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Design Concepts: Making the iPhone Work for Us

Design Concepts for the iPhone
The Web is teeming with the unrealized ideas of both students and established designers who set out to produce astonishing renderings and prototypes for unusual products. Unfortunately, due to the lack of time, money, or technology, many of those products never progress from the planning stages to the mass market. But that doesn't mean we can't salivate over them, nevertheless.

We thought that this week we would focus on concepts for cell phones. We've seen plenty in the past, but, as we were scouring the Interwebs for student work, we realized that there's a veritable dearth of innovative mobile phone designs out there. On the one hand, this should come as no surprise; real-life cell phones are designed by committee nowadays, and the iPhone has so dominated the market (or at least the minds of designers) that no one is really putting forth ideas to challenge its stranglehold. If we've submitted to the idea that the iPhone is not simply a phone but an entirely new digital medium, then designers can start to modify and streamline the device (within the draconian constraints that Apple has in place, of course). So, farewell to alternative phone designs, as we embrace creative monopoly with these updates for the ubiquitous hand-held Apple gadget.

IMPACT Appliances and App, by Carbon Design Group and Impact Design

impact appliances and app
One thing that we may begin to see more in the near future is major appliance manufactures building their products with the iPhone in mind. We've seen apps that can start your car and pilot your toys, but Carbon Design Group and Impact Design have a vision of the future in which you can control and monitor the energy use of your entire kitchen from your iPhone. A fridge, dishwasher and clock are fitted with iPhone-compatible sensors that relay information from your appliances straight to the palm of your hand. A dedicated app then lets you know how much your fridge's freezing thermostat is costing you, or if it would be more helpful to run the dishwasher's pots-and-pans cycle later in the evening.

iPhone RFID: Object-Based Media, by Touch

iphone rfid concept by touch
Touch, the research organization behind this brilliant visualization of wireless space, also came up with another concept we love: iPhone Radio-frequency identification (RFID) reading capability. RFID is becoming more commonplace in cell phones, but Apple (to the best of our knowledge) hasn't rolled out anything involving RFID tags just yet. Touch's concept revolves around RFID tag-embedded objects with which the phone can interact. For example, a toy fitted with an RFID tag could, when placed near the phone, begin to play media content specific to the toy, itself. Just imagine if your 'Toy Story 3' Happy Meal goodies set off a series of Randy Newman tracks on your iPhone? Maybe that's a bad example, but check out a brilliant demo video of Touch's concept here.

3rd Party Keyboard, by Matt Brady

iphone keyboard by matt brady
Oldsters and amputees complain that the touchscreen keyboard on the iPhone is difficult to use, and we recently saw an external keyboard for sale that was nearly quadruple the size of the iPhone itself, which just seems silly. Designer Matt Brady saw an obvious solution to the problem of tiny touch keys, and designed his 3rd Party Keyboard, a case that allows fold-down typing. Aesthetically it makes us recall the hideous Sidekick beloved by tweens; but, if you're having serious problems with the touchscreen, then you're probably not an Apple purist anyway.

Flexible Speaker for iPhone, by Chun-Chieh Yang

Flexible Speaker for iPhone by Chun-Chieh Yang
Anyone who's tried to watch a video, or use the speakerphone function on an iPhone knows that, if you're in a room more substantial than a 3-by-3-foot cardboard box fitted with acoustic panels, barely a sound can be heard. But how can you annoy commuters with the new Ke$ha track? May we suggest Chun-Chieh Yang's Flexible Speaker, which is not only ultra-thin but a pretty piece of hardware to boot. Geometric and compact, the Flexible Speaker also sports a unique interface; if you want to increase the volume, just unfold another triangle.

iPhonekiller by Ronen Kadushin

iphone killer by ronen kadushin
Let's say that you've grown weary of your slavish reliance on your phone, and you'd like an iPhone-ready accessory to help you peel yourself away. Designer Ronen Kadushin was inspired by our industry's preference for calling every new mobile an "iPhone Killer," and whimsically thought up just such an object. His 3.5-pound mallet is made from laser-cut steel (better to mash your soon-to-be-dead gizmo), and takes its silhouette straight from the iPhone itself. But, unlike Apple's products, Kadushin's design is open-source, so you can freely download the specs if you feel like taking a trip to the steel forge. Kadushin notes, "The iPhonekiller is compatible with all iPhone models, also the future ones, and with iPads."


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