Todd Wood, VP of Design with BlackBerry, and Don Lindsay, VP of User Experience know a lot of incredible details about BlackBerry 10 and its supported devices. A couple months ago at BlackBerry Live, they outlined some of the lesser-known design decisions that went into the latest BlackBerry 10 devices, and I put together a list of 10 of the more interesting nuances. It’s pretty interesting to see all the different design decisions that go into making a smartphone and it gives you a better appreciation of the tool you have in your hand.
1. Curved edges make it easy to put the device in your pocket.
At the top and bottom edges of a BlackBerry 10 device, you’ll notice the edges are rounded and tapered in a subtle way. This design decision is actually very practical and was made to allow the phone to easily slide into a pocket. Rounded edges are also considered more modern, but that’s almost secondary to the pragmatic nature of rounded and tapered edges.
2. The back plate has a computer designed pattern that makes it “soft”.
At the back of a BlackBerry Z10 is a computer designed pattern of small indentations that makes the device feel softer in the palm of your hand. The small indentations become less pronounced and taper off around the edges of the smartphone which gives it a unique sensation as the device is gripped. When gripping the smartphone, the tips of your fingers, which are the most sensitive part of your hand, touch this tapered pattern, giving it a soft feeling.
3. The BlackBerry font is called Slate Pro and it’s Canadian.
The BlackBerry font, which is the same on both the hardware and the software, was created by Rod McDonald of Nova Scotia. The font is called Slate Pro and was released in 2008 under license to a company called Monotype who in turn ended up working with BlackBerry. We’re now left with a Canadian font on a Canadian smartphone.
4. A straight Q10 keyboard allows the screen and fonts to be larger.
You may remember the BlackBerry Bold 9000, the original BlackBerry Bold which was one of the most successful smartphones BlackBerry ever sold. On that keyboard, the keys were curved, which allowed for an ergonomic feel while holding the keyboard. For the Q10, the modern version of the Bold 9000, BlackBerry went with straight keys because it allowed them to fit a bigger screen and larger fonts on the device. It’s a compromise that makes sense considering consumers demand larger screens and more room for media these days.
5. The frets “dovetail” over the edge and gives you a “maximized” feel.
On older BlackBerrys, you may remember a silver fret that exists between the keys on a BlackBerry’s keyboard. This fret serves a few purposes. It makes the device look more modern, it distinguishes the rows of keys and provides a tactile means of feeling where the keys are without looking. On the new device, there’s a subtle change in the way frets are implemented as they dovetail over the side of the device. This has a subconscious effect on the user, making the device seem bigger and more spacious.
6. The Swatch Red Lacquered watch, among other things, inspired the Q5.
BlackBerry has announced a new smartphone for developing markets called the BlackBerry Q5. It’s a low end version of its counterpart, the BlackBerry Q10. The device comes in a variety of colours, including a bright red. Todd Wood showed a variety of inspiration pieces for the device, one of which was the Red Lacquered Swatch watch.
7. The Q10 hardware curves are parallel to the app icon curves.
Uniformity is an important design consideration in any product but the latest BlackBerry 10 devices, it gets right down to the hardware and software having parallel lines. If you look closely at the BlackBerry Q10, the hardware curves at the top of the device are parallel to the app icon curves on the homescreen. It really gives you the sense that hardware and software are working as one.
8. OLED screens save battery by being black.
An interesting fact I recently learned about OLED screens is that a black pixel doesn’t require any power. This means that anywhere you can put a black pixel on the screen, you’re saving power. The Q10 has been praised for its battery life and the fact that the device has a black theme with an OLED screen has a lot to do with it. This little tidbit goes a long way if you have other devices with an OLED screen. Put a black screensaver on it or keep it locked and watch your battery life go up.
9. There is a raised fret in the back that protects the camera.
The BlackBerry Q10 makes use of frets for all the reasons described above but there’s a lone fret in the back that serves an important function. With a raised fret in the back of the phone, not only is there the added design benefit of separating phone from back cover, but the raised fret also protects the camera when placed on its back. The small space means that the camera is never flush to the table it’s on, protecting the lens and improving the lifespan of the device.
10. The glass on the Z10 curves over the sides to give a “maximized” feel.
If you look closely at a Z10, you’ll see that the glass is built into the device and extends right to the very edge. This is an interesting design because it eliminates any space between the screen and the edge, giving the smartphone an infinity edge pool-like feel.
It’s pretty crazy to think that each of these design decisions didn’t just happen as a one-off. Each of these decisions was prototyped a hundred times, focus-grouped, tested, implemented, scrapped, and re-designed to come up with the final decision. All of this has to happen within the typical 2 year cycle it takes to get a smartphone from design to finish product. Just imagine how much it takes to get a car finished, let alone something that fits inside your pocket.