Regarding the iPhone HD/iPhone 4G design


Based on everything we've seen to date, debate about what Engadget showed glimpses of on Sunday and Gizmodo went hands-on with on Monday is over -- it's a next-generation Apple iPhone HD (iPhone 4G). It might not be final hardware, but with the public unveiling expected to be in WWDC this June and the shipping date soon thereafter, it's close.

We'll go over the purported specs in a post to follow, but right now we're going to concentrate on the design. Some are complaining it doesn't look Apple-like, doesn't look like something that came out of the Star Trek-style labs of Apple SVP of design, Jonathan Ive. We thought so too at first, when all we had to go on were the pics of the initial post. We thought it looked like a Japanese knock-off. We were wrong. The pictures posted from the hands-on today were much clearer and they show lines that are much cleaner and a design much more in harmony with the other major releases Apple's done recently -- unibody MacBook Pro, 2009 iMac, 2010 iPad. Sure, they typically have subtle curves along one large surface -- back of the iMac, rear of the iPad, and this iPhone HD looks flat as a pancake, but the language is unmistakable. Mostly.

Yeah, the breaks in the aluminum siding. Screws in the iPhone 3GS and iMac is one thing, but breaks in the aluminum? It's possible that those were there to grant easy access to the guts of the prototype and will disappear when Steve Jobs pulls the final production model from his pocket at WWDC. Or it's possible that those are there to grant access to the guts and are a compromise we'll see up to and after release. (We choose to believe the former rather than the latter, of course).

Also, the volume buttons. Gone are the toggles found in the first three generations of iPhone, last two of iPod touch, and one and only iPad to date. In there place are something that looks like the battery level indicator button from a MacBook Pro [tip of the hat to @richardlai] as seen through double vision.


Gizmodo knows/guesses they're there to serve as additional, contextual hardware buttons. Specifically, that when in camera mode (where volume is not needed) they'd serve as a hard shutter button for taking pictures or starting/stopping video recording.

A toggle could perform multiple functions as well, however, though perhaps less intuitively.

If we go through the checklist, however, we have the rounded rectangle with the hardened angles, the glass to the very edge, and the black and aluminum that has become this generation of Apple trademark.

That's our take. Now it's time for yours. WWDC is still well over a month away, when it comes to the iPhone HD/iPhone 4G design, what do you hope Apple keeps the same, and what do you really wish they'd change?


Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Regarding the iPhone HD/iPhone 4G design


You want to test the hardware but don't have a design style yet, so of course chuck it in this piece Of metal junk. I hate the design. Would still buy the new phone, but hate that ugly design.

It's not like they were going to come out with the same boring design, that's the point. I think it looks beautiful and the volumes buttons look amazing. I can wait to get my hands on it.
Only drawback is the stupid Micro-Sim.

I like the look. It takes cues from the 1st and second gen iPod nanos which were very thin, sleek and pocket friendly

Get rid of the breaks in the aluminum siding or give me a reason (a really good one) other than being able to remove the battery to justify them.

I like how " The pictures posted from the hands-on today were much clearer and they show lines that are much cleaner and a design much more in harmony with the other major releases Apple’s done recently " suddenly this phone looks like apple gold just two days ago everyone was calling it a piece of htc looking crap... Lame

I hope that they find and arrest the thief that stole it from the bar. And perhaps charge Gizmodo for paying for known stolen property.

After seeing it next to the 3GS, I can honestly say I love the new design. It makes the 3GS look bulbously. The only thing I don't like about it, like Vince said, is the breaks in the aluminum. Don't see the point.

Design change and major spec bumps is all I want. Also there are camera apps ex.. Camera zoom. That use the volume toggle as a camera shutter. I'm surprised apple didn't make this happen in a update.

I actually like the design. I think it certainly fits in nicely witht he rest of the current aluminum line of products as pointed out above. I really do not like the current 3GS sculpting and materials, so this potential version would be a welcome change for me. I just want some sort of notification light as well. Something slick like the battery indicater on the MBP.

I dont mind the design as long as they do something about the volume buttons and the seam lines.. they don't look polished enough.. i dont mind the flat back so much..

