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there could be no compromise on the d-pad. The device
had to have a left-side pad for gaming---whether or not it
also had a right-side pad for messaging. It was another
"con ict of requirements."
Jun s solution: give the device not two orientations but
three. The rst orientation, of course, is vertical---for the
phone. The second, with the QWERTY keyboard open,
is horizontal; in this con guration, the d-pad is on the
right, for scrolling through messages. The Ocean s software
changes the orientation of the displayed material depending
on which slider is pulled out. But Jun asked game manufac-
turers to give Helio versions of their software that essentially
played upside down. Flip the device 180 degrees, keeping
both sliders closed, and the game is now playing right-side
up---with the d-pad on the left. "That was a nice move on
his part, so it doesn t undermine the gaming experience,"
Now there was the problem of the "soft keys"---keys
that do di erent things at di erent times, such as navigate
options or open up an e-mail list. Most users expect these
soft keys to be in the same basic place, relative to the screen,
no matter what they re using the device for. "The mind
builds up relational patter ns," says Duarte. "You remem-
ber the thing at the lower right of the thing I am looking at.
You associate this with function---to bring up your contact
list, for example." But since the Ocean has di erent orien-
tations, the user will anticipate soft keys in di erent places,
depending on how the device is being used. So Helio gave
the Ocean four soft keys, two on either side of the screen.
The dual-slider problem begat the d-pad problem, which
in turn led to radially symmetric soft keys.
Once the layout problems had been solved, size became
a concern. Early in the design process, the Helio design-
ers had settled on a pill shape: they thought it elegant,
and they believed it would make the Ocean stand out in
a market crowded with squares and rectangles. "The pill
is beautiful, but hard to make," says Duarte. "Most [inter-
nal] components are rectangles, and the most e cient
space for packing them is a larger rectangle. We had a lot
of trouble [getting] manufacturers to do a pill, because it
had never been done before." And the shape indeed cre-
ated some problems.
The Helio designers had wanted to keep the device to
about 100 millimeters long by 55 millimeters wide. But in
tting square objects into that area---chips, screens, batter-
ies---they had to square o the round corners, losing the
pure pill shape. Eventually, Helio mocked up an advanced
version of this revised design---one of several that were made
along the way. It had looked ne on paper, but when the
prototype came back, everyone knew it was wrong. It just
didn t have the strikingly di erent pill-shaped form. "It
had all the negatives of a pill shape---we couldn t use the
corners---and none of the positives," Duarte says. So the
prototype was tossed out: "We had to redo all of the tools.
Those were some painful times."
Plus, they had to "increase the LCD screen," as one of
the product engineers, S. K. Kim, puts it. Why? "It was
actually Sky," Kim says. The boss decided he wanted a big-
ger screen---2.4 inches instead of 2.2 inches long. Dayton s
desires could not be engineered away. Nor could the grow-
ing demand for power. Generally, the Ocean s engineers
minimized power consumption with software that put func-
tions to sleep; some hardware choices, such as a separate
microprocessor for playing music, helped too. But the device
needed to endure a full multimedia workout all day---gam-
ing, phoning, and messaging---before requiring a charge, so it
was hard to get away with a small battery. All this drove the
device toward somewhat larger dimensions: 115 millime-
ters long, 56 millimeters wide, and 21.9 millimeters thick,
bucking the trend toward ever-slimmer devices.
The appearance of bulkiness was a concern to everyone
on the team. There could be no sacri ce of function, and
no putting the Ocean on a diet. So the engineers sat down
to gure out how to make their slightly bloated electronic
jackknife appear as thin as an iPod Nano. The Ocean could
not be made thinner, but it could be made to look thinner.
As the old carpenters saying goes: "Paint makes it what
it ain t." Shininess and hardness can make a device seem
larger; Helio chose a soft-touch black paint, partly for its
slimming e ect and partly for its somewhat minimalist look
and slightly rubbery feel.
To further the illusion of slimness, a thin silver band
encircles the device, in the middle of the soft black bulk.
The eye sees the silvery line; the brain perceives thinness.
"The pill is beautiful, but hard to make," says Matias Duarte.
"Most components are rectangles, and the most efficient
space for packing them is a larger rectangle. We had a lot of
trouble getting manufacturers to do a pill, because it had
never been done." And the shape indeed created problems.
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