Something has been bothering me about this disappointment, and not in an "Apple Fanboy (or girl)" kind of way. I usually get my best insights while monotonously swimming laps in the mornings, and today was no exception. I was struck by this obvious thought: the majority of consumers (and the media, and Wall Street) - perhaps unconsciously - judge the novelty of new products primarily based on its aesthetic appearance. Beauty is only skin deep. Perhaps there's a greater lesson there for society, but that's not the point of this post ...
But that's not all. The problem with that thought as it relates to the iPhone (and smartphones in general) has to do with Apple's general design philosophy of "form follows function." In other words, the product will be designed with the singular purpose of enabling it to function at the highest level for its intended use.
When it comes to the iPhone, this largely seems to be a solved problem. How much has the iPhone design truly changed since its introduction in 2007?
There's a screen, a home button, speaker(s), volume buttons, a power button, a mute switch. It's obvious that despite the marketing and the version numbers and the minor cosmetic tweaks, the most significant changes have always been related to internal components. Every time. Just take a look at the major advertised features of each release:
- iPhone (first release, need I say more?)
- iPhone 3G: 3G, GPS
- iPhone 3GS: speed, better camera with video recording
- iPhone 4: Retina display, custom A4 chip, front-facing camera
- iPhone 4s: Siri, custom A5 chip, 1080p video recording
- iPhone 5: larger display, LTE, Lightning connector, custom A6 chip
- iPhone 5s: TouchID, dual-LED flash, A7 (first 64-bit mobile chip with M7 motion coprocessor)
- iPhone 6: larger (higher resolution) displays, Apple Pay, custom A8 chip
- iPhone 6s: custom A9 chip, 3D Touch, LTE Advanced
- iPhone 7: custom A10 Fusion chip (quad-core), dual-cameras, water resistance, stereo speakers (no audio jack!)
So should Apple change the design of the iPhone simply for the sake of change? This seems to be what the public is expecting. Hence their disappointment.
Yet Apple, through Jony Ive's disembodied voice, continues to make it clear that the design evolution (rather than revolution) is quite intentional:
"We have created a product that is the most deliberate evolution of our original founding design." "Our obsession remains to continuously simplify and improve." "iPhone 7 is the most singular, the most evolved representation of this design."Understanding this is the key to unlocking the future of the iPhone. Do I expect the next iPhone to be the big design revolution people are expecting? Of course not. Do I expect some pretty cool internal changes that might cause me to rethink how I use the device? Absolutely.
In the end, Apple's courage to challenge these consumer expectations is probably the most revolutionary thing of all.
The views contained within this post are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer. Furthermore, I have no financial interest in Apple whatsoever.