Are phones designed for users, or for the companies that produce them? What features might you design into a phone that didn't have to pass Apple or Samsung's strict internal guidelines? Those are questions posed by MIT Media Lab and production company mssngpeces, who teamed up to create this video look at phone production in China.
On the ground in Shenzhen, the production crew found a bewildering array of locally-designed devices with features meant to appeal to the local market. What if a cell phone had a built-in telescoping reading light, for those living in areas with spotty electricity? What if a phone could be used to charge another phone? Or how about a phone with multiple SIM-card slots, so the traveling user can switch to whatever carrier they'd like?
However weird, unlovely or downright tacky we Westerners might consider some of these, we think China should do more to promote this kind of local-targeted design work. They've got the consumer base to support it, and trying to solve users' needs that have been passed over by the big dogs is a sure path to innovation. That would go a long way towards repairing their piracy-riddled reputation, and perhaps even help to stamp it out.