02 Sep Nokia’s new iPhone; the difference is in the icons.
Category: Design, Icon Design

When John Gruber pointed out that there was a preview of Nokia’s new *cough*original*cough* design for a phone, I looked at the photo’s, I watched the small, low-res video, and I fell on the floor and died. At least, part of me died.

Picture 9.png

This little shot above is not the icon design of the latest and greatest just-over-a-hundred-dollar (or euro) MP3 player with color screen. It is also not the PSP’s icon design. It’s actually Nokia’s idea of ‘cutting edge design’ which is supposed to compete with, uh, this. Let’s make a bit of fun and guess what the icons are for, from left to right. Starting left… uhh? I think I can make out vaguely that it is a rectangle with text smeared on it. One would logically assume this is the most important ‘thing’ you can click, as it’s way on the left, where your eyes start scanning the row of icons. Can’t make that out. Next to it; music. Way to go not copying Apple’s general grouping of ‘entertainment’, as Nokia has done in previous phones like the N95. A lot of icons follow that are either crystal clear (uh, a TV screen), completely unclear (a file? A person?) and completely ripped off (a compass??).

I am having the feeling that Nokia, who hasn’t been a great choice for people who like nice icons on their phone until now, doesn’t really hire the right people for the job here. I mean, general opinion is one thing here, and you may or may not like such mashups of the PSP and iPhone icon design, but there’s something you can see easily here; The iPhone’s icons are not only a lot more discerning (in general and from each other), they actually have more factors to discern by. They have color, for one, and they are also logically separated.

I live in Europe, and as such, the Nokia phone is the phone you see most often. I always amaze myself at the incredibly complex hierarchy of menu’s and the placement of functions. Me, and I think about every ex-Nokia user over the ocean is eagerly tapping fingers until the iPhone arrives, waiting for the horror of searching through 10 menu’s to find that one application or bluetooth setup utility.

This may seem like a huge rant about Nokia gone bad, but I’d rather want to show you what makes Apple special. It’s knowing what people you hire and even then, checking them and running them by a design philosophy that’s proven and about as simple as it can get. I want to thank Nokia, even, for a great example of where we don’t want to go when it comes to icon design.

ps. Yes, I know September 5th is close. The work is killing me but it’s proving to be quite an awesome release soon. Stay tuned!

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3 Responses

  1. Yeah, this video sucks…

    The people that I know who loved Nokia in the past (That is, before the iPhone) loved their phones because they could throw them away, they would never break, and they were simple enought to use.

    Nokia said, about this video, “if there is something beautifull in the world, we are proud to copy it”.

    Way to go, but copy the GOOD things, and copy better than this.

    Interesting post man.

  2. 2

    I personally love my Nokia N73…

  3. 3
    Marie D. 

    That’s what us marketrs call a “me-too”, but then you’d better do at least as well as the original…
    I used to love love Nokia’s, and as a European am right now stuck with it, too, but with every new model I get I find them harder to use, less intuitvie and more complicated. I can’t wait to get an iPhone (that is, if it works with my operator, but that’s another story)