Are your future smartphones getting uglier and uglier?

While waiting for the official Google conference, there are rumors surrounding Pixel 6. The leaks are having a blast, the famous Jon Prosser at the helm.

On May 14, 2021, it released a 3D rendering of Google’s next smartphone, a smartphone with a confusing design, to say the least. When taste and color cannot be discussed, beauty remains universal. The majority of observers also agree to qualify this design as ugly (even hideous).

Be careful, nothing says the Pixel 6 will look like this 3D rendering. This is all the more true as Jon Prosser would not be his first mistake: he had already published a concept of the Pixel 5 that is very different from the product introduced by Google.

Despite everything, this leak highlights an important problem. Over the years, smartphone design has advanced tremendously, mostly for the worse. Search for originality, technical limitations, the reasons for this ugliness of smartphones are many.

Technical restrictions

It would be far too easy to hold the designers solely responsible for the appearance of our smartphones. When they are in the design phase, we are the consumers at the end of the chain and therefore the decision-makers.

If aesthetics have taken a leading role in the wing, it is mainly because our technical requirements are higher than before. Symbol for this upheaval: the camera.

In just a few years, manufacturers have multiplied the number of sensors to give our smartphones more versatility. Sometimes too much, as the Nokia 9 Pureview and its five photo sensors prove! Enough to take up much of the back of our phones.

The Nokia 9 Pureview and its 5 photo sensors © HMD

More sensors are also more efficient and therefore larger. Who would have thought that a photo module would happily stick out of the rest of the hull? Worse still, who would have accepted a module as imposing as that of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra?

When manufacturers make these aesthetic choices, our criteria have evolved for a good and simple reason. All studies agree on one point: the design was the first purchase criterion a few years ago, today it stands behind the autonomy, the performance or the photo quality.

In 2021, engineers are doing deeds, not miracles. Space constraints force them to be smart, not wizards. This is all the more true as the camera is not the only major development.

Over the years, multimedia applications have taken precedence over so-called “classic” applications (telephone, messaging, etc.). Consumers have also moved to bigger screens. There is no question of carrying around with a tablet in your pocket.

The first Galaxy Note had a 5.5-inch screen. He was a giant. © Samsung

Gone are the days of the first Galaxy Note with its 5.5-inch screen and huge size. Today we want screens that are larger than 6 inches in compact formats. And that with an autonomy of several days and a quantum computing power (of course without overheating) to make the optimization of the space even more difficult.

Given these requirements, the design is obviously a hit. It’s difficult today to find a sexy smartphone that meets all of these criteria. And if some brands are successful, they still have to be inventive so as not to suffer from the (classic) criticisms of the new model, which looks like the previous one.

Pay attention to originality

Design is therefore no longer the most important criterion for buyers. Let’s admit it. The fact remains that aesthetics remain a criterion of choice and that it is commented on (often with passion) when new products are launched.

Every year the new iPhones or Galaxy S receive scathing comments. In addition, some brands do not hesitate to focus their communication on more or less comfortable trolls. In short, the design is not essential, but it remains important.

After the technical constraints, the question of originality arises. And in this little game, we can’t say the designers lack the imagination. Rotating photo module, folding format, imposing photo module, fluorescent coatings, sliding mechanisms: all ideas are easy to highlight. Finally “good” …

Some brands lost the thread a bit because they wanted to differentiate themselves too much. And as if to confirm this hypothesis, the most famous of them all made a real homecoming this year. The new iPhone 12 is heavily inspired by the iPhone 4, a model that is very much loved by Apple followers.

With the iPhone 12 mini, Apple signs the return of the smartphone, which can be operated with one hand. The same goes for the Asus Zenfone 8. Will the nostalgia card pay off? Nothing is less certain, iPhone 12 Mini sales don’t seem to be transcendent.

Hence, it seems very difficult for smartphone brands to strike a balance, even if some like OPPO (Find X3 Pro) are performing technical wonders.

© Lemon squeezer

First problem: In order to be able to access these little technological gems, you have to be prepared to spend more than 1000 euros. Second problem: a French consumer spends an average of 400 euros on buying a new smartphone. At this rate, the majority of us will have to accept the use of ugly smartphones. Fortunately, it’s not just about beauty.

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