The iPhone 5 is a gorgeous smartphone, but it is not perfect. Notable problems Apple has yet to solve include propping up the device – it’s virtually impossible with the iPhone 5’s slick anodized aluminum surface – and tangling issues with its EarPods, the earbuds released in 2012.
Dotan Saguy, an app maker based in Los Angeles, has a solution: The Smarter Stand for iPhone and iPod Touch, which works on all models of iPhone and iPod touch, as well as any case for those iOS devices.
"I use my own iPhone 5 without a case, but my wife has an iPhone 4S in a thick Seido case," Saguy told IBTimes. "She would've killed me if my product didn't work with her phone!"
Launched on Feb. 11 via Kickstarter, the Smarter Stand for iPhone is Saguy's second major hardware project. Last summer, he designed and introduced his first – the Smarter Stand for iPad – which transformed Apple’s Smart Cover for iPad into a fully functional cover that could let the iPad stand at many different angles to maximize either typing, or Web surfing, or movie watching, or game playing. That project was a big success – Saguy raised $157,638 from 8,260 backers, after setting his initial goal at $10,000.
This year, Saguy wanted to focus on a hardware solution for the iPhone.
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“I wanted to make a kickstand that didn’t require a case and that didn’t add bulk to the iPhone, but if possible, I wanted to create a product that was going to solve this earbud problem,” Saguy said in his video. “One thing I noticed is the iPhone has an earphone jack that could be used as an access for a kickstand. And that’s really where the first innovation came in, after rounds and rounds and rounds of prototyping.”
The Smarter Stand for iPhone is a small device, shaped almost a dog bone, with legs on both sides to prop up the iPhone and wrap one's EarPods around.
"To be honest, I was initially designing two different products," Saguy told IBTimes. "One to function as a stand and the other one as an earbud detangler. It's only knee-deep into the design process after several weeks of prototyping for both products that I changed course: This epiphany happened to me at a taco joint I love to eat at in L.A. I had just gotten two sets of 3D prototypes printed for the two products I was iterating on and I wasn't happy with either of them. So as I sat down to eat my favorite fish tacos and was playing with my prototypes it just came to me that they could -- and should be -- one and the same."
Saguy's notion to build a flexible, low-cost stand and EarPod accessory that worked on all models of iPhones and iPod touch would not an easy task. In my review of Saguy's previous project, I said I had found the Smarter Stand for iPad's plastic clips and non-slip pads difficult to use -- the quality of materials did not quite work with the design. In building his first accessory for the iPhone, however, Saguy said he learned quite a few things about design and manufacturing.
"The most important learning I got was that manufacturing in China is not necessarily the smartest thing to do nowadays," Saguy told IBTimes. "I actually was quite lucky in that I found a partner there who was shielding me from a lot of the challenges in working with Chinese factories. But even with that I encountered many challenges still: Shipping containers from China is prohibitively expensive by air and excruciatingly long by boat. Then there's customs and I ran into a few snags with that alone. So this time I decided to manufacture both the product and the packaging in the U.S., and so far it looks like the process is going to be a lot smoother. Not to mention that it feels good to help our economy recover."
Building prototypes for the Smarter Stand for iPhone has been a much smoother process for Saguy, who says he will be able to give his Kickstarter customers a quicker turnaround thanks to a more stable and local manufacturing process. But as those who have backed Saguy's hardware projects know and appreciate, it's great to see a functioning prototype actually make an appearance in a Kickstarter video.
"Living with the product is a big part of my design process," Saguy said. "It's only when I've lived with a prototype for long enough and have fallen in love with it as a user that I know the design is stable. The key word here is 'user.' You don't want to fall in love with your product as an inventor. You have to take enough distance and look at it as a product you love to use and would happily pay for as a customer. Then you know you have a winner."
The Smarter Stand for iPhone achieved its $15,000 goal within a few days on Kickstarter, and as of Monday afternoon, has raised $21,789 from 1,340 backers -- a much faster funding pace than last year's Smarter Stand for iPad.