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Smartphone Design: Innovation or Stagnation part 3

Smartphone Design: Innovation or Stagnation part 3

In the last three parts of my trilogy (part 1, part 2), I asked the following question: ''who is the biggest mover and shaker when it comes down to design innovation''. This time we are taking a look at three new manufacturers: LG, Motorola and Nokia. When put on paper it sounds pretty epic: the third largest smartphone maker on the globe against a Google owned company and an up-and-coming giant and market leader from Finland. However all three more or less fulfill the role of market misfits and this is normally why outsiders dare to go where no other smartphone maker has ever gone, design-wise that is. Is this the case for all of these three?

design teaser
The candidates: Nokia Lumia 923 (left), Motorola Droid Ultra (middle), and LG G2 (right)./ © Nokia/LG/Motorola/AndroidPIT

I will without a doubt make a few enemies in the posting of this article, but in my own personal opinion LG compares to the automobile brand Audi, also in terms of design tendencies. Motorola on the other hand with its Kevlar and outlandish details is definitely something out of the ordinary. And the Lumia devices from Nokia can also be easily recognized. At least for the last two, design does seem to be something quite important. But do they dare to defy the norm with their flagships? Or was LG the only one who dared to be innovative and different?

Motorola Droid Razr HD – Droid Ultra

droids backs
The Droid Razr HD (left) and upcoming Droid Ultra (right)./ © Motorola / AndroidPIT

Motorola Droids have always been something that has relied on personal taste. The individualism has clearly been retained by the Google subsidiary in their upcoming release of their flagship device. If one can accuse Samsung of sticking with a tried and true design time and time again, Motorola falls into the same category. Asides from the change in design of the Kevlar backing, you wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference between the two devices. From the front, the change to capacitive buttons and a little bit of a bevel on the bottom edge are the major changes. The side view shows the biggest change, both in the form of material and shape of the physical buttons.

droids fronts
Droid Razr HD (left) and Droid Ultra (right). / © Motorola / AndroidPIT

Nokia Lumia 920 – Lumia 925

lumias back
Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and Lumia 925 (right). / © Nokia / AndroidPIT

You can definitely see some major changes in the two iterations of the Nokia Lumia when you look at the large picture, notably the back and the side of the device. The sharp edges have been rounded, a more subtle choice of color tones, and a pure plastic body with aluminum edges. However, from the front the device, you can’t really tell that much has changed between the 920 and 925.

lumias front
Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and Lumia 925 (right). / © Nokia / AndroidPIT

LG Optimus G – G2

lg backs
LG Optimus G (left) and upcoming LG G2 (right). / © LG / AndroidPIT

The Optimus G had a very simple angular design and begs to question as to whether the company has much of a design department. Although simplicity does lead to some pretty popular designs, the G2 brings something new to the table: the physical buttons found on the back of the device. For the first time, it feels like this isn’t a LG smartphone, but something completely else. The G2 has been completely revamped and almost looks similar to the Galaxy S4 from the front. Either way, kudos to LG for this iteration of their device, transforming it from a relatively cheap looking device to something resembling an actual flagship device.

lg front
LG Optimus G (left) and LG G2 (right). / © LG / AndroidPIT


If we were to award a prize to the most significant redesign, the winner would be LG (at least in my own personal opinion). In principle, the G2 resembles nothing like its predecessor. However, the Lumia from Nokia has undergone some major changes to the design, while still retaining an overall feel and look of a Lumia device. While the 920 and 925 do have some changes between the two, it’s easy to recognize the Nokia branding between the two.  Unfortunately, Motorola has really done nothing for me with their new design of their Droid device.

Overall Conclusion

If we briefly recapitulate all the design comparisons we’ve done it this series, it is difficult to really choose clear winners and losers. However, for me, it would fall into the laps of HTC, LG, Nokia, and Huawei. These four have clearly done some major design changes on their devices and taken on some large risks in changing the look and feel of their phones. Sony and Google follow closely behind with Samsung, Apple, and Motorola lagging in the design department. Four out of the nine that we showcased have dared some changes in a mostly positive light for consumers and reviewers alike. 

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  • That's Bullshit, Samsung mobile with its Galaxy Line up should be in the top 3/4 of this article, blog, or review.. Whatever you want to call this comparison. Samsung in the last 4 to 6 year's has come ALONG way with it's great ideas & innovative technology, & by far superior performance. People please wake up & smell the electronics around you, the Galaxy series out does Motorola's products along with LG/Nokia. Yes I'm a fan of of 3... But when it down right comes to it, Samsung hands down with its Newly implementation of software ideas & updates, Samsung takes the cake. Ya sure Samsung has its flaws... But just as much as the rest of them does too.

    T.J. Bacon II
    Proud owner of the; Samsung Galaxy S4............ US Cellular.

  • I'm guessing the design of a smart phone comes down to "if it ain't broke then don't fix it" (changes occurred once a screen size was increased, more processor chips were added, thinner design, Android changing to a 3 menu buttons feature)

  • That's my thinking exactly Rutger. Hey, if it worked for Samsung, why not for LG?

  • I actually like the look of the Motorola but it is very similar to its older incarnation (if it aint broke don't fix it?) of the 3 in this section though the LG is the stand-out winner for me.

  • Rutger Aug 27, 2013 Link to comment

    G2 looks like a Galaxy S4

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