Modularization never ends

If someone asked me last week to talk about how iPhone is modularized, I might only think of the internal hardware assemblies in such a kind of “black-box”. Modularity could be discovered in iPhone through both hardware and operating system (iOS) with the upgrades of architecture and interfaces.

Mental Model affects Modularity

As one of the design principles, mental model perfectly explains modularity from the perspective of users and designers respectively. Lidwell, Holden and Butler state that “based on mental representations developed from experience, users have complete interaction models while designers generally have accurate design models.” (p.130) Holding an iPhone on the hand, users use fingers to press buttons on touch screen by instinct, opening or closing as the first time when they used an iPhone. Normally they would not think of other ways to enter the interface of the device. If the touch screen is accidentally broken, users would firstly think about the possibility and cost to replace a new touch screen instead of changing a brand new iPhone.

Modularization helps reduce the complexity of the device, shaping user experience and ways people interact with the system. However, designers lean toward focusing on how the system works, applying their design experience into the development of modules. “Designers upgrade ideal icon sizes that measure at least 44 points x 44 points on the touch screen so that users can accurately tap with finger. ” The 3D Touch technology was designed that people can press harder on an app icon to get shortcuts of frequently used items. The pressure sensor is located on the module of the touch screen.

This upgrade of module not only shows flexibility and user-friendly function on a hardware base, modularity also occurs in the operating system. Users could easily adjust the amount of pressure to activate 3D touch in the setting column. Modularity emerges and improves from either using or design experience, while it also gives effective feedback to users and designers during the development of the system.

Assumptions and questions about the artifacts of organizations

Langlois mentions that “modularity in the design of products leads to the modularity in the design of the organizations that produce such products.” (p.19) iPhone sub-assemblies are produced in different companies around the world. Nowadays various iPhone accessories also stimulate the evolution of modular designs, such as portable iPhone Lenses. Although the development of iPhone accessories in a modular way helps improve using experience of the system, will the diversified trend of modularity raise controversial issues such as intellectual property in the future?


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