iPhone 5 vs. HTC One vs. BlackBerry Z10: Judging phones by their form factors

iPhone 5 vs. HTC One vs. BlackBerry 10: Judging phones by their form factors

Oh, internet. It seems like only last year the iPhone 5's design was decried as boring and lacking innovation, but fast forward to now, and the BlackBerry Z10 and HTC One (or at least a supposed render) stand accused of being too iPhone 5-like in their design. We just want to hate on everything, don't we?

The truth is, the black slab archetype has been around for years. When you combine a giant screen with a minimalist chassis, there isn't a lot you can do to differentiate the essential look, unless you're willing to abandon the feng shui of curves, or compromise the lines for the sake of non-functional adornments.

If you love the iPhone, take it as a compliment. If you love something else, take it as a chance to own it. Because the details of each are unique, especially when viewed side-by-side (above). The differences in size, in materials used, in heft and feel -- the confluence of a million tiny implementation details -- add up to a palpable difference. And when you turn the screen on, forget about it.

iOS, Android and Sense, BlackBerry 10 are all very different approaches to mobile computing.

I'm going to keep on saying it -- we're getting to the point where hardware is so good, software and services are becoming far, far more important to the near future of mobile.

Ultimately, saying one black slab looks like the other is like saying one little black dress, tuxedo, or hypercar looks like the other. It ignores all the details, and everything going on inside.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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iPhone 5 vs. HTC One vs. BlackBerry Z10: Judging phones by their form factors

52 Comments

Exactly.

Hopefully Apple pulls up their collective socks and starts getting services right. It's their achilles' heel.

Perhaps tech will all come together to the point where we will all be using Star Trek Pads and everything will just be standard issue. :-)

Well said Rene. I generally disagree with you, but then you write posts like this and it reaffirms just how good of an editor you really are.

I don't know, when I look at those 3 side by side Sesame Street "One of these things is not like the others" is going off in my head.

"When you combine a giant screen with a minimalist chassis, there isn't a lot you can do to differentiate the essential look, unless you're willing to abandon the feng shui of curves, or compromise the lines for the sake of non-functional adornments."

Rene, I think this is wrong. The basic form and shape of the iPhone 4/4S/5 is essentially the "purple" concept as revealed in the Apple v Samsung trial. (They also had prototypes of the 1st gen iPhone and iPhone 3G/3GS in those trial documents.) The problem to me is that there were also some 30 other concepts that Apple looked at. That Apple was able to produce some 30 concepts should prove to everyone that the design space is pretty big, and it should be quite easy to different a phone's looks.

The basic problem with other phones looking too much like Apple's iPhone is that it cheapens the brand. They got this problem with ultrabooks looking like the MBA and laptops looking like the MBP. It cheapens the brand. That's why a lot of companies are very protective of their products, like Harley Davidson protecting the sound that their motorcycles make or Coca-Cola protecting the shape of their bottles.

At some point where hardware performance is bountiful and software performs adequately, it is going to be a bit like fashion, and how it looks will be a big differentiator in products.

Perfectly stated. Branding is vitally important. Quick! Name any brand of facial tissue that isn't Kleenex. Now, name any brand of bleach other than Clorox.

See what I mean? When your brand becomes a household word, your marketing department has won the battle for your brand. And yes, your legal department deserves full credit too. Apple has already done that with iPod. iPhone and iPad are next.

So what your saying is that because Kleenex was the first to put tissues in a square box and pull them out top that no one else can think of that design?

Also a tissue is best as a square. Is there any other better shape? So for a generic company wanting to make tissues a square tissue in a square box is the best design. The only thing different is to have the tissue come from front edge instead of the top.
iPhone shape is like kleenex, every other slab phone is like generic tissue

I'm not sure how your linked article or what Ive's interview is trying to say. Good design seems inevitable, yes, but it doesn't mean that "good design" leads you down to one type of design or form.

