It’s tempting to think that how a smartphone looks is a largely superficial thing – a factor that might initially draw you to a phone but not necessarily seal the deal, so to say. Besides, don’t most of us tend to put our phones in cases, rendering the appearance of the phone’s outer shell even more redundant?
In many instances, however, a phone’s design can actually be fundamental to how it works. Here are some smartphones from the last decade where the design has elevated the handset’s visual appeal or functionality.
Sony Xperia Play (2011)
When the Xperia Play launched at MWC 2011, many people would’ve remembered a time when their phone was distinctly separate from their gaming device – if, obviously, they actually had the latter. So, the Xperia Play must have seemed like a stroke of genius for including a physical, built-in gamepad.
That gamepad – inspired by the layout of PlayStation DualShock controllers – could be slid out from the device’s main enclosure and later back into it as and when desired.
BlackBerry Priv (2015)
Continuing on the subject of slide-out physical controls, BlackBerry’s last major roll of the dice as a smartphone maker came in 2015 with the Priv. Like the BlackBerry devices of yesteryear, it had a physical QWERTY keyboard – but, when it wasn’t needed, this one could be tucked away within the phone’s body.
In this mode, the Priv resembled a typical 2015 smartphone. It also ran on Android rather than BlackBerry’s own failed mobile OS – but Mashable India reflects that the Priv “was all a little too late”.
Apple iPhone SE (1st generation) (2016)
There is a wide array of Apple iPhones both old and new on the market, but the first-generation iPhone SE might just represent the core iPhone design’s best balance of prettiness and practicality.
That’s because, while the iPhone 4 largely comprised worryingly fragile glass, the iPhone 5 swapped that for more resilient aluminium. This design was later inherited by the 2016 version of the iPhone SE, which Fast Company contributing writer Jesus Diaz says “became my favourite Apple phone of all time.”
Motorola Razr (2019)
The Motorola Razr line of phones goes back a long way, with the Razr V3 having impressed in 2004. At that time, the device’s sleek design captured headlines – and has since become so iconic that Motorola eventually opted to reinvent the Razr as a new flexible and foldable handset for 2019.
In design, this Razr is reminiscent of other modern ‘foldables’ like the Samsung Galaxy Fold – demonstrating just how effectively Motorola has brought an old but classic design up to date.
Google Pixel 6 (2021)
“We’re transforming the inside, we wanted to transform the outside at the same time,” Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services, told Insider about his company’s decision to give the Pixel 6 a significantly different design to its predecessor.
It’s a gorgeous design, too – with a glass-and-metal assembly and a rear camera bar that has let Google integrate multiple sensors in a visually seamless way.