The Ever-Changing World of Smartphones

The demand for the newest and “best” smartphone is high, especially when they are first released. We often obsess over the most updated models and watch in awe as the lucky ones purchase the newest version of the iPhone. What makes the newest version that much better than the last? The answer typically does not have to do with the technology itself – it has to do with the design. Without considering consumers’ desires and constant need for bigger and better, manufacturers such as Apple would not be as successful as they are today. For this reason, human factors is perhaps the most important aspect of the evolution of smartphone design.

Throughout a series of blog posts, I will analyze the evolution of smartphone designs through a human factors lens. Different manufacturers develop smartphones in various shapes and sizes. Certain versions of smartphones are better for certain people, depending on what they are looking to do with the phone. For example, simpler smartphones are likely best for older people, those who are not as familiar with the most current technology, and those who do not need all of the applications and functions that come with the newest smartphones. The smartphone design that is best for one person may be completely different for another.

The evolution of the iPhone.

Recently, the focus of smartphone design has shifted to become “larger and simpler, making room for a larger screen and less buttons” (Ray, 2015). Production has shifted to satisfy consumer demand for high-definition screens. There is talk of developing smartphone designs even further, such as transparent phones. In 2013, Polytron claimed that by the end of the year they would have completed this feat. Polytron, along with every other smartphone manufacturer, still has yet to develop this product. Analyzing current smartphone designs will show the faults in the continuation of developing these products. At what point do we stop and realize that simpler may be better?

The future of smartphones – the transparent smartphone.

Human factors is at play in the constant updates made to smartphones. Users want more, even though in some cases simpler is better. A simply designed smartphone is more user-friendly, especially for those who are new to it. However, most people are now familiar with the typical design of smartphones and constantly want new and improved features.

User centered design is critical aspect of human factors that producers must consider. More specifically, understanding user needs and separating that from product requirements is important. Users constantly feel that they need more features on their phones, but the product could be designed with minimal features and still meet basic requirements, like phone calls and texting. It will be interesting to see how smartphones continue to evolve in their design. By updating their looks, manufacturers are drawing in their consumers because everyone wants the best and newest versions, no matter what. Are their designs changing this much for the wrong reasons?


Ray, A. (2015, January 22). The history and evolution of cell phones [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Zeine, H. (2017, November 02). The Future Of Smartphones. Retrieved from

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3 Replies to “The Ever-Changing World of Smartphones”

  1. I agree with your analysis on the developing design of smartphones and how a lot of the customer’s interest in the device lies solely in the design look. I think this trend is further emphasized in Katherine Pinney’s blog Life Through a Human Factors Lens. There is a strong desire for a minimalistic look in modern day designs, that I feel is fully visible in the evolution of cell phones. However, the consequence of this clean look is a loss of affordances. As you mentioned, simpler smartphones are generally best for older people because they are not as familiar with current technology. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the changing functions of the newest cell phones. Not only is the design of the device changing, but the applications are constantly changing as well. While many people are caught in this race to have the next best device with the top-level design, I’ve come to wonder if this fan group is gradually growing smaller as it becomes more challenging to keep up with the nonstop changes. Will this trend of continuous change ever slow down, or will we continue to yearn for the next innovative design to come? Is newer always better? Is progress defined by constant alteration despite immediate demand for such change?

  2. It’s interesting how when the iPhone was first released, people were amazed by it’s small size relative to how many things it could accomplish. Now though, it seems as though larger phones are associated with better quality and faster working devices. Since the iPhone gets bigger the every release and more additions of newer and better features are added, people seem to associate those two things together now: size and quality. But the bigger the phones get, the harder they are to hold or fit in your pocket, which were the exact purposes of the cell phone when they were first released. It is clear that the goal of cell phones has shifted as technology has advanced.

  3. I personally hate how the rhetoric surrounding the development of smart phones has just been that “bigger is better”. I’ve had an iPhone SE (looks like a iPhone 5) for the past 2 years and couldn’t be more satisfied. The 5 inch screen makes it pocket portable and doesn’t overwhelm me upon usage unlike the iPhone plus series. Additionally, my phone processes information equally as quickly as some of the larger phones which further incentives me to keep my current model. I personally find the size of the current era of smart phones to be ridiculous and I hope that we re-shift the conversation back to portability and away from sheer size.

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