Nokia 8148: The Matrix Phone

Nokia Corporation

From the beginning of the 1990s to the middle of the 2010s Nokia was regarded as the most renowned mobile phone producer in the world. From 1998 to 2011 the company was market leader in this field.

At MWC in Barcelona the Banana phone resurrected for the second time…

Industrial Design: Building a legend

It is such a pleasure to see that the banana phone has become a real legend by being rebooted! This tops even the great honor of the fact that Neo and his friends used it in the movie “Matrix” to save the humans. Jonathon Lister and HW design team from HMD did a wonderful job by redesigning it to a modern –again timeless– reinterpretation.

The intention of my first phone concept was to create a new visual language for the upcoming mass product “mobile phone” which makes me feel good, proud and not frightened of the new technology. At that time, the very few available mobile phones looked like remote controls or calculators – only how to dial a number was obvious. New design paradigms and an own visual language for this very new, desirable and expensive product category had yet to be invented.

Replacing all those keys with a touch screen would look much simpler, is intuitive and an easy and direct way of interaction. I added a movable part to enhance the call function since pressing a touchscreen doesn’t give good feedback. This piece was used to mechanically start and end the call and to provide a great haptic feedback. It was also protecting the interface when carrying – making a pocket call at that time cost a fortune and was embarrassing. I chose a slider because it’s elegant, stable and a one-handed operation movement. It looks great in both modes: open and closed. Flips don’t.

When opened, the phone was longer than needed. Talking to a phone in public was not common yet and privacy was quite an issue. To take advantage of the length and make it look a bit shorter I bended the shape to provide a shield directly in front of one’s mouth. By positioning the microphone down there, best speech quality was assumed and guaranteed. The curved shape made its design more distinctive and tensioned. And it looked familiar: like a phone receiver.

The touchscreen and proposed size weren’t possible at that time and it was taken to a drawer, but the concept convinced the Nokia team. My partner and I founded mangodesign and it was the starting point of a very long, exciting and successful cooperation: We developed lots of concepts and designs – among them 7650, 6800, S60, Lifeblog, 610, fonts, themes and icons.

The banana concept was pulled out of the drawer again and we checked if it works with the 2-softkey UI on which Nokia team and we worked on in the meantime: a well perceived solution to master the growing amount of phone functions on behalf of softkeys: changing text labels guided the user of what to do next. Only the relevant content was displayed at a time. Icons and nicer fonts enriched it due to the new full dot matrix display with the amazing resolution of 48×84 pixel. It still had a lot of keys, but the slider covered them and a very clean and elegant look could be achieved – lots of area for elegant styling: our original design was launched for a specific operator version and the Nokia design team cautiously redesigned the front to fit perfectly in the Nokia design range.

The back side is what everybody else sees when you are using it – therefore it should look great, too: the battery and the antenna were standing out visually to make the body look thinner and caused a very distinctive look. At that time people discussed a lot about the potential risk of the radio waves. This antenna could not be overseen and pointed away from the body and gave a reassuring feeling.

It became iconic because of it honest, natural shape, great mechanics and the way how was used: an outstanding user experience from the hardware down to the pixel. The Nokia team made an excellent job to realize this design challenge and even providing this lush sound when closing the cover. It was a phone and it looked like one. It did exactly what and how you’d expected it to do – and was a great stress killer by playing around with the slider or spinning it on the table. And when fallen down or hit under purpose with slider opened (popular demo from marketing), the cover just came off and you could slide it on again.

It is such a pleasure to see that the banana phone has become a real legend by being rebooted! This tops even the great honor of the fact that Neo and his friends used it in the movie “Matrix” to save the humans. Jonathon Lister and HW design team from HMD did a wonderful job by redesigning it to a modern –again timeless– reinterpretation.

The intention of my first phone concept was to create a new visual language for the upcoming mass product “mobile phone” which makes me feel good, proud and not frightened of the new technology. At that time, the very few available mobile phones looked like remote controls or calculators – only how to dial a number was obvious. New design paradigms and an own visual language for this very new, desirable and expensive product category had yet to be invented.

Replacing all those keys with a touch screen would look much simpler, is intuitive and an easy and direct way of interaction. I added a movable part to enhance the call function since pressing a touchscreen doesn’t give good feedback. This piece was used to mechanically start and end the call and to provide a great haptic feedback. It was also protecting the interface when carrying – making a pocket call at that time cost a fortune and was embarrassing. I chose a slider because it’s elegant, stable and a one-handed operation movement. It looks great in both modes: open and closed. Flips don’t.

When opened, the phone was longer than needed. Talking to a phone in public was not common yet and privacy was quite an issue. To take advantage of the length and make it look a bit shorter I bended the shape to provide a shield directly in front of one’s mouth. By positioning the microphone down there, best speech quality was assumed and guaranteed. The curved shape made its design more distinctive and tensioned. And it looked familiar: like a phone receiver.

The touchscreen and proposed size weren’t possible at that time and it was taken to a drawer, but the concept convinced the Nokia team. My partner and I founded mangodesign and it was the starting point of a very long, exciting and successful cooperation: We developed lots of concepts and designs – among them 7650, 6800, S60, Lifeblog, 610, fonts, themes and icons.

The banana concept was pulled out of the drawer again and we checked if it works with the 2-softkey UI on which Nokia team and we worked on in the meantime: a well perceived solution to master the growing amount of phone functions on behalf of softkeys: changing text labels guided the user of what to do next. Only the relevant content was displayed at a time. Icons and nicer fonts enriched it due to the new full dot matrix display with the amazing resolution of 48×84 pixel. It still had a lot of keys, but the slider covered them and a very clean and elegant look could be achieved – lots of area for elegant styling: our original design was launched for a specific operator version and the Nokia design team cautiously redesigned the front to fit perfectly in the Nokia design range.

The back side is what everybody else sees when you are using it – therefore it should look great, too: the battery and the antenna were standing out visually to make the body look thinner and caused a very distinctive look. At that time people discussed a lot about the potential risk of the radio waves. This antenna could not be overseen and pointed away from the body and gave a reassuring feeling.

It became iconic because of it honest, natural shape, great mechanics and the way how was used: an outstanding user experience from the hardware down to the pixel. The Nokia team made an excellent job to realize this design challenge and even providing this lush sound when closing the cover. It was a phone and it looked like one. It did exactly what and how you’d expected it to do – and was a great stress killer by playing around with the slider or spinning it on the table. And when fallen down or hit under purpose with slider opened (popular demo from marketing), the cover just came off and you could slide it on again.