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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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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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