MIT’s truly wireless charger!

No. Wireless charging isn’t great. I’ll tell you why. Because you need to rest your phone on the charging plate at all times! That’s so limiting that it’s a deal-breaker for me. I like moving my phone around while it’s charging, and that’s fine if it’s tethered to a plug-point via a cable. Make that wireless and my phone will have to stay exactly in one position to charge. Lift it off the charging plate and it stops. To me, that’s a downgrade.

However, the guys at MIT (It’s always the guys at MIT) cracked the impossible! The over-the-air Pi Charger can charge your devices as long as they’re in a 1-foot range! The Pi sits on any desk, looking like a lampshade crossed itself with an Amazon Echo. However, what it does is truly ground-breaking. Without wires, or even contact, the Pi charges your devices by sending magnetic waves through the air. All Pi requires is a specialized charging case that receives signals from the Pi and you’re good to go. The case not only charges your device, but also protects it from accidental falls too. Go ahead and place the Pi in any room and it will charge all devices within a 12 inch radius. The Pi is safe to use, and guess what… you can pretty much do anything with your phone/tablet without having to worry about cables or ports being blocked by them. Wireless charging at its true potential!

Designer: Enlisted Design for Pi.

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Dock Stock and two smoking gadgets!

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So. Samsung’s pretty innovative, but doesn’t get enough credit for it. Samsung managed to crack facial recognition first, it even managed to pull off mass-produced edge-to-edge displays long before the Essential phone or the iPhone X… So, looking at the Dex Book concept, I wouldn’t be surprised seeing the words Samsung written on it.

The Dex Book attempts to do the phone-docking-into-laptop trick. The laptop itself is devoid of a number pad to make space for the phone, and even does away with a track pad at the bottom. The phone docks into the empty space where the number pad would be and the two gadgets immediately pair up. The phone then becomes a track-pad and secondary screen for the laptop, while the laptop itself becomes an extension of the phone, allowing you to use your smartphone as a full fledged workstation!

Designers: Kwanjun Ryu & Jaejin Bong.

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Studio lighting in your phone-case

I’m reminded of how Phil Schiller made a rather important observation at yesterday’s keynotes. The iPhone’s camera is pretty great, but there’s still one thing that it isn’t completely in control of… Lighting. Now while the iPhone 8 and X take care of lighting in their new and improved Portrait Mode, here’s something for the predecessors.

LuMee’s first iteration of smartphone cases featured two strips of light on the front that would illuminate your selfies with a lovely warm glow, making your front-facing camera shots wonderfully illuminated. Social media queen Kim Kardashian even gave it her seal of approval. Now, LuMee Duo adds another strip of lighting that illuminates the back of the phone too, giving you great lighting that’s warm and soft, unlike your phone’s flash. The LuMee Duo case features a button on the back that allows you to activate the front and/or back facing lights. Holding the button even allows you to control the light’s brightness, so you have the perfect intensity for your photos and videos.

The LuMee Duo’s case runs on its own battery, so that it doesn’t steal power from your phone. That also allows it to work independently, letting you use the case separately to cast the light at different angles while the phone films videos or takes shots. It even means you can use just the case as a flashlight while you use your phone to talk to someone!

Designer: LuMee

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Well whaddya know! No home button!

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Yes. I know. We ALL know. You know who released the latest you know what. But not everyone is so amped about the X! Those who find it a tad… redundant… might be more inclined to like the SAY2 smartphone.

What we know about the guts is this: 5.5” AMOLED display, 128GB memory, 8MP front camera, 12.3MP rear camera. Now let’s just get to the looks. It’s almost easier to talk about what it’s NOT. It’s not rounded. It’s not square. It doesn’t have a home button (BTW – that’s nothing new). It doesn’t have any irritating breaks in the frame or face. It doesn’t have any awkward bevel raise. What it is, however, is likable. Except for maybe that too-casual turquoise color. But, other than that, totally likable!

Designer: blueMap design

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YD Talks: Industrial Design & the iPhone X

No product has captured the heart of an industrial designer quite like the iPhone. Arguably one of the most talked about products of our lifetimes, the phone completed 10 years today and the anniversary edition (named the iPhone X) may not just set a standard for the future of technology, but pretty much determines the future of industrial design too.

