Design firm Alloy used today’s MEX conference – it stands for Mobile User Experience – to unveil its latest concept phone, the Polygon. It’s their attempt to design a handset that’s actually half-decent for accessing multimedia content – whether it’s TV, music, taking photos or surfing the Web.
And it looks…. like a normal phone, actually. It’s a clamshell phone which replaces the buttons on the bottom half with a rugged touchscreen, which changes according to what you’re using it for.
So when you’re playing music, the touchscreen looks like an iPod. When you’re watching TV, you turn the phone sideways and the touchscreen morphs into channel-switching controls. When you surf the Web, it becomes a QWERTY keyboard. It’s a neat idea – and in every case leaves the top screen completely free for whatever content you’re viewing / accessing.
“People want a hi-res screen to watch TV on, but they also want a tougher low-res touchscreen to control it with,” said Gus Desbarats, chairman of Alloy. “They don’t like mixing the two – getting your grubby finger marks over the screen you’re watching your TV programme on.”
The phone has been designed with the aim of being feasible within 2-3 years, so don’t expect to see this sort of thing on the shelves at Carphone Warehouse tomorrow. But it’s an intruiging look at how handsets may develop in the future. Who knows, it may even persuade people that mobile TV is a good idea.
One flaw picked out by the audience was that this morphable touchscreen wouldn’t be very good for playing mobile games on – something Desbarats accepted as a fair point.
“Yes is the short answer,” he said. “We had to take a view on whether we felt that this would be a hot gaming machine, or if games would be another incidental application. Looking back on it, it’s probably an omission. What it came down to was we were very concerned about keeping this as a very practical achievable handset.”
Well, at least you could probably play Tetris on it… We’ll have more posts from MEX over the next couple of days, as a room-full of usability experts chew over what’s wrong with mobile technology.