If I were Jon Ive… (The iPhone X /8)

There is already much talk about the new, “anniversary” iPhone X or 8, that is expected to be released later this year — however a lot of the commentary and “predictions” just don’t add up, and would be a poor showing from Apple, so here is a take on it that is more in line with the beautiful mind of Jony..

Let’s talk about the design…

The bezel around the display has been a pain for many generations of the iPhone, even the few milimeters around the sides were a real eyesore for a purist. But can you imagine them simply getting rid of that and creating a late and bad copy of their greatest rival?

Never. What a poor step forward that would be…

It won’t look like this:

It won’t look like this — too small a step forward and not much more than a copy of Samsung…
Imagine a much more pure and beautiful phone. One that is nothing but a display. No edges, no borders, simply a window into another world that blends in perfectly with the reality around it…
Imagine a phone that just sits on top of a table like a drop of water — nothing but a beautful piece of glass that eases into it’s surroundings…

Of course that is not easy, there are plenty of technical obstacles to overcome, from speakers, to the camera and the fingerprint sensor, but can you ever imagine something as asymmetric as this coming through Jony’s workshop?

Too asymmetrical for something as minimalistic and precise as Jony’s imagination

Never. That asymmetry doesn’t fit with the minimalism and precision of Jony’s imagination.

But how is complete purity going to be technically possible?

Like this:

The shape of the phone could be much more of a flat back with a soft curvature that slowly eases out towards the sides, so that there is no bezel and the entire front of the phone is a screen.

The fingerprint sensor will be “hidden behind” the display, or rather, the entire screen will be able to read your fingerprint. (Apple pantented multiple solutions to this, such as ultrasonic fingerprint reading.) Imagine the leap in UX that would mean. No more having to do an extra step [tap the home button] to authenticate to unlock, pay or log in to apps. You’d just swipe to unlock anywhere on the screen and as you do that it will have read your fingerprint. Similarly clicking Pay with Apple Pay in any app or website, or downloading an app from the App Store will just be a click on the pay/download button, and in that tap your fingerprint will have been read already. 
Home button — which home button? Of course there will be none. Why do you think iOS introduced ‘raise to wake’? And why do you think they introduced 3D Touch? (A feature I am convinced has added little to anyone’s life.) Simply so there would be a way for you to wake your phone without pressing the — soon no longer existent — home button, then swipe anywhere to unlock with Touch ID and when you need to return to your homescreen you could simply double press anywhere on the screen.

Just beautiful, isn’t it? That effortless UX. So many steps eliminated. So much unnecessery thumb movement back down to the bottom of the phone cut out.

What about the front facing camera? Well that is an interesting one. I see two options:

  1. The camera is going to move to the very top of the screen where the “status bar” with the time, battery etc. sits and there will simply be a black hole (no pixels) in that status bar, where the camera lens is. Not ideal, but who needs that extra space for yet another status icon?
  2. Alternatively, and I think this is still a bit far fetched, the camera could simply sit “behind” the status bar display, without any missing pixels, as OLED screens can be made completely transparent. (What makes me doubtful is whether OLEDs are translucent enough to let all light pass without distorting or reducing the image quality.)

The first option isn’t perfect but if it enables a Phone that is nothing but a screen, it has to be worth it.

[For those of you who are really precise, the light sensor and distance sensor, or new front facing 3D depth sensors can probably be relatively easily embedded behind a transparent display at the top as well.]

And the speaker? That’s relatively simple, OLEDs are flexible and hence the display itself can be used as the membrane. So one actuator could sit at the top behind the screen (where we usually hold our ear) and one at the bottom so that when we want to put it on speaker phone or play music the two simply act in sync. Alternatively of course, if this technology isn’t quite mature enough yet there could simply be speakers on the top and bottom rim of the phone.

The technology is there, and many of these have been in the works at Apple for a decade, so it seems time they finally see daylight..

iPhone X. Limitless.

Bringing it all together into one consistent vision…

…we finally arrive at an iPhone that is as pure and beautiful as Jon Ive’s mind. One that is nothing but a display. No edges, no borders, simply a window into another world that blends in perfectly with the reality around it…

[Many more thoughts on Tech, Apple, Products, UX and more to come…

If you’ve read between the lines above, you know it — AR is coming..

And of course plenty of other parts of the iPhone X that we need to bring into this coherent vision..

Let me know what you think.]

Love,

Daniel

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