The iPhone 6 is one of the most popular product introductions in history, and millions of people have upgraded from the iPhone 4 and 4S, wanting a bigger screen and a better camera or just the latest and glossiest thing. 

But those older iPhones still have a lot of life in them. You could donate them or repurpose them, but Korean designer David Choi of plusD has a different suggestion: turn them into music centers with the help of a special case he developed with an amplifier and speaker that connect to the phone via Bluetooth, which is getting crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Ana Lisa Alperovich at 6sqft loves it, writing “With minimalistic aesthetics inspired by the classic Dieter Rams designs for Braun, this object hacks Apple’s planned obsolescence with sustainable design.”

The designer states the obvious when he writes:

I drew inspiration for i-Ready-O from old school analog radios you used to see in old movies from the 50’s and 60’s. Especially analog radios from Braun Manufacturing Corp. and their famous designer, Dieter Rams. 
Dieter rams TP1It’s an interesting idea that raises some questions. I am a sucker for Dieter Rams designs and his 10 principles, so I was immediately taken with the design of this product. But the more I think about it, the more ambivalent I am. Because it isn’t really minimalist, it isn’t really sustainable and it contradicts quite a few of Rams’ principles, most notably:
Good design is honest: It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Good design makes a product understandable: It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Good design is as little design as possible: Less, but better — because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

The iPhone 4 is perhaps the most elegant example of industrial design produced yet in this century. It certainly isn’t perfect; it's hard to hold, it's hard to distinguish which end is up and which side is the front. But it is a serious design.

The i Ready O turns it into a single function product, a radio. It isn’t really honest; it tries to look like something else entirely. It isn’t as little design as possible; much of its interior is empty space. And it certainly doesn’t make the iPhone understandable — it buries it, turning it into little more than a screen. 

areawear cellphone docking station

This wood block actually makes more sense. (Photo: Areaware)

In the end I think Areaware did a better, more honest job by simply carving its radio holder out of a block of wood. What I thought at first was an interesting way to upcycle an old iPhone into something that would give it another life seems to actually limit its use and detract from the design of the iPhone. What do you think?

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Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.