Minimalist design in evolution of smartphones

From 1997 to 2017, the number of buttons on a front smartphone panel has dropped from 70 to zero: there is nowhere lower to go.


The main principle of minimalism states: less is more. Less of something means more of something else. For example, less furniture in a room means more space in it. With regard to smartphones design, fewer buttons means more space for a screen.

You may remember that the first smartphones had QWERTY keypad:

Several rows of buttons took up more space than the screen. It was convenient for writing SMS, but definitely not good for browsing the web, reading news and emails. The screen required more space.

iPhone: the first smartphone with only one button

In 2007 Apple introduced iPhone – the first smartphone with a touch screen. It was the first smartphone without a keypad and the first smartphone with a screen that occupied 52% of the front panel area what was absolutely unattainable goal for button smartphones. Presenting the new iPhone Steve Jobs said: “Today we reinvented the phone.”

There was only one button on the front iPhone panel. in comparison with 70 QWERTY buttons keyboards on competitors’ smartphones, it looked like absolute minimalism! It was a revolutionary breakthrough, and for the next ten years iPhone has become the standard for the entire smartphone industry.

For ten years, from 2007 to 2017, nothing has changed fundamentally in the iPhone design:

The next step in smartphone design was renunciation of the use of a physical buttons to save space for a screen and Apple fans have been waiting for this step. However, for the first time in the history of confrontation with Apple, Samsung took up the torch.

10 years later: good-bye, button!

In March 2017, Samsung has presented Galaxy S8 – the first smartphone in the world without a single button on the front panel. The place where once was a button now is “Infinity Display” (Samsung marketers’ term), which occupies 84% of the front panel area:

No doubt, this is the next level, which will become (or has already become) the new standard among smartphones. So, six months later, in mid-september, Apple announced iPhone X – its analogue to Samsung Galaxy 8:

Two weeks later Korean manufacture LG shared similar plans. Their new flagship smartphone V30 will be available for sale in the end of September. As you may have guessed, it will also have boundless display (in LG this technology is called Full Vision):

Avoiding the use of physical buttons opened the way for a larger screen while maintaining the same size of the device. This is a good example of the principle “less is more” in action: less buttons – larger screen. It is the renunciation of all dispensable parts that is in step with the times. It is a modern minimalism.

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