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Aug 4, 2008

The Incomplete Guide to Mobile Form Factors – Part #1



I received some requests from people asking me to write about different form factors in handheld devices.
It’s not a subject I’m an expert in but I decided to do some homework and post about it in the blog.

I will do it in a series of posts called:
The incomplete guide to Mobile Form Factors!


As you already know, there are many different devices. The differences are not only in the OS, processor and communication, it’s also in the form factor. Different people have different flavors and it’s hard to make one device which will fit everyone’s taste.

In addition, there are interesting concepts about how different form factors fit different tasks such as talking, reading, writing, etc.
Here’s a nice image that describes different principals in a form factor design:


So let’s begin with one of the most popular form factor called Candybar.

Candybar: (taken from Wikipedia):
The candybar (or brick) design is a popular mobile phone form factor where the device is a rigid cuboid in shape but small enough to be placed into a pocket.
It is so-named because it resembles a candy bar in size and shape. This form factor is widely used by manufacturers such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson.
(Wikipedia obviously forgot Windows Mobile manufacturers here...)

OK, so let’s examine different types of the Candybar form factor:

Candybar QWERTY:
Probably the most popular form factor. Used in Blackberry devices, Palm, Motorola etc.
It can come with or without touchscreen.

Examples:


The advantage of the Candybar QWERTY is that you have a full keyboard, which is always available.
The problem with this design is that it means smaller screen size comparing to the ones with no keyboard at all.

Candybar SureType:
This form factor is very similar to the previous one, except it has less keys in the keyboard where each key holds 2 letters.
This model is used in Blackberry pearl, I had a pearl device for few weeks and the typing was far less convenient for me than a regular QWERTY keyboard.
I think this form factor can be very convenient as a phone, but not for long typing.


Candybar T9:
Same as the above but with even less keys (this one has a T9 keyboard similar to simple cell-phones)
This form factor is rarely used for Smartphone devices because it’s not optimal for typing tasks such as mails. (Unless you are a teenager)


That’s it for this part of the Incomplete guide to Mobile forms Factor. More posts to come.


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