To all those bitching about a bigger screen:
Amongst consumers, the iPhone's screen and body are seen as "HUGE". Apple doesn't want to make the iPhone even more awkward to hold. That's why they've actually decreased the width of this iPhone. If they were to increase the size of the screen, the proportions would need to be constrained because the OS is not resolution-independent, so Apps would all need to be re-programmed for the new screen ratio. Keeping it the same size ensures that even with double the resolution, 320x480 apps still look just as crisp and clear as they do now. So please shut up. You are annoying.
To all those saying it is ugly:
Do you think the iMac is ugly? The iPad? The MacBook? Then you are freaking crazy and need to go to a mental institution. This iPhone is the most beautiful yet.
To all snitching about the seams:
This is one of a batch of hand-made prototypes based on the finished design. The seams will undoubtedly be removed in factory production.
Everyone can shut up now. :)

I love the new design, but I wish the aluminum went right to the egde, and not the glass. What will happen when you drop it on it's corner?

Somehing to get use to. The different design is cool but I like the curvy-ness of the 3G. When I held the 2G in my hand and then the 3G I realized how much better it is to hold.
Going back to the blocky style is a step backwards for apple honestly. Yeah it matches with their other crap but if this is the final version I won't buy it. Even if they have it in 64Gb , which would be a deal breaker , i wouldnt get it.

theres still not even definite proof that this is apple-made. i think it might be a controlled leak... i saw it in an article that apple normally takes legal action immediately to even the smallest leak. this is huge and nothing has been done yet...

someone should email jobs about the design. See if he responds. Personally, I think it looks really unfinished. I highly doubt that Apple would release a htc looking device. By htc looking, i mean half-a$$ed.

I see the iPhone as something totally different from the iMacs and Macbooks, and even the iPad. The iPhone itself is like a neat product that Apple needs to stew up something different in life for this specific product. The tapered edges, the glossy back, etc. It's far different from a personal/mobile computing. What the iPhone does specifically remind me of is the iPod line. Through out the generations of iPhones and iPods, there is no doubt that they've looked similar in appearance. The 1st generation iPhone had the same edges and feel of the 2nd/3rd generation iPod nanos. Rounded edges, Aluminum, and more. The iPhone 3G had the same feel as the 4th and 5th generation iPod nanos. The tapered edges, the smoothness(although iPod had aluminum) and it had simplicity. And so after, the iPod too has followed that same design, not once, but twice, such like the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS.
So all in all, i still have my hopes in something different and much more unique than this "iPhone HD". And I still have that sense and feeling of "the unfinished" product under the table, and i view this as a temporary prototype and cover up for the public (just incase if some random out of the door before the unveiling thing happened.)and i know Apple itself has something different up its sleeves than this! Do any of you agree? (:

@smchrist2: The problem with Apple issuing a cease and desist is that it will confirm that the images are real. However Apple isn't afraid to use their legal muscle. Personally, I don't like seeing leaks. I prefer the actual surprise.

Really hope it's true and the front facing iChat capabilities are true. We shall know in about 2 months if this was true or not.

I've thought this thing looked great since the first leaked photo. If this was the final version (seems aside, as its been said, this is a HAND MADE prototype, it is likely they will be gone once manufactured with a precision machine) I would still be all over it. I think the design is simple, elegant, and completely apple-esque.
Im looking forward to the front facing camera, and flash. Hoping for a 5MP camera! Screen size is just fine as is, its already gargantuan compared to any other phone on the market.
If this isnt the final design, so be it, I'm sure apple will come out with something magnificent as always, though I would be completely happy if this was it.
my 2 cents

@Adam I agree with all you said. However I think that Apple may have let this go maybe on purpose. First off this hit the press the same day the new Android phone was being announced and I believe its the HTC that will soon be released as well. Why would they not have a "mistake" that comes in such unison with Google related phones? I think they let this prototype go by "mistake" to keep people from going to those new phones and keep them wanting more and to see if its real and just wait on the new iPhone. Thats just my personal opinions obviously. I do think the final iPhone HD (or w/e they end up calling it) will look similar and have the same features though. I think this phone looks amazing and is perfect and I for one can't wait to get my hands on a new iPhone!

