Mobile Life


A couple of months ago we introduced you to 19yr old art student, Gaby Sahhar from Streatham. He’d just won a competition run by Vodafone and the Tate to design the back cover for the Vodafone Smart II phone – and we were blown away by his Picasso-inspired design, artistic talent, and passion for mobile phones.

“I want a screen that leaves a trace of me”

Not only was he excited about designing his first cover, he was brimming with ideas about how to make phones a more stimulating part of our lives. So we asked him to take-up the challenge, and outline how his perfect phone would look, feel and perform. These are some of his ideas:

It’s square: Forget rectangles, a square is the closest thing to a circle and, according to Sahhar, “It seems more natural”. Sahhar loved some of the square mobiles of old: remember the Nokia X5 or the Motorola FlipOut? Another reason why Sahhar loves the idea of a square phone is to show-off his current passion for Polaroid photography.

Infinity screen: “What’s with all that wasted space around the edge?” Sahhar asks. His perfect phone would have a screen that stretches right to the edge of the handset to showcase great images. Think infinity pool, and beyond.

Curved Coral Back: “Why do some phones still have a flat back when the palm of your hand is never flat?” Sahhar’s square phone would have a curved back made from a natural material, to give it a quality finish and fantastic depth of texture. “I like the depth and appearance of coral,” Sahhar says, “but obviously that’s a scarce natural resource.”

Moving background: “We get submerged in our phones, so we need phones that express that,” says Sahhar, who went to an aquarium for inspiration about how a moving background might work. “I also see a moving background as something that could reflect your changing moods,” Sahhar says, “Like an advanced version of those apps that use your temperature to tell whether you are angry, or in love.”

A trace of you: We don’t just look at our phones, we touch them and live with them – but they seem to retain no trace of us. “I want a screen that leaves a trace of me when I touch it – maybe it’s a circle left by my fingerprint. We interact with our phones in a physical way and my perfect phone would show that.”


Organic apps: – “I hate tapping into one app, then going out of it and then tapping into another,” Sahhar says, “My perfect phone would allow me to draw a line between my favourite apps and connect them so that they could grow organically – to represent my life.”  Sort of like the way that your brain makes neural connections as you grow up and develop

One touch: – Sahhar is excited about the trials that have been taking place to use your phone as a one tap payment method for buying things, or a travel card: “Who wants to carry lots of different cards, when you can touch in and out with your phone?”

A lasting image:  – There’s nothing less inspiring than a blank screen: “Why can’t mobiles have an image, like the one you’d see on a Kindle, even when the phone is not in use?” Sahhar asks, “Let’s look at something, not nothing.”

Part of the planet: Above all, you can’t have a beautiful, inspiring, phone that’s draining the Earth’s resources. Of course, some manufacturers have been thinking along those lines for quite a while, making not just handsets but their whole business an environmentally friendly as possible. “My perfect phone would be natural and organic,” Sahhar says, “Organic in that it’s part of you, but also part of the world in the best possible way.”

Do you agree with Gaby Sahhar’s perfect smartphone? Would you like to use a square phone with a curved coral back? Let us know in the comments below. 

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  • Some good stuff there. Roll on infinity screens and pictures that stay put when the phone is ‘off’ and not being used. A couple of thoughts though:

    A “square” phone with any screen of any useful size “bigger-than-small” would almost certainly be uncomfortable to hold in the hand, for most people (especially younger people) for any period of time, curved back or not.  For larger screen-sizes, something “rectangular-ish” is pretty much the only choice – at least until we have pull-out, bendable screens (or eye glasses, or projectors built in, etc). Video on a limited-sized square screen would be a nightmare – but that assumes you want to watch videos on your phone I guess!
    The curved back is a great idea, although possibly even better if it was actually contoured a little more like a hand-molded shape to be even more comfortable to hold – although this would give rise to the problem of “left-handed”- versus “right-handed”-backed phones.  Or maybe the back could be malleable in some way, like memory foam? 

    Also, when people put their phones down, some people leave them face up and some people leave them face down (and some mix it up!). When “face up” on a table, for example, the curve/contour needs to be angled and stable enough leave the phone screen in a visually agreeable position if the user expects to glance at it – and that could be a design problem when you factor in portrait-versus-landscape glancing.   I love the idea of an organic or coral back though.  (Me, I’m a “face-downer” so it doesn’t really matter 🙂

    Gaby’s point about “app switching” is spot on – it’s a complete pain. There must be a better way. I like the idea that apps could be ”linked up” and maybe learn about each other, and the user’s own preferences and usage patterns, and maybe use that to offer ways of switching between them.

    • A malleable back? I don’t think I’d ever want to put the phone down if it was that tactile – great idea. 