There is most certainly a plateau, not a sharp point, but a plateau, in the design space where a multitude of forms will appear inevitable or natural and will all appear very good to large and overlapping portions of the population. If you isolate two relentless designers and ask them to come up with their ideal shape, form, materials, I doubt they'll come up with the same thing.

Your right in what your saying with saying everyone has their own vision for what they think is best but its different when this thing you are designing isn't just for you. You have to maximize the number of features or designs that have the largest number of people who want them. It is after you do this that you can add the small details that give it its own identity even among those that have similar implementations and I think this is what Rene was trying to get at or at least what i got from what he wrote. He was pointing out how people would keep saying that the Z10 looked a lot like the iPhone 5 because the front portion of the phones had some similarities but as a whole the two phones are completely different. I don't see these two other phones as copying one another but I do see that they all have similarities (I can see how the Z10 and the HTC One would look similar from that picture).

The inevitable article (I read it when it was first published so I might be remembering wrong) was his way of saying that people complain that the iPhone 4,4s look too similar to the iPhone 5 but the reason that the iPhone 5 didn't change much at first glance was because it was still using the best design with the simplistic look that it wanted and improved on the smaller details to change the entire feel of the phone. He probaby referrenced it to say that although the iPhone 5 wasn't changed drastically, the reason why was because it had good design and the details needed to be changed.

How is the z10 an iPhone 5 look-alike? I could see how the HTC One is a combination of both the 5 and z10 but the z10 is no where close to the iPhone 5. Typical Apple fanboy comment, anything that has the candy bar design and is black or matte black is considered an iPhone 5 look-alike. Ive used both and both are completely different in looks and feel. If there's any accusations of a look-alike here, it is clearly the One but it looks a lot more of the z10 than the 5 although the top and bottom bezels do look like the backing of the 5. Personally Ive never been a fan of HTC mainly because of their sense skin and their crappy battery life but I do hope this isn't the final render as there will be lawsuits one its way.

All I would like to see from this website is a no bias video of the newest Iphone vs BlackBerry Z10 comparison of features. I'm sure it won't happen though.

Sorry but that's just insane to come to a iPhone only website and make these remarks here's a hint scroll to the bottom click on crack berry.com and enjoy, second how about you give us a brief comparison I'd love to hear it

Everyone is biased. We're human. Typically when we say "unbiased" we mean "agrees with me". This is an Apple-centric website, so that's a bias (though I'd suggest iMore tends to like BlackBerry's more than CrackBerry.com likes iOS devices ;) )

We already have a video of Z10 vs. iPhone 5. Know what? We had Chris Parsons (who writes for iMore and CrackBerry) do it.

http://www.imore.com/first-look-blackberry-10-vs-iphone-5

How's that?

It is not like we like Blackberry more, it is because fans on Crackberry are all on crack, and sounds like juvenile with their bias and how scare they get when someone say something about their product so they call everyone troll. What I like on Imore is smart reply from people and not stupids comments like I see to many times. Often I wonder if the people writing on Crackberry are teenager.

That's what I've been saying for a while, Rene. Phones can only progress so far in hardware as the manufacturers continue to innovate. The form-factor and design has always been bound to come to a general standard. But I think think you drove the right point by stating that nowadays, it's the software that will differentiate stand out on each device. Couldn't have stated it better myself.

Look at the corners. Why didn't Blackberry keep the "chamfered" corners from the London prototype? That's all Blackberry had to do to prevent people from accusing them of copying the iPhone.

I actually like the London prototype better as it is distinctive and differentiates the product. Now with the HTC device have the same kind of look, the Z10's uniqueness decreases a bit.

Since none of them are anything like the other, beyond the color black, rounded corners and having a screen. I mean really, when has a color, corners and choice of a metal body become Apple's hallmark and something no one else can use. Get real.

Now IF, the HTC One is the real deal it gives iOS users a look at what an iPhone could be if Apple had the fortitude to build a real sized phone for those who need a bigger screen but want iOS. Yes they do exist and a lot more of them than Apple is willing to admit. I be there are tons of users who suffer with the 4" screen and those who have left (as I did) for a bigger screen. Though I will likely return with the next iPhone screen size aside. Its not the app ecosystem, but one app that works better for me that I would use an iPhone.