The iPhone X’s physical design is more and more adopting Dieter Rams’ good design principle of Less is More, giving larger emphasis to virtual than physical. The evolution of the phone increasingly shows a stagnation or rather a standardization of its physical design as the Industrial Design team led by Jonathan Ive get left with little to nothing to do on the phone’s design front, while most of the laudable features of the phone, like the Face ID, the Augmented Reality capabilities, Animated Emoji, or the camera’s Portrait Mode involve R&D, software, and hardware engineering teams, rather than classical industrial designers. It becomes challenging to create something that looks groundbreakingly new when the new technological requirements end up influencing most of the design decisions. What we get left with is a phone that waved goodbye to the 3.5mm headphone jack last year and the Home Button this year… and said hello to a glass back (for wireless charging) and a new color variant to stop people from confusing it with the iPhone 6 and 7 (and even 8).

The iPhone X marks a shift in the vision of an Industrial Designer as products in the consumer electronics department (the smartphone department in particular) move towards creating a larger playground for not design details but features and strategies (it also doesn’t help that phones grow increasingly thinner each subsequent year). A phone designer’s skill set and required tool set goes beyond the traditional sketching and alcohol marker renders. It now involves recognizing the needs of a consumer, which now have become so diverse that Industrial Design cannot solve it alone, and that the screen now stands at the heart of (and occupies 90% of the front of) a phone. The screen shifts between apps and interfaces, allowing the phone to be a shopping portal, a social network, a photo and video recording and viewing tool (a marvelous one), etc… pretty much going to show that industrial design needs to intermingle with hardware design, interaction design, and human-centered design, and industrial designers need to do the same. The video above shows Jonathan Ive talking less about the actual design of the phone and more about its features… in a way mirroring the future of Industrial Design, that now requires embracing different disciplines and skill sets.

It’s therefore a senseless endeavor to look at the iPhone X from a purely industrial design point of view. That view is too narrow and limiting. To truly appreciate the iPhone X (and understand the future of industrial design), one needs to widen one’s approach, and appreciate it not as a marvel of design, but of hardware and software technology, R&D, strategy, and a whole bunch of approaches and decisions that marry themselves with design that’s as little design as possible…

So yes, the iPhone looks pretty much the same as last year’s phone, which in turn looks a lot like the phone from 2 years back; and yes, buttons and ports, details that we industrial designers pretty much live for, will continue disappearing, because the future of Industrial Design is much more than just Industrial Design.

Designer: Apple

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The case that protects your phone AND you

The Privoro Privacy Guard is a literal Faraday Cage for your iPhone. While everyone loves what phones are now capable of, history has proved numerous examples that the phone can constantly collect data and create a profile on you. Mark Zuckerberg tapes up his computer’s webcam up for a reason.

Privoro’s Privacy Guard is a rather bulky case that traps your iPhone in limbo, blocking its cameras, ports, masking its microphones, and even preventing remote RF tracking and location tracking. It comes with a hood that opens and closes, allowing you to toggle between security modes. The case therefore offers two-pronged protection by “protecting” the phone from physical harm, like any case would, but also protecting you, the user, from being spied upon by rogue hackers or even the government. Oh yes, and it also gives your iPhone a rather Vertu-esque aesthetic.

Designer: Privoro

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Become a smartphone Spielberg

They say the most useful camera is the one that’s with you… and that’s undoubtedly your phone. A major percentage of videos uploaded online are now being shot through phone cameras, so it makes sense to be able to make them look as professional as possible. Shoulderpod’s series of phone/camera rigs work beautifully to not just give you a stable shooting platform, but also allow you to connect various peripherals to your shooting device.

Shoulderpod makes a variety of shooting rigs and the X1 (shown below) is by far the most stable and accommodating of them all. With a completely modular set-up, that fits into the smallest of carrying cases, the X1 can be assembled in a configuration that suits you the best. Its vice-grip works with pretty much any phone (so if you’re planning to get the iPhone 8 releasing on Tuesday, you can still use it!) or even camera, like the GoPro or Sony’s recently launched RXO. The X1 also lets you mount everything else from mini light panels, viewfinders, to even microphones… and the entire set-up can be carried by hand (in a single or double handle configuration) or even mounted to a tripod for perhaps the most professionally shot mobile phone videos. What’s best is that once you’re done, the X1 dismantles completely, fitting into a slick case that slides right into any bag you may have. Looking for something a tad bit smaller? Shoulderpod’s S2 and R2 may just hit the sweet spot!

