Considering 80% of the world’s population is equipped with a mobile phone, with over 1-billion of these being smartphones, mobile communications technology has entrenched itself into modern day life. As these devices continue to become more integral to our day-to-day functioning, so does the way in which they are designed and this is becoming an increasingly key element in their efficacy.

Too often, smartphone manufacturers place an immense focus on features, paying little attention to design and how it can inform its use. While ground-breaking features are a necessity when entering a new product into the market, the design may be the deal breaker.

Today design is less of an art and more of a science. Smartphone manufacturers need to push the boundaries to create something totally different, and at the same time, be the first to make a move towards complete and intuitive design – not according to the designer’s needs, but to the consumer’s.

One business taking this philosophy to heart is Korean smartphone manufacturer LG. The last two LG smartphones to enter the mobile market, the G2 and the G-Flex, have shown that innovative design can be both stylish and practical. Why LG? The G2 intuitively placed its only button on the rear of the phone (where fingers mostly rest), and the G Flex is shaped to accommodate the curvature of the human head.

When designing a new smartphone, the designers at LG ask one question: “What do people want?”

“It is our priority to listen to the consumer’s needs,” says Deon Prinsloo, GM for LG Mobile. “We always begin the design process by digging into research, observing users’ movements, habits and behaviours.”

LG’s philosophy is that design should constantly progress. “There are always talks of innovation when a new smartphone is released. A new design should not just be about expressing the product in a new and beautiful way but also bring positive changes and innovation to the end user’s life.”

When it came to the G-Flex, LG’s design team focused on the most fundamental aspect of the smartphone: making a phone call. To do this, research went into finding out the average length of an adult’s cheek, tailoring the curvature of the phone to reduce the distance between one’s mouth to the microphone and one’s ear to the speaker.

One of the key lessons to take from LG’s design process is attention to detail with product development being at the core of LG’s corporate culture. Simply deciding on the curvature of the G-Flex was a process that took nearly two years. “The making of the G-Flex was truly a collaborative piece of art that everyone at LG, including the consumer, had a hand in making.”

While smartphone innovation does tend to lie in core features, it is the time for design to become one of those core features as comfort and usability start to inform the customer buying process. If smartphone manufacturers want to remain a step ahead, they need to follow LG’s lead and start asking the question: What do people want?