One more thing . . . HTC shows that you can make a nice looking phone with out any physical buttons.

you need to take a pitcher of these phones standing upright and turned to see there sides. then you well see a ture pitcher of how they look alike. once you do this the Z10 really looks different the top and bottom of the phone is curved from front to back to make it slide into your pocket better and it feels better when using it with one hand. once turned to landscape these front to back curves help it feel more like a game controller then a phone.

I don't think you want to take a pitcher (which holds a liquid) but rather a picture or image of what you wanted.

None of the Lumia models (or the predecessor N9) look anything like an iPhone, so there is clearly room for design innovation. But then, HTC copied that, too, so...

Everytime I see an HTC and Sense top of the line phone, and Motorola DROIDS with there skin, I wonder, WHY OH WHY is Samsung the de facto standard? They aren't even the top two, IMHO, Android guys??

Maybe because it's a top selling Android phone and one that is recognizable now as Samsung's 'look'. Motorola and HTC phones are all over the map, so were Samsung's before the SIII. But now, you see an SIII (or Note) and you immediately know it's Samsung, just like you see an iPhone without branding and you know what it is. Take away the branding, and its unlikely you could tell a Motorola or HTC unless you closely follow phones. Just a fact of things. Neither brand have, in my opinion, found that defined look that they carry across their brand because its recognizable. They seem more inclined to base look off the features.

Even Blackberries with the myriad shapes and features were recognizable immediately as Blackberries.

Honestly, of the three phones pictures, the HTC One and Blackberry Z10 with their long horizontal lines going all the way to the edge top and bottom look most alike and neither look much as much like the iPhone 5 with its large round home button.

My first thought, too, was the HTC and Blackberry look nearly identical. Like the back of the iPhone 5 almost.

I don't think this can be spun as a positive for the iPhone, at least a positive in the looks department. These are innovative for HTC/Blackberry, because their previous phones weren't anything like this. The previous two iPhones looked very similar to the iPhone 5, which is why the 5 isn't innovative in the looks department. I could see a debate on whether or not it is innovative feature-wise* though.

*I won't debate specs until they're released, not just "up to 2x faster"

"Oh, internet. It seems like only last year the iPhone 5's design was decried as boring and lacking innovation, but fast forward to now, and the BlackBerry Z10 and HTC One (or at least a supposed render) stand accused of being too iPhone 5-like in their design. We just want to hate on everything, don't we?" 'Seems to give the impression that looks are an innovation when the design is said to be lacking innovation.'*

Refined looks are an innovation. The definition of "Innovation is the development of new values through solutions that meet new needs, inarticulate needs, or old customer and market needs in value adding new ways." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation

A new, more refined look does add value, as it meets new needs, and is therefore innovative.

*Added the stuff in single quotes in an edit, for clarity.

"A new, more refined look does add value, as it meets new needs, and is therefore innovative."

Seems a quite broad definition of innovation to me. Refining a look is more about giving a certain impression. That does indeed add a perceived value, but I wouldn't call that innovation.

Well, I don't think that's something I can convince you differently about, but the look is an improvement on a current invention. That is a more standard definition of innovation. They "invented" the look, as even Rene says they look different enough, then reinvented, or innovated upon it. Won't reply further as I don't see this going anywhere.

The entire phone was rebuilt in every way, it just happens to looks similar to the previous one.

It's like making a Lambo out of carbon fibre instead of metal, and people complaining it still looks like a Lambo.

I.e. people are dumb. Welcome to the internet :)

Yup.

I'm still kind of shocked that even tech bloggers and reviewers, well a rather large majority, don't have a fundamental understanding of how electronics or computers work.

I guess their point is, if you're doing such a major overhaul of the device, why not change the look too?

Edit: They're making it Carbon Fibre, so why not change the shape? That seems to be the complaint, not that Carbon Fibre = Metal.

