than chasing moving targets.
Peter also goes into length about how materials play into how a phone looks as well as how it is designed.
“We start by understanding the materials we use to build our phones. Our material of choice is polycarbonate, partly because it does not interfere with radio signals, and we’ve invested a considerable amount of time and energy learning how to craft this material.”
“Take the Lumia 532 for instance. It’s created from the same polycarbonate as the Nokia 215, but we’ve taken it a step further to include a semi-translucent layer that makes the base layer shine and lets the colors look even more intense.”
It would appear this same technique is being used on the newly announced Lumia 640 and 640XL.
There are those who feel the polycarbonate Lumia lines are getting a bit long in the tooth. First introduced in 2011 with the Nokia N9, Lumia 800, and 900, the phone design has seen it’s fair share of iteration but some argue that the product line has failed to innovate. “When you find something that works, it’s easy to keep doing the same, time after time, but that’s when you fail to innovate,” said Peter. “Striking that balance between today’s design and tomorrow’s evolution is key to what we’re doing.”
Peter also throws in a tag line that may or may not show up in some of Microsoft’s Lumia branding moving forward, “pure and human”. This form of marketing speak does harken back to that widely regarded Samsung Galaxy 4 press conference travesty where the Galaxy S4 was, “inspired by people.” To his credit, Peter does a better job of explaining what “pure and human” actually means however.
“The pure element is about removing any unnecessary detail from the phone, anything that doesn’t need to be there. This is an approach that also applies to the Windows Phone platform, so there’s consistency there, too.”
“When removing anything that’s not needed, what’s left behind becomes decisive for the success of the object. Details have to be just right. Simplicity only works when it’s not at all simple to achieve!”
“There aren’t many consumer products that are such an intrinsic part of our lives as our phones are. More often than not our phones wait in our pockets all day, next to us on the table, and many of us sleep with it next to the bed at night. These are very human and personal objects.”
For those wondering, there were no details given or gleaned from the interview that would help us speculate on the next Windows Phone flagship, but judging by Microsoft’s keen knowledge, financial investment and mastery of polycarbonate, we could expect to at least see another dense plastic frame for it.