You know those dudes who walk around with hands-free Bluetooth headsets jammed into their ears all day? Maybe their twittishness isn’t a character flaw, but an unintentional emergent effect of poor product design: let’s face it, those things are awkward as hell to get on and off your ear, so once you’re 'Toothed up, you might as well just leave it there (even if you’re not a high-powered Hollywood agent who’s actually fielding calls every five seconds). Angle, a concept design that won the "Best Usage" prize in a student contest sponsored by Orange, actually offers an intriguing solution: The earpiece fits onto your iPhone when you’re not using it, and when you feel the need to go hands-free, you can casually slip it over your ear in one fluid motion. Check out the demo video:
"We have been thinking on how to make a Bluetooth headset finally user-friendly," writes co-designer Michael Harboun (his collaborators are Thomas Chabrier and Antoine Coubronne). "Everything lies in the move. In an easy gesture, you activate the conversation by sliding the phone on your ear. The movement naturally lays down Angle on your ear and you can now benefit from the hands-free communication."
Granted, a square-shaped dongle hanging off the side of your head isn’t any less idiotic-looking than a standard Bluetooth headset. But the idea of integrating the headset and charger into the iPhone’s natural shape is undeniably brilliant from a user-experience perspective. (I tried using a hands-free headset in my home office, but quickly gave up because I didn’t have an easy, unobtrusive place to store and charge it that would also offer easy access when I wanted to use it again.) And if that "swipe on" motion really works as well in real life as it does in the video, you can bet that Jawbone will be hiring these guys or stealing their ideas soon enough. Consider it a public service: No one should be forced to wear these ridiculous cyborg peripherals in public unless they’re actually taking a call.