I followed the mobile device landscape for ~3 years, and recently, I have drawn a horrible conclusion: mobile manufacturers are not making devices for humans. Maybe they are targeting some kind of alien, but obviously not for people like you and me.
Oversized square flat hands
I don’t know why, but nowadays, there is a race between manufacturers to make the thinnest phone ever. Around 2010, Apple first boasted that their new iPhone 4 will be the thinnest device, with a thickness of only 9.3mm. In April 2011, Sony launched their Xperia Arc, that have a thickness of 8.7mm. One month after, Samsung launched their Galaxy SII; that have a thickness of 8.49mm. And now, the iPhone 5 is rumoured to have a thickness of 7.5mm.
That’s impressive, for a technological aspect, but well, holding a slim and rectangular piece of metal is rather uncomfortable. I sometimes played with an iPhone 4 or a SGSII for a long time, and holding them was quite a painful experience. With their sharp edges, as well as their thin and rectangular shape, it is hard to find a grip to hold them, and I often found myself holding these sharp edges … While I played with the first iPhone, some years ago, the feeling was very different. Thanks to the curved back, it fits perfectly in my hand, and was very comfortable to hold.
The SGSII have another problem, that is its oversized screen. While being very nice to watch movies and for internet browsing, I felt it too big to hold comfortably with one hand (and I have big hands). My fingers was spread in an unnatural way, and sometimes, I was afraid that it would slip and fall. Basically, SGSII might not be suited for women that might have smaller hands or children, but Samsung invented better (or worse): the Galaxy Note.
The Note is a nice device, but is impossible to hold and use with one hand. This simply excludes many usages, like dialing or SMSing with only one hand, that is the most basic feature of a mobile phone.
I conclude that those devices are designed for some giants with flat hands.
A torture machine
Other devices might suit better for normal people, but are actually deadly torture machines, that are disguised into nice devices. My Lumia 800 for example is one of these. Windows Phone’s minimalist style is actually hiding one of the toughest way to train your fingers, or maybe even torture them: the dialog box.
Windows phone dialogs are on the upper side of the screen, while the “back” button is in the bottom. While going back without saving, a dialog is popped with a confirmation button. While used with one hand, the finger have to go from the bottom site to the top site, and to the bottom again, if you have to back one more time.
Moving from top to bottom, and back to top, add some swipe and more moves, and it is the perfect way to break your thumb.
Even more vicious is the tablet, all brand included. This article in french noticed an important problem with tablets, that are their catastrophic ergonomic. When using an iPad, the user’s back and neck is totally broken and may cause health problem if he or she uses the tablet a lot.
(Pictures from Trendasic)
Please, manufacturers, take care of users
As usual, fashion drives a lot of things, and having a tablet, or a thin phone is something fashion. But, as with low-rise jeans, some fashion devices may cause health injuries or at least, be uncomfortable to use. Manufacturers should take this in account, as you can design both a beautiful and ergonomic device (a thicker device like the N950 or the N9/Lumia 800 is not that bad), unless they really want to sell their device to these flat-handed giants.