Ode to “Old Devices”

“What is that?” The guy next to me on the plane exclaimed, staring at my iPod.

Yes, I still use my iPod classic when traveling, because it carries thousands of songs that I can listen to without having to drain battery or data from the more important devices. It essentially has one function, but it works really, really well. I had to explain all of this to my seat neighbor when he shook his head, vehemently disagreeing with me from the look on his face. The fact that I even carried an older device was clearly a crime to him.

Nevertheless, it occurred to me that I’ve had this reaction before when I see people carrying around flip phones. Don’t you want apps on your phone? At least for Maps or Weather?  The answer I often get it is “I can get around fine without it.”

The truth is, having a phone with limited functionality is still pretty functional. It allows you to constant people without aimlessly distracting you wherever you go. This has been discussed at length in other blogs and online magazines, but it really hit me in the face this past weekend.

I’m currently in Zurich, Switzerland on a business trip. On the way to the hotel, I found myself needing to check the reservation info. 5 minutes later, I was in another app browsing the news. The taxi stopped momentarily at a red stop during the trip, causing me to look up. Outside my window were charming bridges and canals. Pedestrians waited as the tram rolled by. The Swiss flag flew quietly in a number of stores. The city was in front of me.

I’m in Zurich, I thought to myself. Why am I looking at my phone instead of out my window?

Our mobile devices can do a lot for us, and for the most part, they help make information and tools more accessible. But they also cause us to seek out information when we don’t need to. When we have a 200 apps, we tend to spend time looking at the content inside them rather than outside in reality. It’s much too easy to keep scrolling, swiping and tapping.

In an age when we’re constantly connected through the web, having a single-function device sounds …like a relaxing time.

Tuesday Thoughts about Hardware & Software

Once upon a time, iPhones fit in the palm of our hands. Holding and tapping anywhere was easy. The hardware never impeded you from using the software.

Now phones are mini tablets, but the software has stayed more or less the same. As a product designer who studied ergonomics in school, I occasionally find it strange that the two don’t always evolve together.

It creates some issues when performing certain actions like:

1) Taking a photo. Have you ever tried taking a phone of the sky with one hand? Try it. It’s hard to keep the phone steady while your thumb reaches for the camera button. Whenever this happens, I generally use the volume down button to take the photo instead. It’s because my thumb wants to be near the center of the screen or to the edge of it to keep it stable. It would actually be easier if the “trigger” button were on the top left and top right of the screen for either your left or right thumb.

2) Using Touch ID. Your thumb reaches for the center of the screen more easily than the bottom of the device.

What if the next Touch ID works by touching the screen rather than the home button? It would involve a lot of changes to the hardware, but it kind of makes sense from an ergonomic standpoint.

(I mocked up the last screen)

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My thumb has a much easier time with the option on the right.

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3) Using navigation bars and menus.

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Navigation and main buttons have always been at the top and at the bottom of the screen. It’s generally a good idea since you want content to be in the middle of the screen. But it doesn’t always make sense when you can’t properly reach the extreme corners.

Given that Apple is most likely implementing Force Touch on their next iPhone/iPad, I would want to enable navigation with different types of presses. Next step in navigation will be less about taps and more about gestures. Swipe-to-go-back and horizontal scrolling are already widely used. Let’s keep pushing UI in that direction.

The Carrot Hunger App

Counting calories through your smartphone is never fun. It’s basically a chore to enter data into an app.

The CARROT Hunger app aims to solve this problem by being a sassy robot that shames you every time you log food into the system. It sounds miserable, but it’s actually a hilarious experience.

Carrot sets up your profile up through a series of questions that look like this:

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It tells you politely why you should turn on push notifications.

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This is the main “home” screen

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You can log exercises too. The Hunger Games is an example of an exercise…

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AND bonus points for thinking about iBeacons!

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Design Food for This Week

Crystal Rock Lighting by Arik Levy for Lasvit

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These lamps are a collection of precisely cut glass fixtures that resemble meteorites. The surfaces of the lamp create interesting reflections and deflections of light.

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Natri shirts are minimalistic and well-designed.

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Tile is small plastic chip that you can attach to an object to help detect its location. The tiles work within a certain distance range, but other people’s tiles can pick up your lost item. It comes with an iPhone app. Definitely something I need.

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Recent Favorite Designs

Iphone Cover with Slits

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This cover has a few slits in it that can hold anything from cards to earphones to cash. I love how versatile it is, but also how simple it is at the same time.

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The Efeet Collection

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Admit it, they’re wicked cute. You can buy these creamers, bowls, dishes from Dylan Kendall’s website.

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Anubis Ring

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This is white-gold, Egyptian-styled ring by Arosha Taglia. Mr. Taglia also has some other gorgeous designs at his website.