Article in Product Design UX UI category.

Mobile Design: On The Sameness of Smartphones

Smartphones have improved our lives in infinite ways, but sometimes we are nostalgic for the days where our handheld devices were full of character. Take…

While I hesitate to go on record with a call for more visible social stratification, I miss the days when you could make reductive assumptions about people based solely on their phones. As a card-carrying old millennial (that’s right—old millennials still carry cards), I remember when cell phones came in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Look, I’m not a luddite. I only pretend to be one when I’m feeling contrarian. I love my smartphone—it’s how I avoid eye contact. Still, I feel a certain nostalgia for the bygone era of cell phone shorthand. Before the thin-black-rectanglification of phones, the outer appearance of a phone was maybe the most important consideration in buying one. As such, they were great tools for snap judgments. Including, but not limited to:

Nokia 3310 with a navy faceplate: I have a phone and I use it sometimes.

Nokia 3310 mobile phone with a navy faceplate

Nokia 3310 with a zebra-printed faceplate: I have a phone and I use it sometimes and also ~*~*~*~I’m A sAmAnThA~*~*~*~  ;)

Nokia 3310 Mobile Phone with Zebra Case

Motorola Razr: I am a highly tech-savvy early twenty-something. I am secure in the knowledge that phones will get smaller and smaller until they disappear, and I am ready.

Motorola Razr Mobile Phone

Nokia 6100: I got upgraded from the 3310, and I—OH GOD I ACCIDENTALLY HIT THE INTERNET BUTTON. CANCEL. CANCEL.

Nokia 6100 Mobile Phone

Blackberry: I am a very serious business person.

Blackberry Mobile Phone

Blackberry Pearl: My father is a very serious business person and I am studying fashion merchandising.

Blackberry Pearl Mobile Phone

T-Mobile Sidekick: Do not look me in the eyes. You haven’t earned that privilege and odds are high that you never will.

T-Mobile Sidekick Mobile Phone

See what I mean? Now there are basically just iPhone People and People Who Are Okay With the Possibility of Their Phones Exploding. Sure, we’ll always have the kooky case people, but I’ve done enough phone-related stereotyping for one blog post, so I’ll leave them alone. The uniformity of today’s smartphones makes sense, of course. They’ve moved from accessory to necessity, so it makes sense that their appearance has been stripped of frivolous frippery. There’s even a kind of democratization about the sameness. Now, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and so my snap judgments have given way to Snapchat. (Are the kids still using Snapchat? Actually, don’t tell me. I’m too tired.) So I’m not mourning the loss of cell phone stratification; like any good old millennial, I’m just feeling a little nostalgic.

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