At Moment, we believe that the future of photography is in your pocket. It’s a mission that guides us to make each new product better, more reliable, and easier to use.
Our new Battery Case is the most complicated product we have ever designed at Moment. The combination of optical performance, battery management, small electronics, and minimal thickness are all challenging us to deliver exceptional detail. We still have a ways to go as we move from a prototype to production, but the foundation of our design process gives us confidence in our ability to deliver on the promise of this case.
The Battery Case represents the future of Moment…enabling a new generation of explorers, who can venture longer and farther for that perfect shot, with increased battery life.
Designing the Battery Case
Starting With Research
We start every Moment product with the customer.
Now having tens of thousands of customers, we feel incredibly lucky to have a group of people that we can learn from. This is both inspiring and terrifying. To have real customers who are passionate about our products is amazing. But at the same time they are direct in telling you what’s broken, this feedback can be tough to swallow.
Getting past our own insecurities, we often spend multiple days traveling and shooting with our customers. From amateurs to professionals, picture takers to filmers, we begin to better understand their entire journey.
In working on this project our research uncovered two key insights.
The first is that some customers wanted more out of their case. Beyond protection, they were looking to solve additional needs so they could take better pictures for a longer period of time. In particular, travel is one of the most inspiring reasons to shoot more, which means “plugging-in” is less predictable.
The second insight is that some customers wanted their phone case to do less. Not fully trusting that a drop wouldn’t break their naked phone they wanted security without the bulk. At the same time, they weren’t married to the cheap case they already bought.
From these insights, we went back to our original Moment Case and asked ourselves…
What was the current case missing? And what did we need to take out of it?
Sketches Before Prototypes
A pen and paper is still the best way to concept early ideas, especially when exploring with our customers. It creates a visual mapping of what they were doing before, during, and after the taking of a picture.
From these sketches, we started making really rough prototypes both on the engineering side (testing core functionality) and the design side (testing user experience).
Through this process, we wanted to tackle several important problems.
Phones continue to get thinner and thinner, which is perfect for our pockets but challenging for people constantly shooting with their phone. The thinner they get, the harder they are to hold, especially in varying weather conditions.
Going back to original cameras we spent a lot of time re-studying how people hold a camera versus a phone. How they use a button versus their fingers. And when they shoot in landscape orientation versus portrait.
We came to the conclusion that the button should sit flush against the body of the case to avoid accidentally pushing it. The half press and full press functionality of the shutter button could be improved with a new electronic part. The rounded surfaces made the phone feel thinner and more natural when shooting with one hand. And the weight of the case had to be balanced with or without a lens attached.
Taking these insights we continued to move from sketches to more refined 3D models.
Making It Thin
Different from traditional cameras, thickness is everything when it comes to mobile photography. Because the phone lives in our pocket for most of the day, we realized that every millimeter added to the back of the phone would matter.
Our desire to make the case thinner is in direct competition with the physical size of the battery. And this being our first battery case, finding and acquiring a thin battery took a lot of work.
This means that much of the early design work was simply a guess until we could lock down exact battery details. From this decision, we were able to begin refining the details to make shooting easier with a battery case.
A Stronger Lens Attachment
In making the first Moment Case, one of the core lessons we learned is that reliability is everything. Moments can’t be missed because a lens doesn’t attach or a case doesn’t connect. Tearing down our own products and reading through hundreds of customer emails, we looked at every weakness in our current user experience.
Of everything we decided to tackle, the lens interface was the most important.
The wider lenses on the iPhone 7 and the dual lenses on the 7+ forced us to rethink our current lens interface. A solution that enabled Moment lenses to work with and without a case, its limitations could be seen over time. By removing the thin metal plates, we were free to rethink how we could make the interface easier to use, stronger to lock a lens into place, and less likely to wear over time.
The modified design relies on a slightly larger bayonet design on the bottom of the lens with a female cavity on the case, enabling the lens to rotate into place. We then added a small spring clip that clicks the lens into place, providing physical and audible confirmation that your lens is in the right position. The original metal on metal design was strong but lacked the positive confirmation that customers experienced with traditional camera lenses.
Getting Ready For Manufacturing
Over the last four months we have already gone through two internal rounds of prototyping.
The first round was what we call an ES build, enabling us to validate that our basic electronics architecture would work. Even without the final battery, we were able to validate that the parts worked to connect with the phone, charge the phone, and use the shutter button. Relying on 3D printed parts, we hand assembled these units.
The second round was an EVT build, also known as Engineering Validation Test. In this build, we used the real battery, final electronics boards, and vacuum casted parts. These enabled us to go one step further in validating a final design before manufacturing. We found lots of small details to improve upon before we start manufacturing.
Next, we will spend four months moving the Photo Battery Case from a working prototype to a real product that customers can use while traveling the world. We can’t wait to see it come to life.