I don't know why people whine about one phone looking like another. It's a PHONE. There's only so much you can do. No one complains that LG / Panasonic / Samsung / Sharp / Sony televisions all look the same. It's all about the materials, the quality, and with a phone - the software.

To me, the phone that looks most like the iPhone is the LG Prada KE850. Except that the LG was released and even received a design award in 2006, 6 months BEFORE the launch of the original iPhone. Who was copying who then?

The iPhone that exists now was designed in 2005. You can find it in the Samsung lawsuit docks.

The Prada was announced in December of 2006, barely a month before Apple showed off a fully functional iPhone on the Macworld stage in January 2007.

There were any number of PDA and mobile devices that looked similar as well, include the iPod.

Which was the whole point of the article.

(But don't let me get in the way of anyone's senseless Apple poking...)

As a iPhone fan...stop worrying about the competition and just be a leader in innovation and features. It will force the market to recognize your product as best in class. Go 4.3 or 4.5 on the device, continue to offer a best in class UI, allow more bluetooth and developer control on the SDK and the market will follow.

The market has pretty much said they like the current iPhone. It's the internet/power users who want different things, and sadly we're not the target.

I'm guessing we'll see a bigger iPhone at some point, but to grow the market, not catch it.

I'm still pissed that Apple has barely increased it's battery size over the years. A JailBroken iPhone with at least 2000-2500mAH would destroy everything.

Why Blackberry Z10 is better than iPhone 5:

1. Multitasking- iPhone is the poorest of all phones in multitasking
2. Dual profiles(bb balance)-iPhone dose'nt have it
3. Screen size-BB Z10 4.2-iPhone loses
4. Display-BB Z10 is 356 iPhone is 325-iPhone loses
5. Keyboard.BB Z10 has the best
6. Security doesn't have any
7. Button-less
8. Grip and form factor in the hand-BB Z10 has a better grip.
9. Messenger, because iPhone's messenger is a joke
10. BB Z10 has NFC, iPhone still doesn't have NFC
11. Bump file transfer, BB Z10 has it, iPhone doesn't have it
12. BB Z10 can send more than 30 pics on a text, iPhone can only send 10 or 11
13. Total integration of the BB Z10 10 HUB, iPhone dose not offer integration, everything is all over the place,
14. 600,000 of the 800,000 apps are 6 1/2 years old, blackberry is focused on the past 1 1/2 apps, but id getting resistance
15. Active frames on BB Z10 is terrific -iPhone is still a poor multitasker
16. BB Z10 has endless of options, iPhone is limited, only as good as the app you can download if available for free.
17. Better sound quality on the BB Z10
18. BB Z10 also has a micro-kernel platform,iPhone is still partly monolithic
19. iPhone take very good pictures, because the phone is set to take the highest quality picture only, no options to change for texting multiple photos
20. BB Z10 has a replaceable battery, iPhone does not
21. BB Z10 has micro sd expansions up 64gb, iPhone does not, so if you want to change content of the phone you can, iPhone doesn't give you a choice, also everything purchased in itunes is not yours, it is property of apple,ask yourself , where is the music actually on you pc.. if you don't have access to the internet, retrieving cloud material is impossible
22. iPhone is wide open when it comes to security and material, BB Z10 has two secured sides,8 gbs each-16 gb total
23. iPhone is 7 years old and still has freezing and locking issues
24. BB Z10 is the easiest platform to write for now, and they pay more for the apps, iPhone pays the least,
25. The charger is standard, with a micro hdmi out port, iPhone's charger is propriety and no hdmi out..
26. BB Z10 can bluetooth to other phones and devices , iPhone can not bluetooth to other phones at all
27. BB Z10 also has story maker, to create your own movie and videos, from film footage and pics, that's not an app, it's native

The HTC one is a fantastic looking phone and very well made also, So not only is android catching up with iphone smoothness but also the android handset manufacturers are making very desirable and well made handsets.