• 04.11.11

Wanted: An Utterly Bareboned Cell Phone That’s Still Stylish

Claesson Koivisto Rune’s newest work for Huawei is geared toward people tired of all the function overload, but still interested in high design.

Wanted: An Utterly Bareboned Cell Phone That’s Still Stylish

Did ya’ get the memo? Feature-loaded cell phones are sooooooo 2010. And Huawei, the latest company to reject complexity in favor of “simplified and intuitive” cellie design, has taken the conceit a step further with Folded Leaf, a concept phone modeled after the pretty simplicity of, well, a folded leaf.


Not that it looks much like a leaf. We place it somewhere between a cordless and a flip phone or, if you want to maintain the nature analogy here, a clamshell and a banana slug (but a stylin’ one!).

The phone was designed by the superstar Swedish studio Claesson Koivisto Rune (CKR), and it represents the first time Huawei, the largest telecom equipment manufacturer in China, has collaborated with a full-blown design studio. Folded Leaf will show at the Milan furniture fair tomorrow.


We admit, we were dubious about the concept at first. The whole thing seemed gimmicky — an exploitation of one design trend (biomimicry) to ride on the coattails of another (minimal phones).

The shape complements the natural curve of your face.

But there are some very good, user-centered reasons that the phone looks the way it does. The folded leaf/banana slug shape is designed to complement the natural curve of your face between the ear and the mouth. The curve is also easier to grip and pick up than the flat, hard-edged surface that you see on most smartphones nowadays. Finally, when you put the phone down — the underside is flattened so that it sits flush on a tabletop — the display is angled toward you so you can see the screen in plain view, without the usual, irritating glare.

All of that couples with a sizable OLED display and big buttons that even our tech-phobic granny could punch with her arthritic mits. Which isn’t to suggest that the phone is feature-free. Unlike other stripped-down phones we’ve stumbled across recently, the Folded Leaf includes things like a USB port, texting capability, and a camera (indicated with a fun eyeball graphic). These are important add ons. For all our kvetching about mobile phones that are so complex, they require the brainpower of a rocket scientist, we — along with most people — still want some features. Here, Huawei gets the best of both worlds: Simple design and not-too-too-simple technology.

[Images courtesy of Huawei]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.