What Is the Best Shape for a Phone? We Asked Design Experts

Rectangles: A boring shape for boring people.
October 25, 2019, 4:35pm
Image: Jason Koebler

Basically all phones look the same, which is dumb because there are many different kinds of shapes and quite literally all of them are more interesting than "rectangle." The good news is that smartphone engineers are evolving their thinking to include stacking two or even three rectangles on top of each other, which is a good development. In any case, it's worth considering whether rectangle is REALLY the best we can do, and so Motherboard's staff of design professionals has set out to design, from the ground up, some better phone shapes.


I want a phone that's shaped like this no bite dog collar, only the inside is a touch screen I can control by licking it etc. Either that or a phone that is also a knife. The blade has to be the screen though. - Emanuel Maiberg

The big beef with cellphones is that they are often slippery or too big to confidently hold with one hand while you are, say, biking or hanging off the side of a cliff face. So why not shape phones like a lightning bolt, which is both a SICK look and would also be way easier to hold with its various angles and clefts, etc. Bonus: The jagged point can be used to stab would-be thieves, etc. -Jason Koebler

I watched a lot of Sailor Moon growing up and I always assumed future communication devices would be like the brooches / pendants they used to transform. Apparently women dislike rectangles, so just give me a sparkly crystal to wear around my neck so I can be the magical girl of my dreams. ✨ -Janus Rose

The ideal phone shape is a literal clamshell because then it opens and closes and makes the most sense at the bottom of the ocean. -Derek Mead

It should be shaped like a dick and balls because then everyone would have to hold a dick-and-balls-shaped object up to their face. Could add some levity to modern life. -Rachel Pick

I want a sleek and inconspicuous Juul-shaped phone that I can also vape from. No explanation necessary. -Lauren Kaori Gurley

If we are going to commit to this wearables thing then let’s commit. I want to wear my phone to be a portable Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist disk with full AR functionality. Memes are Monster Cards that we share in three dimensions to help bridge the gap between boomers and millennials/zoomers; reaction GIFs are Trap and Spell Cards. SoftBank, hit my line let’s talk. -Edward Ongweso Jr.

The ideal phone shape is a discrete ball of flesh, roughly the size of a golf ball. Organic coos and spurtles are more pleasant than digital beeps and boops. An elaborate system of pinches and strokes lets the user post on Twitter or check their email. Kiss it to begin a call. When it sweats, it needs charging. When it bleeds, it’s time to take it to the shop. At the end of its life, the flesh withers and greys, at which point the user buries it in the backyard and orders a new one. -Matthew Gault

Honestly I’m with Derek here: Bring back the flip-phone. Anything that mimics a decent earpiece like phones used to have, before smartphones killed them. Remember how talking on the phone used to be kind of like talking in person? And it was kind of fun to talk to friends and family, because you didn’t spend a third of the conversation going, “Sorry, what? Could you repeat? I missed that, sorry. Maybe you should just email me.” - Rob Zacny