This year shame as the last.
Last year I wrote an article about the difference between Samsung and Apple industrial design. It attracted hundreds of thousands of readers and sparked a debate about the difference between aping a look and nailing the details.
The gist was, on last year's Galaxy S6 line, almost nothing was actually in line.
So, a year later, did Samsung get their ports and buttons in order?
From the looks of the just-announced Galaxy S7, not so much.
The ports, microphones, speakers, jacks, and other elements still don't line up. Not even close.
In fairness to Samsung, the Galaxy S7 is more of a Galaxy S6s — an updated version of last year's phone. That means there was probably little time or opportunity for Samsung to re-engineer between then and now. And that shows why it's so important to take that kind of care from the very beginning.
Like I said last year:
To align everything along the edge of a device takes designing and mounting the boards in a certain way, and the ports and speakers, and the buttons and jacks, and the grills and every other detail so they all line up at exactly the right place at the end. Painstaking is likely an understatement.
Is it worth the effort? For me, as a customer, knowing that Apple had the consideration and took the time and effort to align their hardware speaks to the overall quality of their work. It reassures me that the same consideration and effort were likely spent making sure not a millimeter nor milliamp of battery space was wasted, not a nanometer of die, not a gap left around the screen, or a dead zone in the capacitive sensor.
It's the kind of care that might seem superficial or even superfluous at first but that permeates every aspect of product design. It's why Apple took the trouble to protect fingerprint data on a secure enclave of the A-series system-on-a-chip, for example, instead of leaving them in a world-readable directory.
Apple can and will continue to make its fair share of mistakes, and Samsung will continue to earn its fair share of accolades. Different phones will always appeal to different people.
But there's something about knowing a company cares enough to build everything right, down to the smallest of details. Like Steve Jobs said, you don't always notice it but you notice it when it's missing.
And what's missing has become increasingly noticeable.
Can you judge a phone by its design details? Let me know in the comments!