Save for the standard wafer style smartphone, practically all other form factors are dead.
Last year around this time, I revisited all the old form factors that, for all intents and purposes, are no more: vertical QWERTY, horizontal slider, vertical slider, dual-slider and dual-flip phones, some experimental form factors, and the age-old clamshell style. Instead of various form factors, style differentiation can now only be found in color, size and weight, display size, and shape.
To be fair, the candy bar form factor just … works. It’s the most logical and efficient style. It gets all the moving parts out of the way in favor of longevity; trades wasted space (physical keyboards, hinges, bezels) for useful and valuable display real estate; and packs all the important parts down into the slimmest package possible. The virtual extinction of other form factors was predictable and practical, at least for the way we use smartphones today.
That’s not to say, however, that the candy bar form factor is the be-all and end-all of smartphone form factors. It’s not necessarily the most efficient for all users, and it definitely isn’t everyone’s favorite form factor.
For one, every phone on the market using the same form factor is tragically boring.
Imagine if every car on the road was simply a different scale, color, and shape of the same vehicle type. For instance, say there were no sports or compact cars, no trucks, no family vans, and only giant SUVs everywhere. It’s a snoozefest that doesn’t work for everyone. On a less dramatic scale, this is effectively what’s happened to the cell phone market (if you exclude feature phones, that is). Phones like Motorola’s DROID series, Samsung’s Captivate Glide or Epic 4G, HTC G2 (someone queue “Taps”, please), or even the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G simply don’t happen anymore, especially not on a large scale.
Different form factors definitely still exist in the practically forgotten non-smartphone market, and some manufacturers in the Asian market still often experiment with different form factors.
For instance, late last year, Samsung introduced its Galaxy Golden flip-style smartphone. It comes with two displays, mounted back-to-back, so the user can access a 3.7-inch Super AMOLED display when the phone is open or closed. Inside, it has a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, LTE support, and it comes with an 8-megapixel camera.
It’s nothing outstanding, which begs the question: what if there were a high-end flip smartphone? I’m going way out on a hypothetical limb here, but what if a Galaxy S5 Flip – a proper Galaxy S5 with a clamshell design – emerged?
Would you buy it?
Obviously, the biggest hurdle is the dial pad. We live in a world where T9 simply doesn’t cut it anymore. The fast-paced messaging we’ve all grown used to doesn’t work so well with T9.
Samsung, however, is a particularly great candidate for such a concept. It’s the creator of one of the most timeless feature phones ever: the Alias. It had a hinge which flipped both vertically and horizontally, and the E Ink keyboard displayed different keys based on how the phone was opened – a standard dial pad for vertical and a full QWERTY keyboard for horizontal.
What if the imaginary Galaxy S5 Flip were a new-age incarnation of the Alias? Sweet, right? Bear with me here while I take the hypothetical one step further. What if it were essentially a more respectable and better executed version of Kyocera’s Echo?
The story of the Echo was a tragedy. It was a novel concept that flopped extra hard and found itself among our worst devices ever. It’s a shame, honestly. As awful the dual-display concept was on battery life, there are a handful of exceptionally useful advantages to having a smartphone with two displays.
The dual-display setup could work particularly well for Samsung, especially paired with something like the Multi-Window feature. And the detriment it is to battery life could (hopefully) be offset by rapid charging.
Maybe I’m desperate for something new and different – or maybe even something a little old.
I just want to see some manufacturers step outside their comfort zone and try something different for a change. I’m tired of seeing the same ol’ thing rehashed year after year, only marginally improving and offering no real value over last year’s models.
Clearly not every OEM has given up on the dual-display dream. We saw the NEC Medias W at MWC 2013 and Fujitsu has tinkered with the idea, though I wouldn’t say I’m impressed by its execution.
The dual-display concept is one that resonates well with me … for several reasons. The ability to watch a video and browse the web at the same time is extremely valuable, which is why I love Multi-Window. But its usefulness is limited on a single smartphone display. Multi-Window and a dual-display setup are practically built to be together.
A next-generation flip phone could definitely give the smartphone market the extra spice it’s been lacking in recent years, and with phones as slim as they are these days, a dual-display flip phone could be something work taking a gander at. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be half an inch thick or as heavy as a tablet. It could actually be svelte, and with the right amount of tender loving care, it could be non-traditional nudge the smartphone market needs.
I’d be in line for the first high-end, dual-display flip smartphone on launch day.
What say you, ladies and gents? Is a new-age flip smartphone something you would consider? What if it were dual-display or a newer, cooler version of the Alias? Or are you perfectly happy with the standard, overused candy bar form factor?
Image via Teknofil.no