Fashion follows function: what’s next for the phone industry

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the One Weird Trick: A completely normal phone that folds. As Dan Seifert explained in his full review, a new phase of foldable devices has begun. Buying a foldable phone is a step that will appeal to anyone, not just tech pros.

Samsung is promoting its phones the way Samsung usually does, touting feature and spec improvements. But it’s also doing other things. It is to promote the phone as stylish. BTS’ music video ads joined online vertical video ads, focusing as much on clothes and pockets as on cell phones. Essentially, it’s the latest in a long time of tech companies trying to make the case for their phones to be fashionable.

It’s nothing new, but with the Z Flip 3, clear. Sure, there’s spec debate as to why improved pocketability is a good reason to buy a Flip, but that’s not really the key attraction. The Z Flip is interesting because it’s different and it looks better than your average phone. And perhaps if Samsung is lucky, the fact that it’s a flip phone could be linked to the Y2K fashion trend that’s happening right now.

The smartphone industry is very similar to the fashion industry. Both have seasonal lineups for spring and fall, offering varying prices for products that do essentially the same thing, encouraging brand labels to pay a premium, and both have large communities of obsessive followers. . all trends and Far more people could not have been interested, and of course they both have whole industries of influencers and journalists, and they serve to track changes in these industries. (Hello, welcome The Verge.)

Galaxy Z Flip 3. in a stylish new case from Samsung

Galaxy Z Flip 3. in a stylish new case from Samsung
Photo courtesy of Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

There are many other similarities that can be drawn, but the main difference between fashion and mobile phones is that mobile phones were marketed based on technological advances. phone of the year Better Or it’s faster or has new features that last year’s phones couldn’t. And while there are obviously technological improvements to clothing, the main reason for buying new in general is to stay on trend.

What’s new and what’s new with fashion now. Calls were usually about engagement. future.

And while I don’t think the technological progress of mobile phones will ever stop, I do think we’ve reached a point where the difference between cheap and expensive phones is no longer a basic feature. .

Expensive phones are all about quality and brand. Of course the camera works better, but you can also get better screens, better materials, and all the cache that comes with that phone’s brand. Is it really fashion?

Of course, Apple has been pushing phones as fashionable (or at least stylish) for a while. It has a stronger brand and cultural cache. Both are important in fashion! However, due to Apple’s influence and overall technology trends, most phones look essentially the same. Large flat glass front and back, metal rails, camera bumps. The only place of expression is the shape of the rail and the color of the glass. yawn.

Is the Z Flip 3 more stylish than other phones? That’s up to you to decide. At the very least, it’s a phone that strays from the boring flat-panel identity of all other smartphones. It’s meaningful (forgive the pun) and conveys something about you to those who see it.

Z Flip 3 also has many other cultural implications. It’s a green bubble, Samsung, something technical, something unusual. All of these are reasons to like or dislike this phone, and it has little to do with the refresh rate of the internal display. To be honest, the Z Flip 3’s technology is really boring, but the phone itself isn’t.

What does it mean that your next iPhone or next Galaxy phone won’t have any technical improvements? even alittle But does it simply look different? We already know that the change in form factor drives Apple’s huge sales volume. We’ve already seen the same basic dynamics occur in the various iPods that Apple rotates from year to year.

One more thing: Like clothing, our phones are involved in our perception. ourselves. In some cases, it can be caused by the physical itself, but more often it chooses how to use it. What apps you keep on your home screen, how often you use them, and whether you leave them immersed for hours. end.

That’s one of the reasons why the case is such a big and important undertaking. It’s not just about protecting your phone. It’s about expression. Ashley Carman wrote about how big the case business is and how closely the big carriers are following fashion trends to create the cases people want.

[Helena Elicerio has] For the past two years, I have been the company’s phone case product manager. She previously worked in the fashion industry as a buyer-merchandiser for companies like Gap and Delia’s, where, with the exception of apparel, she did basically the same things she does now: product evaluation, trending and design.
“One of the things people always make fun of me when I’m in fashion is that I always change my phone case,” she says. “I don’t think anyone is tied up. [cases] Immediately return to fashion accessories. I have an iPhone, but because I look just like everyone else, I can express my personality.”

While this whole analysis may seem overly exaggerated, better yet, under-analyzed. I have long believed that we don’t take gadgets as seriously as cultural objects. It’s tempting to say “It’s just a phone”, but I think it’s equivalent to saying “It’s just a jacket” or “It’s just a dress.”

Part of the importance of clothing is that it communicates with others. But the more important part is how it makes us feel. Confidence, comfort, boldness, fit, stylishness or simplicity: clothing is more than just covering our body. And after clothing, what other physical objects are on your body every day? Why shouldn’t that feature include those emotions other than the number of megapixels? I would argue that it is possible, but we are bad at talking about it.

When it comes to mobile phones, I think we’re too fixated on a design mind instead of a fashion mind. We have embraced the idea that form should follow function, but that doesn’t really apply to clothing. In reality, it is not. And as the features of the phone no longer become an important differentiator, other features will take their place. If we don’t understand what the new differentiator is, why it’s important, and how it works, we’ll be dazzled by the companies that do.

Technology works in our culture like fashion. And if you understand it right away, clothing is also a technology. It’s a very, very old technology. The way we see ourselves is and always mediated by technology. Phone is fashion, fashion is culture, all of which is far more complex than it seems.


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