Smartphones are far more to us than tools – alongside the value they add to our lives, they are also expressions of our personality and statements of identity. While clothes can be changed every day, smartphones stay with us for years at a time. When it comes to designing them, the challenge is to provide a design that lets people express themselves while fitting comfortably into their daily lives.
Designed by leading creatives at Sony’s Creative Center studios in Sweden and Japan, the new Xperia X series offer a premium finish in a curved form factor, designed specifically to provide the perfect fit for your hand. We sat down to quiz the team about the processes that go into smartphone design…
Q: What factors do you take into account when determining the size of the phone?
A: As designers, it’s important for us to take many different factors into consideration. Talking about size we have the overall footprint (that is, the surface area of the product as you look straight at it) as well as the 3D dimensions such as length, width and “slimness”.
For Xperia X series we set out to achieve a perfect hand fit. We wanted maximum screen size for everyday tasks (and recent studies showed us that 5″ is the optimal size) but we still wanted to make the product very light weight, incredibly comfortable in your hand and versatile so it fits in your pocket.
Added to this, Xperia XA has a borderless display to get the most out of your content. By eliminating the space between the display and the edges of the phone, we were able to design a phone slim enough to sit comfortably in your palm. This means that you have the most efficient use of space.
Q: Do you work to a particular hand size when designing Xperia smartphones?
A: We have access to a lot of data from our usability team (such as average hand size, the lower and upper percentile etc). We have also conducted advanced studies and have access to various reports that leads us to conclude that 5″ is the overall preferred and optimal size at this present time, for the desired target audience. This is taking hand size, usability, user scenarios and apps into consideration.
Q: What comes first – design or features?
A: Of course, it’s a bit of both. We are always running future studies so we have ideas and styles that we share with the planning team. They, in turn, have their own brief and our engineers also come to the table with some incredible ideas from their research. We all then sit down and discuss the possibilities and dream about what can be done – then it’s our role to go away from this and address the design. There are lots of cases where we work around the features but, for example, in Xperia X series the metal back was design driven. The metal back created a beautiful shape that we knew users would love, but it meant the engineers had to work really hard to make it happen.
Q: What are the benefits of curved edges and what went into the design process to determine how the curve should look and feel?
A: The benefits of curved glass and edges are: how unobtrusive it looks and feels, the way it fits both in your hand and in your pocket and how material shift in different lighting.
Since we use high quality curved tempered glass with aluminium detailing, the curve and the way the materials behave when integrated together add another dimension to the story of precision and craftsmanship. The curved glass allows your finger to gently slide from the surface to the aluminium side without any uncomfortable edges.
Q: What is ‘unified design’?
A: ‘Unified design’ is something that is so integrated and meaningful to your life that you don’t even see it as technology. The Xperia X series is designed as an embodiment of this concept. Our designers were inspired by the total harmony between design, technology and people’s way of life. This is where the inspiration came from for the ‘perfect fit’, not only the perfect size and fit for your hand, but also the perfect phone to fit seamlessly into your life.
The same logic is applied to the colour selection in Xperia X series. Each of the phones has a tone-on-tone approach, with continuous colour on both the front and back and a lock screen in the same hue. New colour hues are available to match any style or taste with the addition of Lime Gold and Rose Gold.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge when designing a new smartphone?
A: We’re always working on making our products better and to add real benefits for the end consumer. One of the biggest challenges is to find balance and to create the best product possible based on timing, cost, usability, sustainability, aesthetic and emotional aspects.
If you have any questions for our designers, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. You can also find out more about Xperia X series here.