Designer: Shoulderpod

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The iPhone 7 – Jack is back!

It’s effectively been a year since Apple killed the headphone jack… and this year something big is on its way. No it isn’t the iPhone 8. It’s the iPhone 7 headphone hack! Yes, I say hack, because serial tinkerer, Scotty Allen literally hacked his iPhone 7 to fit in a functioning headphone jack! Here’s how…

Remember how initial teardowns of the iPhone 7 revealed that the area where the headphone jack would usually sit was not occupied by a speaker, but in fact lay empty because Apple executives said that the gap was a “barometric vent” that helped the iPhone’s altimeter work with precision? Well, Scotty decided to make a trade-off by filling that gap with a headphone jack. He first figured out how the circuitry would work, by connecting a headphone port component to the lightning port of the phone. While this worked in practice, it had one major flaw. The solution would mean the lightning port would stop charging the phone (because of a circuitry overlap). Scotty then decided to use Apple’s Lightning to Aux adapter and craft himself a circuit switcher out of a flexible PCB, and voila! After more than 15 weeks of constant fiddling with the iPhone’s electronics, he managed to make a solution that worked. Oh yes, he also had a neat little hole CNC machined into the side of the phone for the headphone jack to slide through. The end result would allow the jack to work perfectly, and the lightning port to charge the phone too… but not together. While that seems like a small caveat, it goes to show that Apple’s ways aren’t always the best for the consumers, and given the opportunity to fix or hack one’s electronics, there will always be someone who puts a consumer’s needs above the strategies of a technological super-company.

The process of putting a headphone jack onto the iPhone 7 is by no measure an easy one. The video shows how many times Scotty had to try (and fail) to get his solution to work. It involved a lot of broken hardware. However, he decided to publish all the necessary files on github. Although be warned… the price of innovation doesn’t come cheap (in other words, try this on a spare phone please). You can check out Scotty’s Strange Parts website to read about his endeavor.

Video Credits: Scotty Allen

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Samsung Reveals Galaxy Note 8

Samsung officially announced the newest update to the flagship phablet Note series in their Unpacked Event in New York on Wednesday. The update brings along changes that long-time fans of the large phone will be excited for. Here are some of the most major changes that are coming to the Note 8.

The Note now features a 6.3 inch AMOLED display, which is a notable size increase from the Note 7’s 5.7 inch display and the iPhone 7 Plus’s 5.5 inch display.

The update also brings a dual-camera system for the first time to Samsung phones. Both lenses come with 12-Megapixel sensors, a wide angle lens with a f/1.7 aperture, as well as a telephoto lens with a f/2.4 aperture capable of a 2X optical zoom similar to the iPhone 7 Plus.

The phone also ditches physical buttons on its lower bezel placing the home button under the screen and shrinks the top bezel, allowing for the screen to take a larger ratio of the phone’s front.

Other updates include the newest Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB of RAM and an upgraded 8-Megapixel front facing camera. The Note 8 also holds onto microSD card support and a 3.5mm headphone jack, much to fan’s relief as other manufactures have begun ditching the headphone jack.

Prices for the flagship range somewhat, but within the U.S., fans can expect to pay around $950 for the Note 8 with 64GB of internal storage. The Note 8 will be exploding into stores on September 15th.

[ Samsung ] VIA [ TheVerge ]

 

A Shapeshifting Smartphone

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Curved, flexible, and packed with all the tech gamers dream of, the Alienware Atlanta 01 forever changes the shape of the smartphone for an enhanced entertainment experience. Its curved body is more ergonomic, features better grip and feels similar to a controller. The curved display also makes for a more realistic, immersive VR experience! Thoughtfully placed side buttons can be assigned varying functionalities to accommodate different games. It even has integrated LED strips to work with Alienware’s cool AlienFX special gaming light system!

Designer: Abhishek Yenji

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