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Age of Compromise

You probably could not help noticing how similar the smartphones of the passing year have become. The catchy trends of bezel-less screens, dual cameras and biometric identification have all affected the consumer demand and captured the minds of manufacturers. Yet, does it come at a price?

Let's start with Apple's new iPhone X. It is beautiful in feel and touch, and the FaceDepth technology is mesmerising. Still, there is a widely-criticised notch, that contains the front camera, and that UX/UI designers are crying about. And while other technical features were not revolutionary new to the market, like wireless charging or tap-to-wake functionality, the product comes at a contentious price.

An almost bezel-less alternative and one of the most popular smartphones on the market - Samsung S8. Similarly, glamorous-looking, it is design simplicity at hand that gives it magic. There is a compromise too: the device's authentication system could be easily fooled, while Bixby (Samsung's voice assistant) is could use more polishing and training.

And similar stories go for other flagman devices in the market. The Essential, LG V30, Xiamo's Mi Mix 2 all have some design or functionality flaws. The former has a smaller than Apple's notch, but a weak camera. LG V30 looks almost like S8, but with a bit frustrating facial recognition mechanism and camera functionality limitations. Meanwhile, Xiami's device got rid of top bezel, to put the front camera in the bottom right corner, which may not be so comfortable either.

And that is just on top of processing power, battery life, UI functionality and technical add-on differences. And it feels like for each perk, there is a con to balance it. And in the end, you are stumbled and confused: for so much selection out there, there is really no clear winner and they all look so similar!

But the main takeaway here, is not about the state of the smartphone market, but the design approach that governs it. Its not a coincidence that all these devices are filled with compromises - it is just the way in the industry.

Yet, you have got to remember that every compromise is in a way intentional. Product developers study tastes of their users, to see which new behaviours can be adopted or dropped in favour of a new design decisions. Some of these compromises can even be used to differentiate their brand. Like Apple's notch now is memorable enough to represent a phone in a simple unique graphic.

Finally, as bezel-less design poses so many challenges and compromises, people are simply hungry for futuristic devices, ready to abandon their last generation phones that now look lumpy and old-fashioned. And we accept these omits and drawback to hold the "future" in our hands now. The value comes not only form the tech, but the design and emotion that it invokes. People 'feel' the right phone and they get it. So, compromise is okay, just learn to leverage it right!

...design isn’t just about pushing forward and gaining new ground, it’s also about managing the compromises that had to be suffered as a result of design decisions.

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