We love our customers. They aren’t afraid to tell us what they really think.
When we started working on the Case, it wasn’t too hard to read between the lines and discover some valuable customer insights. Many of them told us exactly what they wanted: a thin, everyday case that let them use their Moment lenses.
Starting with this thread, we dove deep into minimal phone cases to understand how they are made, why people buy them, and what it takes to make a great one.
When we started talking to customers and friends, we quickly discovered that a large percentage of them bought a cheap, crappy case on Amazon. There were definitely a few who stepped up for a more premium experience from Apple, Grovemade, Hard Graft, etc. But by and large, price definitely mattered.
When you are designing a new product, you never like to admit that “price” is a feature people care about. Although price does impact the product decisions you will make, it feels like it instantly degrades the value of your future work. But sometimes tough constraints can also lead to more clever solutions.
As we tore apart more and more sub $30 cases we began to understand what types of materials, plastics, protection, and mechanical features they were using. It also helped us benchmark thickness, which we identified as the second criteria customers cared most about.
Making It Thin
The biggest design challenge we wrestled with was how to make the case as thin as possible.
Different from non-photography cases, the thickness of our case is highly dependent on our ability to attach a lens and a camera strap. Lens alignment, in particular, is a highly precise requirement. Sloppy tolerance stack ups can make or break how the optics perform. So the case thickness, details of our lens interface, and assembly procedures have to be spot on.
Starting with our current lens interface, we began concepting improvements we could make. Changing an interface is never a desired path, but in having to redesign our Wide Lens we came to realize that in order to make our new Cases amazing, we needed a better interface. One that was adaptive to new devices, easier to use, and more robust for long term use.
After building and refining dozens of prototypes, we ended up landing on a design that better integrates the mount into the body of the case itself. Moving away from a metal on metal mechanism, we were able to reduce wear over time. We were also able to optimize space and add a small spring that “clicks” the lens into place. The end result is a better experience all around.
Why do you use a case? – Why don’t you use a case?
We asked these two questions a lot. Everyone had their own reasons, especially within the Instagram community. As we asked more and more people, we discovered a pattern amongst those that liked to use their phone as a camera; A case made it easier to hold.
No brainer, right?
This seems obvious, but it was easy to lose sight of “the why,” when all you see are cases marketed for durability, fashion, or thickness. It lead us to go one step further in seeing how people accessed, held, and stored their phone camera. How they shot in different environments and how subtle ergonomics made a difference in how easy (or hard) it was to hold the phone.
Going through dozens of different shape details, our hands grew tired from holding so many cases. It got to the point that we just started putting 3D printed models into the hands of strangers to get their immediate, raw feedback.
Of everything we tried, we found multiple variables contributed to making the phone easy to hold. The edges had to have the right balance of a gentle curve with a subtle crisp edge. The material blend had to be just right so it wasn’t too slick or too grippy. Trying a variety of surfaces, we found that wood and canvas provided enough texture to grip the back panel, but didn’t make it difficult to slide the case in and out of your pocket. We are still tweaking and testing more materials that we might integrate in the future.
Attach A Strap, Faster
We currently make two types of camera straps, wrist and neck. We’ve come to learn that the wrist is more popular because it’s more practical for everyday shooters. Plus, it gives people confidence that they won’t drop their phone, and helps them remove the phone from their bag or pocket quickly.
Learning that a strap attachment was indeed important, we went back to traditional cameras to understand how we could make our current experience better. Trying to balance thickness with durability we had several different concepts going. Through a cycle of design, prototype, and test, we began to narrow down the options. The biggest insight we found was that the angle of the “holes” in relation to the phone determined how hard or easy it was to attach a strap.
In hopes of keeping the case affordable, we also looked into a variety of ways to create a robust strap attachment without using expensive metal parts like the original Moment Case. Doing this without adding extra bulk or thickness to the case, proved to be one of the trickiest parts of our whole design process. Cracking the code on this geometry was a small detail in the grand scheme of things, but proved to be a major milestone for our design team. We hope you like it.
To all the customers that asked us for a thin, non-electronic, case… this one’s for you.