Some Radical Ideas for Improving on the iPhone's Design

As Steve Jobs once said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower"

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Following months of speculation, Apple has finally confirmed reports of an iPhone-related announcement at their Cupertino headquarters on October 4. Apple news junkies weren't too surprised as the date emerged on Apple blogs weeks ago, and if the fanboys are right, the phone's new design won't be too surprising either. As one Twitter user suggested, the iPhone 5 or whatever it's called will be "just an iPad 2 cut into quarters." The fact of the matter is, most smartphones that have been released since the original iPhone dropped jaws in 2007 look exactly the same. As Apple's graham cracker-shaped touchscreen design takes over the market--and Apple continues to mount patent infringement lawsuits against companies that copy it too closely--other companies are trying to break the mold. Some of the designs are pretty weird, but as Steve Jobs once said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."

Samsung Skin

Apple's biggest design rival released images of this concept over the summer, and rumors have been circulating lately that they're going to bring the phone to market in 2012. The futuristic device is impossibly thin, virtually indestructible and can be bent into any shape. Using highly efficient AMOLED technology, the phone is essentially  one big screen that's "rollable, bendable and can even survive blows from hammer," according to the International Business Times. The technical specifications are expected to be on par with those of the latest iPhone, and it will reportedly run on a new Google operating system called Android Flexy. Did we mention it bends?

Nokia Morph

Featured at the Museum of Modern Art "Design and the Elastic Mind," this concept from Nokia takes Samsung's bendable phone to the next level. The device takes advantage of "self-cleaning and self-preserving" nanotechnology that's also incredibly versatile. "Using the same principle behind spider silk, this elasticity enables the device to literally change shapes and configure itself to adapt to the task at hand," Nokia said in a press release. "An unfolded larger design could display more detailed information, and incorporate input devices such as keyboards and touch pads." Nanotechnology could also make it possible to integrate solar cells into the design as well as make the device transparent.

Mozilla Seabird

While not incredibly futuristic as far as technology is concerned, the Mozilla Seabird would usher in a new era of democratic design. Mozilla Labs are famous for their open source software like Firefox and have recently floated the idea of creating hardware using a similarl process. This is not to say the concept device doesn't have cool features. The latest sketches show plans for a built-in projector that could also project a keyboard onto your desktop. There's also the possibility of turning any flat surface into a touchpad--all of which could turn the tiny device into a room-sized interface. From initial sketches, you can see why they call it "Seabird."

Microsoft's Swiss Army Phone

TechCrunch uncovered a recent patent filing from Microsoft for a phone they describe as a "Dual-Screen Swiss Army Knife Slider Phone." Theirs is a vast improvement on the official name on the patent--Mobile Communication Device Having Multiple, Interchangeable Second Devices--and describes well how Microsoft looks like it wants to enable mobile phones with more hardware functions. The patent filing show a "game controller and keyboard [that] can each comprise a speaker and a microphone to enable mobile phone handset operation" as well as "expansion storage devices, solar panels for charging a battery of the first device, or for directly powering the first device, or medical sensors (surface thermometers etc.)."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.