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How form joined function in smartphone design

Form is now every bit as important as function, and the two need to complement one another to ensure an even better smartphone experience, writes AKHRAM MOHAMED, Marketing Director, Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa.

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When cellphones first entered the market in the 1980s, it was obvious that form had been sacrificed on the altar of function. There was nothing remotely aesthetically appealing about the good old ‘brick’, from its bulky body, to its scrawny pull-out aerial, to its bland black hue.  Luckily, the brick is long gone and has been pushed aside for sleek, colourful devices. Form is now every bit as important as function, and the two need to complement one another to ensure an even better smartphone experience.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The journey of cellphone design enhancement has been a long one. The very first mainstream mobile phones were rather nondescript – black, formless, and cumbersome. In those early days, cellphones were primarily used as business tools and were exorbitantly expensive. Because it was a new technology, design was not the primary consideration for mobile phones; in fact, it wasn’t considered at all.

However, as cellphones became more mainstream in the early 2000s, and the consumer audience for this product grew, aesthetic appeal became far more important. Brands jostled one another for their share of the mobile phone pie, in an effort to secure and maintain their place on the winners’ podium.  One of their battle grounds was design. In the early days of the smartphone era, phone design was far less uniform, and each brand devised their own unique ‘look’. Users were also able to customise their phones to reflect their personality – phone colour, size, and shape variants all communicated something about the person who was holding the device. Consumers also expressed themselves through their choice of funky phone covers, colourful wallpapers, and distinctive ringtones.

Smart, beautiful, or both?

One of the smartphone designs that really caught the eye of design lovers all around the world was the Motorola RAZR. It was slim, sleek, and beautiful. This slender flip phone came in a range of striking colours and slipped easily into your pocket. Even its thin buttons were elegant. Unfortunately, it didn’t rate very highly in terms of technological advancement, but nevertheless became one of the top best-selling mobile phones of all time. This emphasised that users were demanding more of their cellphone aesthetics than ever before. Phones could be objects of beauty, and not just utility.

When the smartphone era really began to take off around 2007/2008, phones became ‘smart’ not only in their functionality but in their design too. Gone were the clunky keys of their predecessors; instead, they were replaced by ‘invisible’ keyboards, which only came to life when the user summoned them. As a result, their screens were larger, which not only made the phones easier to use but also highlighted a shift towards valuing the visual. The shape and size of the phones got even sleeker as technology progressed.

However, this technological advancement also brought with it uniform design, and these days it can be difficult to find something in a phone’s aesthetics that can uniquely distinguish it from its competitors. In contrast to most phone manufacturers, however, Huawei has increasingly delivered more in terms of device design. This is especially evident in our new Huawei P20 series, which is an exquisite combination of art and technology for the fashion forward. The aesthetics of these devices are striking, especially when it comes to colour, as they exhibit vivid and gradual changes in hue, rather than solid, motionless colour. This unique effect is caused by light refracting off the surface of the phone, and can be found in all of the colours in our range – Twilight, Midnight Blue, and Black. Another aspect of our Huawei P20 series that adds to the design experience is its FullView Display, which blends seamlessly with the phone’s rounded edges. This allows for an exquisite visual experience when viewing media on the device, or even just using an app.

It’s clear, then, that mobile phone design has come a long way since the era of the bulky, black brick. This design evolution is a promise of appealing aesthetics on the horizon, and it will be exciting to see where the next step in the journey takes us.

  • Akhram Mohamed, Marketing Director, Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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