The GF768 had a lukewarm reception amongst reviewers. It was smaller than previous Ericsson handsets and came in a number of different colours. However, the GF768 was larger and heavier than the Motorola StarTAC, launched two years earlier.
The screen could display 1 x 10 characters with fixed icons. The phone book could store up to 50 telephone numbers and associated names in the phone’s memory with additional storage in the SIM card. Speed dialling was provided for nine of the phone book entries, assigning them to keypad keys 1 to 9. In addition to the preloaded ring tones.
There was also a Note System feature which allowed you to create your melodies. A call register monitored the last 5 dialled numbers and timers recorded the duration of the most recent call together with a cumulative total. There was support for both sending and receiving SMS text messages and the GF768 also had a clock with alarm.
After three years of countless models and sketches, what started as a wild idea scribbled on a piece of paper in the summer of 1994 crystallized into Ericsson’s colorful, new GF768 mobile phone. Tow Waldner had done design work for Ericsson for past 11 years.
He can happily state that Ericsson had now realized that top-notch technology was not the sole factor for success, but that advanced design also played an important role.
From concept to telephone
The first portable phones made by Ericsson were dictated largely by engineering. In the early days, design was focused on typefaces used on the buttons, with little regard for esthetic design features. Today, new phone models are developed in close cooperation between engineers, product managers and designers from start to finish.
“Today, engineers and technicians have more respect for product design. In the past, design was considered a necessary evil that delayed projects. Now we are contacted early in the development process to contribute our design considerations in the planning stages. Our work creates financial gains for Ericsson. As our work gains recognition, we have earned the engineers’ trust,” said Tom Waldner.
Tom Waldner and his associates at Richard Lindahl Design in Malmö had been the main force behind the design of Ericsson phones. They believe the stature of mobile phones in Sweden was comparable to automobiles in California. Sweden was a leader, a pioneering nation that sets market trends.
“Many of our wildest ideas are lost in the development of a new model. It’s happened more than once, however, that a concept not included in one model becomes a standard feature in the next, once the idea has matured and gained greater acceptance. Time is a reliable yardstick for the value of ideas. If it lasts, it usually emerges as a good idea,” Tom Waldner explained.
Road to perfection
— June 1994, initial contact
“Nils Rydbeck and Michael Kornby approached the designers with an idea for a very small mobile phone. The entire concept comprised a few thoughts that would fit on a sheet of paper. Some measurements and central components were discussed and decisions were made on certain details; for example, the display field had to be small and a certain minimum distance was required between the microphone and ear, the type of antenna, and other details,” Tom Waldner recalled.
— August 1994
The first reality check, as Tom Waldner called it came in August. The wildest ideas were eliminated from the picture, and discussions focused more on details. Nine plastic foam models were produced for reconciliation with the engineers. Several different antenna variations and phones with and without covers were tested. “Three of the variations met requirements, and we proceeded to make more detailed models and showed them to a test group for review,” Tom Waldner continued.
— December 1994
A six-month period of customer surveys and development work was started.
Result show that a traditional flip cover was the most realistic.
— June 1995
Opinions on the final design started to go in separate directions. At about the same time, it became clear there would three models, not just one: a model that eventually became the more discreet GF788, the American AF738 and the colorful GF768. A decision was made whereby all three models would have the same back piece, batteries, chargers and other components.
Design work on the GF788 was conducted in Singapore, and the American model was developed in the U.S. Tom Waldner and his staffs continued to work on the GF768. He wanted “his” model to stand out, to have an attitude! “In the end, three designs were developed for three market segments,” he explained.
— October 1995
Three new plastic foam models were produced. All three were well-received within Ericsson and several copies were made and sent out in market surveys.
This process continued until March 1996.
— Summer of 1996
“Creative design work ended during the summer of 1996,” Tom Waldner said. ” Our maneuverability was reduced rapidly as time became critical.
It was definitely too late to make any major changes. Now the product had to be adapted for production in large series.”
— Winter of 1996
The idea for the GF768 carrying case occured to Tom Waldner, who was from California, while he on his way home for a visit. It became a mini-project he developed on the side. The case would be the same color as the phones and made using the same material used in wet suits worn by scuba divers. Tom Waldner and other designers involved in development of the GF768 had worked on other projects through-out the design process. Other models hd also been designed and released. The work goes in a pattern of waves.