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The power of analog in a digital world

October 22, 2008

One thing I’ve been noticing recently with the iPhone, is how interested people are in adding very analog applications to their phones. Things that seem pretty mundane and basic and somewhat counter to the technological advances of our time. Many of the most successful applications simply take something solid and dependable from the real world and put it onto the phone- flashlights, pints of beer, flames from Zippos and clocks like the one you can see below.

IPhone Clock

A have a couple of thoughts on this.

1. It’s almost as if we cherish these icons as perhaps relevant relics from the past and revel in the irony that we are installing them on an uber-sophisticated piece of technology. “Look what my iPhone can do”- and humanizing the technology.

2. There’s value in show. Turning on an application and showing someone you have a lighter or a pint of beer has share and social value. They can be talked about and the obvious joke is that they aren’t physical things or they have limited functionality compared to the real thing.

3. It’s also about the emotive power of design in the physical world and our desire to hang on and keep a little bit of this. The first software for the iPhone had a calculator that was modeled on the original Braun, the latest version uses the classic HP scientific calculator, both are iconic and in the real world versions.

4. Perhaps if there’s one weakness of the digital world, it’s hard to experience the sense of “touch and “feel”, these applications remind us of the power of the feeling we have in an analog world and an acknowledgment that it’s something we are losing. 

5. It also serves as a reminder to designers that perhaps the most powerful applications aren’t so high tech, but instead ones that stir up emotions and feelings inside us- such as nostalgia.

Clock via Core 77

Posted by Ed Cotton

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