Designers, stop complaining and focus on what’s really important about iPhone X!

Ten reasons why X will be the best iPhone Apple has ever made.

Bartek Papież
Oct 5, 2017 · 6 min read
New iPhone X / source: /

The annual Apple Special Event was held on 12 September 2017. iPhone X was the unquestioned star of the evening. From the moment of its premiere, the Internet, and particularly its designer part has been feeling the hype — everything because of Apple’s design-related decision that is not understood by all. Does this mean that the decision was not a good one?

iPhone X is the first Apple-made smartphone that is equipped with an edge-to-edge screen. The new iPhone looks spectacular but such a decision forced i.e. the only physical button (the home button) to be removed. Nevertheless, this isn’t what frustrates digital designers. What does is the fact that Apple decided to disrupt its typical 5.8-inch pane of digital nirvana, leaving a black stripe on the top of the screen (so-called notch).

So-called notch / source: /

Designers worldwide alarm that websites will now require white stripes on the side of the screen in order to be correctly rendered in horizontal mode, while games and videos will look just ridiculous. This is, of course, a realistic problem designers will need to face but aren’t we missing something more important here?

A website rendered on an iPhone X in a horizontal orientation / source: /

As Luke Wroblewski noted in his entry on LinkedIn (which inspired me to write this article), the notch is perhaps the most interesting part of the new iPhone as Apple managed to fit the Kinect within!

Yes, you are right: a Kinect on the surface of 2–3 square cm!

How else would you name a proximity sensor, camera, and infrared illuminator? If you combine this with neural networks operating at iOS 11 level that enable to recognize human faces (and not only faces) faultlessly, you will obtain never-before-seen possibilities with which all the above-mentioned visual inconveniences are no longer that important.

New hardware packed into a notch is basically a Kinect / source: /

Instead of wasting time for whining, I stopped focusing on the strictly visual context and tried to look at the possibilities offered by the new hardware in terms of user experience and business. The following are ten real-life use cases that came to my mind immediately:

/ 1 / A simple 3D scanner. Do you remember Cobb’s totem in Christopher Nolan’s movie Inception? This totem was used by the main character to verify whether he is in a real world or in a dream at a given moment. Verification is just one step away from authorization and then from cybersecurity. What if we could use the hardware of the new iPhone to reconstruct the actual world in 3D? This could make it possible to scan any physical object (that would become a sort of a totem) and with its use, instead of your face, you could authorize access to various applications or features.

/ 2 / Adjusting text size when reading. I imagine that one of the applications that I couldn’t live without, namely Pocket, could introduce the option of automatic enlarging or reducing text size depending on how far from the iPhone screen the user’s head is located. Following this path, perhaps Pocket could notify us (with sound or vibration), when we look away from the text and lose concentration, hence training one’s mindfulness.

/ 3 / Handling touchless gestures. The first iPhone caused a revolution in 2007. It was the first mainstream phone equipped with a touch display. What if one decade later we could depart from tapping and swiping in favor of touchless gestures or the sight, thanks to the possibility of reading facial expressions (e.g. blink to confirm)?

/ 4 / Self-diagnosis of sight condition. Today, the standard at eye doctors’ offices is the 20/20 vision test based on the Snellen chart discovered in 1862. What if we could redesign this old table for the purpose of mobile devices so that it would make self-diagnosis of the sight possible through the camera and the proximity sensor built-into the new iPhone?

/ 5 / Translation of sign language. Since neural networks can cope so well with recognizing the human face, perhaps in the near future we could train them so that they could recognize and translate sign language gestures?

/ 6 / Writing by means of the sight. Do you remember the movie entitled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? This is a shocking and true story of a paralyzed editor of the French Elle, who is in a hospital and tries to describe his memories only through blinking of the left eye (his only working organ). In the movie, Julian Schnabel, the main character, needed the help of nurses who read particular letters of the alphabet patiently hundreds of thousands of time; a blink of an eye of a man stuck in a hospital bed meant that this letter had to be written down on a sheet of paper. Such effort- and time-consuming procedure created memories of Jean-Dominique Bauby; but all he’d need today is an iPhone suspended above the hospital bed equipped with an application recognizing eye blinks.

/ 7 / Home automation. It’s easy for me to imagine a situation where I leave work, get in the car, put the iPhone in the holder and when I arrive at my home, my phone opens the gate and puts the lights on, thanks to the fusion of geolocation, accelerometer and the possibilities of FaceID.

/ 8 / Video conversations with animated avatars. At first sight, Animoji does not seem to be the most useful feature of the new Apple mobile operating system but in the end, it may turn out to be quite nice. Imagine a video conversation with your friend when they are a panda and you are a tiger… ;)

/ 9 / New generation of games. Thanks to the possibility of recognising the face and proximity of it with regard to the phone, it will be possible to develop many new games, based on the closer-further mechanics (possibly adjustment of existing ones to this scheme, thanks to which the gamer holding a phone further from their face will receive more points than a gamer holding the phone directly in front of the face).

/ 10 / Night vision. For several generations, the iPhone has allowed taking Live Photos. Why wouldn’t the infrared camera be used for taking night photos? The effects could be really interesting…

These are only a few concepts that came to my mind in contrary to the general negative opinions seen online after the premiere of the new iPhone. I can’t speak for you, but for me, the new fantastic possibilities fully compensate for the visual shortcomings caused by the notch. The Cupertino giant has proved many times that decisions that were initially not understood, turned out to be pioneer solutions leading to new standards (just remember that MacBooks were designed without a CD–ROM drive a few years ago). Additionally, if you consider the fact that Apple may enable to hide the notch through software someday, I believe that this time we’ll also witness a new micro-revolution that will bring us all many useful and perhaps, breakthrough solutions.

So, designers, stop wasting your precious time and energy on complaining and start seeking for possibilities instead that we all, as individuals and as a society, could benefit from.

If you’d like to design or develop an equally innovative digital product, service or experience, be sure to contact RIOT — we will be happy to guide you through the complicated process of digital production: from the strategy, through design and development, to final market implementation.

Input/output by RIOT

Digital design, modern business, new technologies, life hacks. Bullshit level: zero.

Bartek Papież

Written by

Design director + Partner @ RIOT

Input/output by RIOT

Digital design, modern business, new technologies, life hacks. Bullshit level: zero.

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