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HTC's head designer on what's exciting in designing for mobile right now

Neil Bennett | July 1, 2015
HTC's head designer Drew Bamford tells us how you create interfaces and experiences for increasingly large phones and VR headsets – and how you design differently for Asia.

NB: What external factors - physical product design, societal or usage trends - are driving what you're designing most currently?

DB: "The screen size trend has been towards bigger consistently. As a company, we're relatively unanimous on the fact that around five inches is actually a pretty good standard size across all the regions. Of course, it varies somewhat regionally. In Asia there's definitely an appetite for bigger phones and that's picking up in the US as well. I think Europe will probably be the last region to adopt the big phone.

NB: How do larger screens affect the way you design interfaces and apps?

DB: "On very large screen products we think there's an opportunity to be more productive. I think that the smaller screens are more about consumption and it's relatively casual consumption of information. As you get to the bigger displays, you can actually create more: not only in a classic productivity sense - with spreadsheets and emails and that kind of thing - but also from a pure creative standpoint with photos and videos and creating artifacts out of those raw materials."

NB: Why do you think us Europeans still prefer smaller phones - do we just have smaller pockets?

DB: "[Laughs]. It may be. You have better tailoring - the suits are not as big. Maybe it's just the overall environment: In the US you can imagine things getting bigger because everything's big in the US.

"Whereas in Europe people are driving small little cars and they're living in smaller apartments. Now the same is true in Asia, which makes it somewhat surprising that people have giant phones. But for a lot of our Asia customers, the phone is their only digital product. They don't have a PC."

NB: How else is designing phone interfaces different for Asia?

DB: "We've had some interesting examples over the past few years on the phone where we've just encountered different kinds of expectations. An interesting example based on the home screen that we discussed earlier is that in the West there's a pretty standard Android home screen. There's an All Apps drawer, and then there's sort of like desktop panels where you put shortcuts. That's the defacto standard.

"But if you look at China, there are quite different expectations. What's evolved is that almost all of the local Android manufacturers in China use an iPhone model. There is no App drawer - all of the apps are spread across the home screen.

"Now we're having to have this internal debate: should we try and enforce a global standard for HTC and then be kind of the only manufacturer in China that has this weird Western Android home screen or do we adopt a different model in China where we actually localise the UI to work the way people expect it?


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