Viora: Building a better coffee lid...

Coffee has risen to the status of a luxury experience these days, but there's often a little something between you and your sensory escapism: the lid. A thin barrier of plastic keeps spills at bay, but also blocks the aroma and alters the flow of the fluid. Viora is determined to make the best of this: admitting that these disposable lids are necessary, but designing to optimize the experience they deliver. With sipping and aroma holes placed intelligently, and walls shaped to minimize splashing, Viora claims their lid is "worthy of what's in your cup." I haven't checked their math, so to speak, but I like the approach - there's always room for improvement, even in a thin disposable plastic lid.
[via Gizmodo]

EcoSwitch: Consolidating Kitchen Machinery

Most kitchen appliances have at their core either a heating element or a motor, along with the supporting power supply and controls; the problem is that each appliance needs their own heating element, motor, power supply, and controls. But if these components could be made versatile and multipurpose, each "appliance" just becomes a simple attachment to a common base. That's the idea behind EcoSwitch, a design by frog (my employer) for General Electric. It's a promising design to consolidate components and eliminate wastes of space, of materials, and of money - a great way to get back some countertop real estate, save some money, and "save the planet!"

Cliq: Magnetic Clothing Hangers

I've always believed that magnets make everything better, and it's time to add one more to the list: Cliq is a clothes hanger that swaps the hooks for magnets. As long as you're willing to commit to the proper hanging bar (and don't have any very-metallic clothing), it looks pretty attractive to me...
[via Gizmodo]

Eco Clip makes notebooks from loose paper

Product Design is an industry that makes a lot of use of notebooks, be they Moleskine, Field Notes, Rhodia, or some hipster brand nobody's heard of (because they aren't cool... yet).  But it's an industry that also cares about ecological design and cleverness, so the Eco Clip should be right at home: a simple and reusable plastic clip that turns any stack of paper into a notebook. I haven't seen any colleagues with them yet - but it probably won't be long!
[via Gizmodo]

A Flexible-Handled Umbrella Is More... Flexible!

A tweak to the traditional hooked umbrella handle just might make it a lot more versatile - so say designers Liang-Hock Poh & Ming-Hung Lin, creators of the Red Dot-winning Flexibler concept. Something like a gooseneck-lamp degree of flexibility could allow the umbrella to hang on to a backpack or post, lean safely against a wall or tabletop, and accommodate any number of hand grips. This is the point where I usually look for some flaw to balance the benefits, but... nothing! Get this thing on the market, guys!
[via Gizmodo]

Android vs iPhone Button Review, Part 2

Believe it or not, I've found TWO whole blog posts' worth of usability nuances on the differences between iPhone and Android's buttons alone! Part 1 was here; now for part 2, focusing just on audio-related buttons:
  • Headset Inline Volume Buttons: Oh, how I miss these! It seems that Apple has a patent on them and doesn't feel like sharing. I'm hoping they have a change of heart and/or Android makers pony up the cash, but I'm not holding my breath - in the meantime, the main inline button (play/pause/answer/etc) does all its usual tricks, and Bluetooth headsets can change their volume just fine. Winner: iPhone.
  • Mute Switch: It's a feature that I loved even before the iPhone, and I miss this too. The ability to switch to and from silent mode without looking - without even removing the phone from your pocket - is a sneaky little convenience that's tough to leave behind. Winner: iPhone.
Of course, the overall tradeoff balance between Android and iPhone is huge, and different users will always care about different features. But it's remarkable how many differences pop up in just a handful of buttons, and what it says about the different design philosophies at work.

Android vs iPhone Button Review, Part 1

I recently switched from iOS to Android, swapping my iPhone 4S for a Nexus 5. Among the maaaany tradeoffs are some interesting ones related specifically to the actual physical buttons - and since this blog is ostensibly about buttons, let's take a look. Here's part 1:

  • Soft vs Hard "Home" Button: I do miss having a physical button on the front of the phone; the iPhone's home button is perfect for waking it when it's resting on a table. However, the soft home button is a much smoother experience once the phone is on - not having to apply any pressure feels lighter, nimbler, and just plain better when navigating. Winner: Tie.
  • Menu & Back Buttons: Android has the edge here. Those two extra buttons come in very handy, and are conveniently located in an area that's otherwise unused. It beats double-/triple-tapping the iPhone's home button; Apple claims that fewer buttons simplify interactions, but that's just wrong when you start depending on multiple taps and long holds. Winner: Android.
  • Standby Buttons: I thought I'd miss the top-mounted standby button on the iPhone, but it turns out that was just a learned habit that can be re-learned - now the side-mounted power button on the Nexus feels just as natural. Winner: Tie.
Coming next: Part 2, where it's all about audio-related buttons!