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June 10, 2008

Mobile attraction. What ignites the flame?

N78, N96, Joeske Schellen

INTERNATIONAL – What is it that gives a mobile phone identity, sparking many of us to to respond to a device on a personal level? There’s no question that mobiles have established themselves as our closest electronic companions, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to fall into a mutually beneficial relationship (one we connect with mightn’t leave our side for up to three years). It’s a question I recently posed to Joeske Schellen, the designer of the newly released N78 in the UK (watch video interview). But despite some discussion on the form factor of Nseries phones, there was no great epiphany.

But the question kept nagging, why do people get so attached to pieces of mobile hardware? Sure, the best devices are effortless facilitators that happen to be packaged in a physically appealing shell, but personality and a human connection occurs thanks to something else. Then it hit me… as I played with the brilliantly simple kickstand on the upcoming N96. Could it be, like relationships of any kind, that it’s those tiny idiosyncrasies that spark a reaction and help shape our emotions?

It’s astounding that of all the technological refinement of the N96, that the kickstand remains the element of that phone that gives it an extra pinch of character. Similarly on the N78, it’s the FM Transmitter that stands out for treading a new path.

You’d think smart functionality has to underpin these ‘extras’, but I don’t think that’s the case. Can a few simple design flourishes and technical twists affect the way you and I unwittingly react to a device? Can you pinpoint what it is in a device that makes you engage with it and feel happy to accept it as a long-term companion? Perhaps you only see your phone as a slab of necessary circuitry? Either way, we’d be really interested in finding out what you think – let us know in the comments section below.

Photo from Dominic’s pics