The Back StoryAfter several months of living without a cell phone earlier this year, my family and friends finally pestered me enough about not being able to get a hold of me that I broke down and decided to get a new phone a little over a month ago. The cost of Verizon was the main reason I stopped my cell phone service in the first place, so I was shopping around to find the cell phone provider with the least Draconian policies and lowest rates without destroying any chances for decent coverage.
Somehow, I must have gotten infected by the Steve Jobs flavored Kool-Aid, because I got it stuck in my head that the next cell phone I would own would be the iPhone. Unfortunately, with the data plan that is required with the iPhone, I would be looking at about a $100 per month cell phone bill if I got it through AT&T. The 2 year contract didn't sound like much fun either. Paying AT&T about $2500 over the course of 2 years ($100/mo. x 24 mos. + $100 for the 8GB 3G with contract) for cell phone service was not my idea of a good time. The cost and contract were not fitting into my ideal cell phone needs.
One day, while cruising the internet, I found out that you could unlock an iPhone and use it on T-Mobile. I've never really been a fan of T-Mobile in the past, but from talking to friends with their service, it seemed that they had gotten better at not sucking over the years. Back in November, they started up the Even More Plus plans that save you from dealing with a contract. This was a definite bonus. For about $40 a month (less than half of AT&T's cost), I could get 500 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends (starting at 7PM instead of Verizon's 9PM), and unlimited EDGE speed data (there's also unlimited T-Mobile to T-Mobile, but I couldn't care less). Most phone calls I make are either after 7PM or during the weekend, so it was looking like I found my new cell phone company. Now I just needed the actual phone.
I decided to look for a used 1st generation iPhone (also know as the iPhone 2G), since the iPhone 3G and 3GS aren't compatible with T-Mobile's 3G service (and even if they were, I'd have to pay $25 a month instead of $10 a month for data). After a few weeks of searching, I finally found and won an 8GB iPhone on eBay that was in well cared for condition for less than $200. After having service for a little over a month now on the phone, I can honestly say that I'm relatively impressed with both T-Mobile and the iPhone.
The PointNow the that back story is out of the way, it's time for the point of this post.
Though I enjoy the general styling of the iPhone itself, I think the design and shape of the back of the phone (and just about every other cell phone for that matter) is too minimal and boring. It's not ugly. It just seems like it's missing something as far as the design is concerned and it was only worsened with the iPhone 3G and 3GS and their stale plastic backs. Too make matters worse, the smooth slippery nature of the design, makes it easy to drop the phone accidentally without some sort of a case or covering over the phone.
During the height of the Futurist/Streamline/Machine Age movements in the 40s and 50s, nearly everything had a certain sense of sculptural style to it. Even toasters (like the one pictured below) had class. You could look at an item and see the craftsmanship that went into designing and making them both functional and oddly beautiful at the same time.
This got me thinking. How would I change the design of the back of the iPhone to give it the same elegance as the commonplace objects from bygone days without destroying the pocket friendly nature of the device? I know that there are skins out there that you can apply to iPhones to change the look of them to fit your personality or tastes better (and I originally went at this concept with the idea of designing a skin), but in the end it's really just a sticker. Nothing more.
I went ahead and posted the basic design I worked up below (in case you'd like to get a GelaSkin made with it). Because I was originally thinking of the design from the skin concept, I didn't include the spot for the camera or side buttons in the design, but you should get the general idea.
To give you a more accurate depiction of how it would look, here's a shot of the design applied as a GelaSkin to the iPhone (courtesy of the GelaSkins Custom Skin creator).
If I were more skilled with metalworking, I'd actually modify the back of my iPhone to look like this. The ribs and central vertical bars would be chrome, while the rest would be brushed aluminum. Even though it would kill the pseudo-self portrait mirror nature of the Apple logo, I think it would look great in a glowing green or blue color (like the ones you find on Mac Books). The design would also lend a more functional element, since the horizontal ribs would provide some extra grip to the phone while holding it (without the need for a bulky case). I might go ahead and order the design as a GelaSkin (even though it is just a sticker), until I can find a metal worker with enough skill to re-manufacture the back of my phone with this design worked into it.
It's an idea...