So the AD Zero has been capturing the viral headlines everywhere: the title of 'smartphone made of bamboo' is something that will always find interest, curiosity and conservationalist inspiration in everyone.
But another side to this story proceeds, one that we're much more interested about, that expands beyond the 'allure' of such an original choice of material in mobile phone construction. One that speaks of the design finesses, the struggles of creating an idealistic balance between form and function, environmental responsibilities that go beyond what is normally found in the technology industry, a warmth to a product that you don't get with the trend of sterility that's formed from the industrial-monolithic design ethic of Apple products.
We talked with Kieron-Scott Woodhouse, Head Designer of the 'Zero' at AD, and design student from The University of Middlesex, about not just the phone's technical insights; but the choices and inspirations taken while designing the phone, and the history of progress that has led to this stage.
Product design geeks will love this.
NRM: So to start from the top, how did you come up with the idea for a smartphone made of bamboo?
From conception, I had a very open brief in terms of what I could design. The guys wanted to see real innovation, something different and refreshing for such a saturated market. Throughout the initial development of the concept, the material of choice changed regularly. From Corian through to Copper, I thought it was very important we explored and developed new materials that had never been applied in this way. Everything about bamboo seemed perfect: it's durable, lightweight and looks great. It is also a lot more sustainable than traditional materials and could be sourced locally to the production locations.
Were there any stresses, problems or compromises that came with using this material?
Designing a mobile phone is extremely tricky. Your design real-estate is extremely limited and you have to work with illusions to really harness every millimeter of the handset. The biggest compromises came after the conceptual stages of development and we have to actually get all the internals in order.
What kind of approach did you take to actual design of the phone? Outside influences? Inspiration from other products?
The approach was Initially very conceptual. I had no limitations, I could do what i wanted. In terms of design thinking, Dieter Rams (Braun) is a genius, His products are timeless, and that is something I try to consider heavily when I'm designing. I'm also very fond of Naoto Fukasawa's work.
The product has gone massively viral on multiple tech blogs (hence why we're interviewing you), so how has the reception been for you and AD? How has consumer interest been?
The reception has been been absolutely outstanding. After our BBC interview and the first reports started popping up, our website crashed from the surge of new visitors. Consumer interest has been phenomenal and extremely positive.
What other kinds of ideas for products did you design at Middlesex University?
I worked with a range of different companies whilst at Middlesex and designed a range of products from Kitchenware to Beauty, some of which you can see on my website (www.kieron-scott.com). During my gap year I also worked for the Universities design consultancy working on products such as dance shoes to colostomy bags to company rebrands. Very varied!
Any you'd want to see realised?
I did an amazing Garlic Crushing/Slicing product with fellow designer Witold Mielniczek in my second year that I think could very much go commercial at some point.
Into the specifics about the phone. What version of Android will the phone be running? And does it have a custom skin on it?
AD Zero will be running the most up to date version of Android at point of release. The current prototypes run 4.0 (ICS). The handset will run ADaos a very light skin to tie up some of the loose ends of android and make the user experience and design coherent with our brand.
I know that chances are you're not going to spill on the hardware specs; but what kind of position can we expect your phone to take in the market? High-end? Low-end?
Looking beyond, do you and AD have anymore bamboo-related tech product plans for the future?
We may do, none that we can confirm at present.
And finally, when can we expect to see this phone in shops?
We are pushing to have AD zero available by the end of 2012, if not first quarter of 2013.