Wired founder Kevin Kelly has written a new book What Technology Wants, which funnily enough on my reading list. I am still in two minds whether Kelly sounds like a burnt out hippy with neurons fried by too many psychotropic substances, or an academic trying to make sense of technological development.
Sometimes you come across a design touch that gives a real idea of the people who made the product and makes the product even more valuable in your estimation. I never owned a Nokia 5110 because at the time I rocked Ericsson in the late 1990s; but occasionally I used one of the office pool mobiles .
This was one of the handsets alongside the 6110 which brought Nokia to dominance with the ‘candy bar’ format. The old Sony CM-H333 used to be nicknamed the ‘Mars bar’ phone because of its similarity in dimensions to the bar at the time (the bar has got a bit smaller since).
It was one of the first phones to have snake on board which was the first taste of mobile gaming for many people and a menu-based user experience that put Nokia head and shoulders above the competition in terms of usability.
If you were technically savvy enough to use data transfer there was an infra-red port that shuffled along faster than the mobile network could have delivered anyway, but most of the people I knew who used mobile networks for data at the time went with the Ericsson SH888.
Ericsson had a badge-engineered version of the Psion 5 PDA catchily called the MC218 (if only other Communicators – N900, E7 etc had keyboards that were that good – see the below video) and all their phones had a robust build quality unmatched by any mainstream mobile phone maker since.
One of the most interesting aspects of the phones product design was its fascia which was designed to detach. This of course opened up all kinds of hideous tack that graced mobile phone shops and market stalls up and down the country. It also meant that when you dropped the phone a lot of the kinetic energy was dissipated as the fascia popped off and it reduced the amount of damage incurred.
A secondary feature of this was that it revealed some of Nokia’s internal product design to a wider audience. The speaker enclosure revealed an attention to detail and a Finnish sense of humour, a kind of hardware Easter egg with the folk art wood-cut inspired face as a speaker cover.
Here’s what it looks like in more detail (apologies for my poor image editing skills). When I first saw it put a smile on my face and to be honest with you, most of the products that have done that since then were designed by Apple. The point of this trip down memory lane is that Nokia can do amazing user experiences; they just need to find their way back.
By the time is published I should be landing in Hong Kong and will then cross the border to Shenzhen.Looking to catch up with interesting people in Shenzhen & Hong Kong for a coffee to find out more about what’s happening there. Contact me here.