Has Apple's new iPhone hit the limits of industrial design?

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
April 19 2010 5:01 PM

That New iPhone Looks ... Just Like the Old iPhone

Has Apple reached the limits of industrial design?

(Continued from Page 1)

Gadgets, of course, aren't all about looks, and the new iPhone's same-ish exterior doesn't tell us much about the gadget's interior. Nevertheless, this can't be good for Apple. No company gets more mileage out of industrial design; People like Apple's devices not just for what they can do, but for how they look and how they feel. The irony of the iPhone is that by making a device that's essentially just a screen, Apple has leveled the design playing field. The iPhone's most dominant design feature, its screen, can be replicated by every one of its rivals.

Compare the iPhone to Google's Nexus One or the Motorola Droid. Sure, they're not identical, and you probably like one of the three phones more than you like the others. But it's hard to say that any of these phones stands out as being any more awesome-looking than the others. No other Apple gadget looks as similar to its rivals' product—you wouldn't ever mistake an Apple laptop, keyboard, mouse, or desktop for a Dell. But can you guess what someone's using if they're sitting across the room and fiddling with a touch-screen phone jammed into a protective case? Sure, maybe if you're a gadget nerd. But most people wouldn't know the difference—from the back, in a case, the next iPhone will look the same as today's iPhone and will be pretty much indistinguishable from a Nexus One or any other similar rival.

Advertisement

To be sure, Apple can compete in areas other than looks. The iPhone's user interface still beats that of its rivals, and Apple recently announced that the new version of its OS will add support for multitasking, bringing it up to par with Android and Palm's WebOS. There's also the App Store—Apple can still claim that there are more apps for the iPhone than any other phone. These are all important considerations, but they're not whiz-bang showstoppers. A revolutionary industrial design will get people drooling for the iPhone; multitasking support won't do that.

Or am I wrong? Can you think of any way to improve the look of the iPhone? Tell me your ideas in the comments section below. Don't be surprised if Steve Jobs steals them, because as it's going now, Apple is in need of some inspiration.

Become a fan of Slate  and  Farhad Manjoo  on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 23 2014 1:51 PM Is This the ISIS Backlash We've Been Waiting For?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 23 2014 1:46 PM The Real Secret of Serial Has Sarah Koenig made up her mind yet? 
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.