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kasakka

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 25, 2008
2,363
1,060
Have all good phone designers switched jobs or what is going on with Android phones this year? I have spent quite a lot of time looking at what is available on the market and it looks as if phone design has taken a few steps backwards this year. I was hoping to find a proper successor for my Galaxy S4 but looks like I'll be using it for quite a while longer.

Most phones have bigger bezels/casings than the models released just one or two years ago (for example Galaxy S4 vs S5/S6, Moto X first gen vs current). In the around 5" category most phones seem to have gained a lot of height, some width and shaved off maybe a millimeter in thickness. This seems like a really bad trade as it ultimately means phones that are harder to use one handed and fit in a pocket. Protruding cameras have also made a comeback and weights have gone up. Sharp seems to be the only one that can cram a phone (albeit a midrange one) into a small size with near zero bezel.

For materials few impress. The iPhones to me still feel the most "premium" where others stumble with glossy plastic and color choices that try to imitate Apple but just come out looking cheap. I do like Motorola's back covers and Samsung Notes though.

Otherwise manufacturers seem to be going into dead end directions. Samsung keeps coming up with weird gimmicks like the S6 Edge, LG's phones just get larger with buttons in the back (not a bad idea, just the execution could be better), Sony still doesn't seem to be able to make their black monilith slabs have better screen-to-bezel ratios and have stuck with the dreaded glass back cover.

Does anyone else feel like there has been little improvement in the actual design of smartphones?
 

JaySoul

macrumors 68030
Jan 30, 2008
2,629
2,865
Certain design aspects improve, whilst others get worse.

Right now there always seems to be some sort of concession, although I have to admit that the FEEL of a phone triumphs over the LOOKS.
 
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GadgetSN

macrumors 6502
Sep 7, 2014
376
121
You are asking where the good phone designers have gone and then you refer to the S4?

You do realise the S4 is probably the ugliest smartphone ever designed in the history of smartphones with the exception of a few others.

Sony Z3 is probably the best looking and feeling Android phone under the phablet size.
 

gotluck

macrumors 603
Dec 8, 2011
5,714
1,204
East Central Florida
May be ugly but it is a great size with nice bezels. Removable battery and sd card. Can't think of another phone that ticks those boxes. Especially with stock android available, due to the gpe.
 
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tbayrgs

macrumors 604
Jul 5, 2009
7,350
4,874
May be ugly but it is a great size with nice bezels. Removable battery and sd card. Can't think of another phone that ticks those boxes. Especially with stock android available, due to the gpe.

But what you're talking about is utility and functionality, not design, per se. There is nothing remarkable about the design of the S4--it's pretty damn cheap looking and not particularly attractive. All that being said though, based on the OP, 'design' is probably not the best choice of words, seems to have a larger issue with the overall size of phones.
 

gotluck

macrumors 603
Dec 8, 2011
5,714
1,204
East Central Florida
But what you're talking about is utility and functionality, not design, per se. There is nothing remarkable about the design of the S4--it's pretty damn cheap looking and not particularly attractive. All that being said though, based on the OP, 'design' is probably not the best choice of words, seems to have a larger issue with the overall size of phones.

For me design includes size and screen to body ratio too, not just looks and materials. The rounded edges are better in the pocket versus the harsher cornered z series.
 

Tig Bitties

macrumors 603
Sep 6, 2012
5,368
5,492
The Note 5 IMO is very premium looking and feeling. Great screen size to body ratio.

Nexus 6P also looks to be very rich in design.

HTC One M8 last year was a beautiful device, the M9 this year more of the same. I would expect the M10 to be a stunner early next year.
 

kasakka

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 25, 2008
2,363
1,060
For me design includes size and screen to body ratio too, not just looks and materials. The rounded edges are better in the pocket versus the harsher cornered z series.

Yup, design covers these. Design is not only how it looks but also how it feels, how it is to use as well as the mechanical design (where buttons are placed, how the hardware can be crammed inside). I do agree that the S4 doesn't win any prices for how it looks. That faux metal rim is surprisingly real looking though! Replace the slippery stock back cover with something grippier and it is really nice to hold and few have as big a screen in the same size.