  • My ideal phone would have some kind of tactile feedback in the screen as well. I want my phone to be able to respond to my touch, exactly where on the screen I touch it. The same goes for tablets. That’s the one thing holding me back from using ‘post pc’ devices and phones for large amounts of typing. I don’t want to have to concentrate on the keyboard the whole time. If I miss a key, I want to feel it like I would on a traditional keyboard.

  • Well this is one of the stupidest phone designs ever. First off a square phone would mean the aspect ratio is wrong for everything, apart from polaroid photos, and this of course is the main reason why people buy phones, to take polaroid photos. Surely it would be better to have a rectangular screen which can display sqaure images, you know like current phones (also i don’t think a square is the closest thing to a circle, a semi-circle for example, is a lot closer to a circle than a square is).

    The reason why phones (and tablets) have bezels is so you can hold them without continually pressing the touchscreen, if the screen went all the way to the edge then handset would become basically unusable.

    Someone could also do with telling this guy that live wallpapers already exist, as well as apps that race where you’ve touched the device, in fact one of my live wallpapers does this.

    In all devices the screen being on is the biggest user of the battery, so if your phone permanantly displayed an image on the screen it would run out of battery in about 2 hours.

    In short I think it’s very unfair to ask someone who’s never seen or heard of a mobile phone before to design a brand new one, as they’ll probably end up seeming a bit dim, like this poor guy.

  • amartens

    Smart fella, he’s got some really interesting thoughts that I for one never even thought of. Especially when he talks about the organic, dynamic apps and interfaces. Very interesting. The only point that I definitely don’t agree with is the screen being a square.. thats just not very user-friendly, nor natural. And also, who says that the circle is the most natural shape?? How many circles can you see when walking in a forest for example… none really… Perfect circles dont really exist in nature. 

    Anyway, smart kid anyway, and I too am in love with polaroid photography myself. But I mean real polaroid photography, not someone taking photos with instagram and adding a polaroid effect to it… :O

  • People have such different views on what would make the perfect phone and your comments highlight this perfectly. We asked Gaby to get involved with this because we thought an artistic mind like his would conjure up some really interesting ideas and get our readers thinking about phones from a different perspective. He’s done a great job in my opinion – nothing ‘dim’ about that!

  • Aftab Alam

    It’s square: 
    >> Square may please some, but a rectangle is logical in terms of mobile phone. It provides great options in terms of basic usage, work and entertainment. Be it making calls, chatting or games, a rectangular screen provides way more options than a square one.
    A circle (or even a square for that matter) is not feasible design, so anything which is ‘closer’ would be less feasible. People may want their phones to be a show-off, but not at the cost of compromising their usage options.

    Infinity screen: 
    >> Cool idea, except for a minor flaw. You wouldn’t want to hold the phone on your palm all the time, or at the sides. The space around allows users to ‘grab’ their handset. It provides a comfortable feel.
    Instead, why not design the space with something artistic, somethat that would match the screen? Or better, something that compliments your screen?

    Curved Coral Back: 
    >> Really beautiful choice. And since Coral is a scarce resource, why not offer more options? How about a matt finish, or a ‘glow in the dark’ option (a bit cheesy though)? 

    Moving background:
    >> Nice option. That would mean adding extra sensors to the handset though. Would drain a lot of battery, so it would require a much more powerful battery that the usual phones have. Probably around 5000 mAh, or something around that.

    A trace of you: 
    >> Um no. I would like my screen to stay smooth and clearly visible. It feels irritating if the handset starts keeping our traces (like our fingerprints, for that matter).

    Organic apps:
    >> Okay, that would save some time and would be convenient. But that would also make us dependent a lot more on these apps. If any of these apps crash (which they would, eventually), the handset may become redundant. Or, it would leave us with the ‘manual labour’ of doing everything one by one. 
    It’s like sitting on a wooden chair after you’ve had continuous experience of sitting on sofas. Adjusting, but pain in the a**. We are humans after all. 

    One touch:
    >> True that. And, it would become a hacker’s paradise. Sorry, I am cool with carrying my cards with me.

    A lasting image:
    >> Nice, but may become inconvenient.
    Pump the battery power to an additional 5000 mAh (around 10000 mAh) if this is to be introduced. Or, invent a screen which can store image and display it without siphoning too much battery. 

    Part of the planet:
    >> Let’s be real. Everything drains (or for a fair word, uses) the natural resources. Its just a question of whether the resource being used is abundant or scarce.
    Environment friendly, sure. Let’s invest in ‘Nokia Morph’ concept 😛

  • jamesbc

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  • Does anyone disagree with Gaby’s ideas?

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