One problem with mobile phones—you know besides bad reception, lack of durability, crappy interfaces, poor battery life, brain cancer, keeping track of the darn things, and all the other problems with mobile phones—is that they have these keypad things. You know, for entering numbers, navigating the Third Ring of Automated Hell ("press one for more torture, or pound for a kick to the head"), and—for Generations Y & D—"texting."
So Synaptics has been giving some thought to what might make a better interface for mobile devices, and has gone public with its Onyx concept phone, developed in conjunction with industrial design shop PilotFish.
The Onyx relies on Synaptics’ ClearPad, a clear touch-sensitive screen which (in this case) occupies most of one side of the Onyx phone. No keypad. The idea is to provide an adaptive interface which changes according to the user’s preferences, presenting the controls and tools users need for the task at hand, whether that’s talking on the phone, sending instant messages, downloading news-traffic-weather info wirelessly, or hooking the Onyx up to a stereo or television to play music or show photos. Applications are running simultaneously in their own layers, enabling programs (like address books, instant messaging, photo albums, music collections, and more) to integrate in new ways.
"Mobile phones are no longer used just for making calls—they have become a single access point for critical day-to-day information," said Synaptics vice president Clark Foy in a statement. "The Onyx phone is a breakthrough illustration of how advances in interface technology and collaborative design will drive the future of mobile interactions and services."
Reportedly, the Onyx interface responds to more than just taps: in a nod to pen-based systems, the ClearPad technology is capable of recognizing shapes, gestures, and proximity to a user’s finger or (when used as a phone) cheek.
Right now, the Onyx is just a proof of concept, but Synaptics plans to begin marketing the phone to carriers by the end of 2006.
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