Designing IP Phones for Beauty and Practicality – IP phone aesthetics
In the 7th of 8 posts on how to design an IP phone Snom Marketing Manager Lesley Hansen talks ip phone aesthetics.
Design is at the service of the user and the product functionality. In order to reach a good design, we must give priority to decisions that are taken during the products development. A design that is artistically pleasing is one of the criteria that is considered by Snom when we design any new handset or conference phone.
All telephone handsets have at their base the model used by Siemens in their first handsets for traditional telephony 30 years ago. Siemens invested in the development of the technology from day one. They set great store by ergonomics, intent on making the telephone more convenient. They started with the introduction of the hand receiver, followed later on by the scoop-shaped receiver which typified the design for many years. This investment in design and interest in the ergonomics and practicalities of handset manufacturer is an approach emulated by Snom Technology to this current day.
The handset designer is not working with a blank sheet of paper on which to fashion their creations. Each new handset has a specification which details the features and functionality that are required in the handset. These features and functions dictate the chipset to be used and the memory and circuit board content that has to be incorporated into the unit. The designer typically works with a telephone engineer who has an awareness of the audio rules to achieve best quality audio. For example every speaker needs a chamber and the chamber design can fundamentally affect the voice quality.
IP phone aesthetic design is a trade-off between artistic and audio quality. It is in this area more than any other that Snom pushes at the limits in IP Phone design. Snom add uniqueness to their product offering in the quality of audio achieved improving and enhancing the basic CODEC quality.
Once a drawing of the design is approved a prototype is made and the handset is tested mechanically to ensure the design is practical and efficient. There follows a series of tests and modifications aimed at achieving an optimum balance of audio quality, practical efficiency and beauty in design.
It is during this stage that unique elements can be added into the handset design to enhance it’s usability in the workplace. For example some of the Snom handsets have a unique stand that enables them to be either desk or wall mounted at the angle best suited to the user. This makes them more comfortable in use for some workers. There are also differences between handset models based on the environment in which they are to be used. For example a phone designed for voice use in noisy offices is designed to reduce interference from outside noise. One intended for use in an office where users have to concentrate has a handset designed to be put down quietly without disturbing other people in the office.
Another example is that a handset designed for use by service providers and on premise installations with remote office must avoid the need for local provisioning or configuration, and one designed for use in a local office environment must include abilities to interface with other devices in the office. Mobility is the main design feature that users focus on as a differentiator. However in a professional handset range there are numerous other features that make one handset more appropriate for use than another.
The design of the handset is critical. If a handset feature is incorrectly optimised by the manufacturer then new software can be introduced to make the change needed to improve the sound or usability. Although this is inconvenient to the customer, and unprofessional from the manufacturer’s perspective the costs incurred are low.
This is not an approach used at Snom but some manufacturers do release multiple software upgrades using just this model – test and change at the expense of the customer in order to keep their own costs low and speed to market rapid.
If the basic phone design changes the costs incurred for replacement of the expensive and specialist tools used to inject the plastic components are irrecoverable. This high cost of error is one reason that Snom keep all our design and prototype manufacture in house in Berlin. Hence we have the control to ensure the design is tested in small quantities tool production before it moves to mass production elsewhere. This approach ensures we have a tight control over the quality of our handsets and are able to ensure that we produce professional and enterprise IP phones.
This post on ip phone aesthetics is the 7th in our series on how to design an ip phone. Other posts in the series are linked to below:
Check out all our VoIP posts here.