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A Case of Design

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As a case designer, I've heard lots of reasons as to why people do or don't use smartphone cases. For some, putting a case on a phone that is perfectly designed and on which they've spent a considerable amount of money is simply counter intuitive. For others, the fact that they've invested in a new smartphone means they want to protect it. And with regular upgrades driving them to a new handset every couple of years, they may want to keep it in pristine condition to preserve its resale value. However, we're increasingly looking to protect our smartphones because of the emotional attachment we have to them. If you think about how many memories and personal details you have stored in the photos, videos and text messages on your phone that value skyrockets.

Providing this protection for smartphones and tablets is at the core of my job and something we pride ourselves on at Speck. However, as smartphone manufacturers begin to move towards more protective and durable materials, we have to look at how we can go beyond protection and provide value for smartphone owners.

Our design process starts with users, not phones. What will make their lives easier, more enjoyable and how can we meet those needs? I also take inspiration from other categories, whether it's hand dryers that have evolved to become more effective or home furnishing design that's adapted to include additional storage in line with modern living. I like to look at how people are using their phones and tablets and where their frustrations may lie. I never liked having to remember my phone, credit card and driver's license when heading out for dinner or meeting up with friends, so I designed SmartFlex Card, which lets me combine all of those in a protective case. It's all about bridging that gap between what our phones allow us to do and what we want to do with them.

Our focus is increasingly on how we use our phones and tablets, and integrate them into our daily lives. Whether it's using your tablet to follow a recipe in the kitchen, catching up with a friend on FaceTime or docking your phone to listen to music, our gadgets are now more important than they've ever been. The first phase of mobile devices was about portability and the novelty of using your phone for more than just texting and making calls. Now that smartphones and tablets have reached the mass market in a huge way, there's a real need for cases that can add functionality that makes a real difference in the way we use our gadgets.

We're already doing this with products that let you stand, hold and hang your iPad, carry less by keeping your phone and cards together and use your phone hands-free with a retractable stand. I always look out for ways to improve the integration between my gadgets and my day-to-day life, and that's where the majority of my designs come from.

With lots of talk about what features early prototypes of iPhone and iPad may have had, it's clear these extra functionalities are important to the way we use our gadgets. I see this as the next big trend for smartphone cases and it will be interesting to see if manufacturers pick up on the need to add features that allow us to more fully immerse our gadgets into our lives.