Z3 went wrong with the infuriatingly small power button and it's quite tall. The Z5 power button + fingerprint reader is fantastic though.
 

LIVEFRMNYC

macrumors G3
Oct 27, 2009
8,801
10,860
The S6 Edge a werid gimmick? If there is an award for best design for 2015, the S6 Edge or Edge Plus will win without a doubt.
 

Fancuku

macrumors 65816
Oct 8, 2015
1,023
2,659
PA, USA
There has never been a good looking phone. I find phones and all electronic devices to be pretty ugly but I don't care. Function over form for me.
 

lugworm

macrumors 6502
Apr 4, 2011
447
452
UK
The iphone 6 was a real backward step by the Apple designers.
With the previous phones you knew at once you were looking at an iphone.
Now you have to look closely to differentiate between it and a host of other devices.
 

LIVEFRMNYC

macrumors G3
Oct 27, 2009
8,801
10,860
It is a gimmick. While the curved glass is a great engineering feat, it adds nothing for the user. It doesn't make your user experience better.

When did design become a gimmick?

Also the Edge gives it a narrow feel in the hand and the display pops out at you.

And I never thought the night clock would be useful, but it actually is.
 

MasterRyu2011

macrumors 65816
Aug 22, 2014
1,064
359
You are right about camera humps and bezels. The Galaxy S6 Edge and S6 Edge + are the best looking phones to me out in 2015. All LG phones tend to look very sharp and the Sony phones are perennial aesthetics contenders (minus the gigantic vertical bezels). The iPhone I thought took a huge step back in design with the 6. The antenna bands are still an eyesore. The 5 and 5S iphones were the best looking out of Apple's line up.

About weight, I would gladly go for more weight if that means a bigger battery. I feel like many phones out right now are insanely thin and light (some more so than others), so there is really no need to make them any lighter if it meant sacrificing utility.

That said, phone designs used to be a thing back in the day prior to the iPhone. You had a lot of different styles (clamshells, sliders, candybars, etc.) and you can get a phone that looks radically different than others while having the same features. There isn't much you can do today that drastically changes things.
 

nj-morris

macrumors 68000
Nov 30, 2014
1,897
803
UK
2015: The year of the protruding cameras.
In terms of bezel size, I think the Nexus 6 was a real killer. Although a huge phone, Google and Motorola did a great job packing it into an efficient space. And it even had front-facing speakers. But then a year later, boom, here comes a successor to the Nexus 6 with the same height but smaller screen. Good job.
And what I really can't stand is phones that sacrifice bezel space to put a logo on the front.

Naa the iPhone 4s was apples best lookin device by far.....!

It had it's drawbacks, but nevertheless, I'm hoping for another glass-backed iPhone soon.
 

Tig Bitties

macrumors 603
Sep 6, 2012
5,368
5,492
Naa the iPhone 4s was apples best lookin device by far.....!

I agree, the iPhone 4 / 4S were just amazing, pieces of art actually. And the iPhone 5 / 5S were also beautiful, almost like jewelry. But man did the iPhone 6 take a major step backwards in design, mainly the back of the phone, with the ugly protruding camera, and cheap looking bands on the rear, and the Jay Leno chin for bezels. I do like the rounded edges and shape of the glass, that looks cool.

The iPhone 7 needs a major new design.

Never thought I'd say this, but Samsung actually released the better looking design this year, just in style I find the Note 5 a better looking phone over the iPhone 6S Plus.
 
Last edited:

Lloydbm41

Suspended
Oct 17, 2013
4,019
1,456
Central California
It is a gimmick. While the curved glass is a great engineering feat, it adds nothing for the user. It doesn't make your user experience better.
I hope you remember this post. Apple is already copying this very thing and been awarded a patent not 2 weeks ago.
Link: http://www.patentlyapple.com/patent...aparound-design-gesture-password-ui-more.html

But, like you said. Curved displays are just gimmicks. :rolleyes

I'm sure you said the same thing about a notification center, 5+ inch screens, split screen content, manipulative screen content (aka 3D touch which Samsung utilized with the Note series and the S-Pen first), and so on. We call this being an iHypocrit.
 
