Irony is one of the spices of life. What used to be fashionable becomes passé, and design icons tend to change regularly. It’s happened throughout time. That’s exactly what’s going on with Apple. After releasing four consecutive smartphones that all have the same layout, their designs clearly aren’t as captivating as they were before. It looks like the competition is leaving it in the dust in the race to be the new design icon.
In 2015, I read a hilarious spoof article: “Samsung presents its new iPhone”; that had me on the floor with: “The feeling that it is the actual iPhone lasts about 4 minutes longer than it used to”. At that time the iPhone 6 was the leader of the pack and the satire site was poking fun at the Galaxy S6 as an obvious attempt to imitate Apple’s design.
More than two years later, it looks like Apple has lost its place as the design icon and the competition is starting to come into its own. The new iPhone X is a good indicator that Apple has stopped being innovative and has begun looking to its competition for inspiration, and I’m not just talking about Samsung.
Apple isn’t what it used to be
For the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone, Apple couldn’t come to the table empty-handed, and so it launched a new device. It’s the first time that Apple has presented two different models at the same time, the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X. The iPhone 8 could have been named iPhone 7s, but Apple decided to go up a number. Maybe it’s good for marketing.
OLED display like on Samsung
The iPhone X is the most innovative phone in the Apple ecosystem, but it actually doesn’t look all that new. It comes with a new OLED display, something that has been the calling card of Samsung Galaxy phones for generations. The name is also kind of funny since Apple has inaugurated it as their Super Retina Display and Samsung has always called their display technology Super AMOLED. Super coincidence?
Borderless display like on Xiaomi
Another display update on the iPhone X joins the new fashion of borderless displays or rather, displays that use up the maximum amount of front surface possible. The first launch this year with the new format and a display that took up more than 78% was the LG G6, next came the S8 (~83.6%), Essential Phone (~84.9%), Note 8 (~83.2), V30 (~81.2%), Mi MIX 2 (~80.8%) and lastly the iPhone X (~82.9%).
However, this feature of lengthening the screen to the edge of the frame became relevant for the first time in a modest range of smartphones, the Aquos Crystal from Sharp (2014). In 2016, Xiaomi took up the baton with its first Mi MIX, which improved on but kept the lines of Aquos Crystal. I still think it’s the best ambassador for this trend after seeing the second edition. It looks like Apple has also been inspired by the competition and discovered that it’s the best thing for their customers.
Facial recognition from Android
The biggest gamble on the iPhone X is how it's unlocked. In the past, iPhone has always been unlocked with a PIN and starting with the iPhone 5s, a fingerprint reader. On the iPhone X, forget about your finger, because they’ve joined the facial recognition game, or Face ID. Facial recognition has been on Android devices for a while now and since the failed Galaxy Note 7, the iris scanner is becoming increasingly important. Apple was the last to sign on to this tech, gambling hard on it even as it applies its own twist on the format.
Back covered in glass just like the rest
From the iPhone 6 to the new iPhone 8 and 8 plus, Apple has repeated the same design. The last two have a glass back just like the Galaxy S line has had since the S6. The excuse seems to be the new wireless charger that the latest generation of iPhone comes with. We all know that neither the iPhone 8 nor the iPhone X are the first to have a glass back. They’re not even the first ones from Apple. At this point, the construction seems less like an update and more like an adaptation based on the market’s needs. A way to put themselves on the same field as the competition.
Intuitive system gestures like in Sailfish OS
Throughout the entire presentation for the new iPhone X, I felt like I had seen it all before. When it got to the part about software and new gestures for iOS 11, I thought “they copied this.” Apart from swiping on the status bar to bring up quick settings, which is taken from Android, opening multitasking and going back to the start is a copy of Sailfish OS. Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane. Sailfish OS, developed by the independent Finnish company Jolla, and derived from the old Nokia Maemo project, is soon to be available on Sony Xperia X. Honestly, I think all mobile operating systems should copy Sailfish OS.
The recipe for success: improve on what you imitate
All these new features on the iPhone seem like a logical evolution, but it’s also unavoidable to think that the iPhone looks more than ever like a Galaxy. But Apple has a huge ace up its sleeve: Apple doesn’t test things, they sell them.
Anything that Apple releases is usually very finely tuned. Honestly, if one of the most profitable tech companies in the world can’t do the R+D, nobody can. Apple has always grabbed ideas that were around floating around and made them a reality. Facial recognition is a perfect example of that.
With an S8, if you’re completely in the dark neither the iris scanner nor the facial recognition work very well. The iPhone X still needs to be tested in the dark, but it looks like there’s hope for it.
At the end of the day, it’s all a question of trust and fulfilling promises. Apple can sell, and it knows how to market. But when it comes to design, at least where smartphones are concerned, it looks like Apple has hit a wall.
Do you think that the new iPhone X looks a lot like a Samsung? Do you think that next year every smartphone will have that notch in it?