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spinedoc77

macrumors G4
Jun 11, 2009
11,480
5,403
I hope you remember this post. Apple is already copying this very thing and been awarded a patent not 2 weeks ago.
Link: http://www.patentlyapple.com/patent...aparound-design-gesture-password-ui-more.html

But, like you said. Curved displays are just gimmicks. :rolleyes

I'm sure you said the same thing about a notification center, 5+ inch screens, split screen content, manipulative screen content (aka 3D touch which Samsung utilized with the Note series and the S-Pen first), and so on. We call this being an iHypocrit.

Those other things you mention are very useful, curved screens not so much. I owned the s6 edge plus for a couple of days, I didn't fall in love with it. It was too easy to touch those edge screens and activate the phone, I found myself constantly doing that. The most functional aspect was having shortcuts and contacts on the edge, but you could do that with the non edge phones as well so I don't see that as being an unique perk to the edge models at all.

Honestly it felt like a gimmick to me as well. Now of course maybe someone will come along and make a killer app that utilizes that edge, but so far I haven't seen anything particularly functional about it, certainly not at the level of the other things you mentioned. It's great for design, beautiful and unique, and I think Samsung is smart to cater to those markets as in many aspects Apple products are a bit primitive functionally but beautiful and well made. Although IMO Samsung should have married the Note and edge series and consolidated all their money and hard work into a single model line, regular and +.
 
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LIVEFRMNYC

macrumors G3
Oct 27, 2009
8,801
10,860
Those other things you mention are very useful, curved screens not so much. I owned the s6 edge plus for a couple of days, I didn't fall in love with it. It was too easy to touch those edge screens and activate the phone, I found myself constantly doing that.

This never happen to me yet with the S6 Edge, so that's probably a downfall with the taller and wider size of the Edge Plus.

Although IMO Samsung should have married the Note and edge series and consolidated all their money and hard work into a single model line, regular and +.

This is what I wanted, and why I didn't go for neither the Note 5 or Edge Plus.
 
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dec.

Suspended
Apr 15, 2012
1,349
765
Toronto
I hope you remember this post. Apple is already copying this very thing and been awarded a patent not 2 weeks ago.
Link: http://www.patentlyapple.com/patent...aparound-design-gesture-password-ui-more.html

But, like you said. Curved displays are just gimmicks. :rolleyes

I'm sure you said the same thing about a notification center, 5+ inch screens, split screen content, manipulative screen content (aka 3D touch which Samsung utilized with the Note series and the S-Pen first), and so on. We call this being an iHypocrit.

Oh right, I thought I remembered seeing that drawing somewhere

http://www.patentlyapple.com/patent...-iphone-with-wraparound-display-revealed.html

"Copying already" - they must have known of the massive(?) success of the Edge in 2013.

(also while it's technically pretty silly to point out - there's a difference between an entirely curved screen like shown in the patent and the Edge with it's curved... edges, but those are technicalities that some might not be interested in).
 

Lloydbm41

Suspended
Oct 17, 2013
4,019
1,456
Central California
Oh right, I thought I remembered seeing that drawing somewhere

http://www.patentlyapple.com/patent...-iphone-with-wraparound-display-revealed.html

"Copying already" - they must have known of the massive(?) success of the Edge in 2013.

(also while it's technically pretty silly to point out - there's a difference between an entirely curved screen like shown in the patent and the Edge with it's curved... edges, but those are technicalities that some might not be interested in).
You do realize that Apple is entirely dependent upon companies like Samsung to create and develop screen technology? Where do you think Apple saw curved screens prior to 2013? Hint: It wasn't in Palo Alto or Sunnyvale.
As for having a partially or fully curved screens, that point is moot. Samsung and LG have both developed flexible displays with multiple orientations.
 
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