Well it look better than this 3gs I have
and I might end up staying with the iPhone if that is the new one. Honey it has a removable battery. And will the 4th generation have real multitAking when 4.0 is released? Because 3gs is not true multitasking to me

I think Apple will deliver a great product! The iPhone test model that was found seems promising. I know it will have to beat out its only competition the HTC EVO 4G. I hope the screen is larger because the HD2 and the EVO sport 4.3 inch screens...

It's been confirmed that this is the real deal. Apple has sent Gizmodo a letter asking for it back.
The design. I'm at opposite end. I'm happy they finally changed it dramatically. But then again, it's taking from HTC a lil. It seems apple is really looking to "borrow" from competition this time round.
All and all, nice to see it have these features, gonna make Android and manufacturers step up to the plate even more. I love competition. It begets much beauty!

Can't wait to buy all new stuff, cases, chargers, molded phone holder for the car... That'll be fun?! least they there is a case that makes it look like the 3GS, maybe it will still fit?

If you want a larger screen get an ipad. If you want a removeable battery get your head checked- it ain't gonna happen! An LED notifier would have been nice though I agree!

The entire industry is going larger screen than the iPhone. There's going to be a new Android device on Sprint with a 4 inch screen, and the HTC HD2 has a 4 inch screen. If you've ever even played with the 4 inch screen, you see the immediate need to increase the size of the iPhone's screen. The HD2 is the only phone that actually made me think about switching carriers/phones. So, YOU shut up.

I think they needed a slight revamp in design. This has potential but F**K ME if that's the final design. Not like Apple to have a device that isn't seamless all the way around now. The sides don't look done for sure.

Also, I doubt this is a planned leak. The dude apparently had it for a month, and gizmodo was looking at it for a little bit. Who knows.
I doubt Apple would do a planned leak. They don't need to. They don't control it. Occam's Razor: The strange truth is correct. I bet the dude accidentally left it. It's BOUND to happen sometime, right? Just think, does this EVER happen to other phone manufacturers? No, because nobody would even know.

I believe that is still a prototype and Jobs will be out hounding that poor employee. Oh well. On a lighter note, if you have tried Tetris or Bejeweled, it might interest you to know that there is a better option for these - StarFaces - certainly one of the best iPad app. I had played this game on my iphone for a while and now I have it for ipad and its great! Love the photos option

These pics are alot better than the pics I've seen earlier this week. So hopefully this is legit. I agree with others. I'm not a fan of the volume buttons. But the rest of it isn't bad. Like I commented just yesterday. I think it's legit just due to the fact that the battery is so big in
this thing.

Well... I really hope they keep the old/trademark look... i know its different from the 1st gen iPhone but 3g/3gs look is unmistakable. The ceramic baking shown in the pictures however might be a nice touch...the fact that it is more reflective than the current one might be a good idea especially for the black one... i remember my friend used her old iPod as a mirror as well... of course there might be a chance that the buttons would change especially if there is a front facing camera... however, to keep up with the design they could separate the volume up and down and input another function when in the camera mode, although if they keep it together you should be able to differentiate one from the other... and one major thing we all want is the screen lock... i know i wish the iPhone has that function every time i go to bed and doesnt feel like sleeping yet... i do want apple to keep the shape of the 3g/3gs because not only can i keep the same case (although tweaking the buttons might require the case to change i have no problem in shelling out 20 buck for a new one anyways) but the main reason is it has futuristic look that no other phone has...
also to those saying apple wouldnt leak the pics on purpose you need to rethink that statement. a good way to know how your finalized product would look like is not to hire a group of panel and review the product but to have actual buyers comment on the thing... they are the target buyers and they would know what they want to buy. this can somehow cut down the funding for research and have a narrow review of the product. as you can see everyone has their opinion on what the product looks like. they could easily use blogs like this to research upon what other suggest and they can use these comments to shape the finalized manufactured product...

His is a fuking piece of art. U crying cause they changin same boring old design? Wow beatches
I mean wooow. I don't care desIgn I'd care functionality and a front faced camera now that fuking hot!!!
Bottons could accomodate to ,- depending Iphones orientation how In the world is that less intuitive!

Still looks like junk...but at least it is a change from the boring ol iPhone original model.

I didn't like the design at first, but like you said in the article, it looks much better in those high-quality pictures.
I'm still a little concerned about the lack of curvature and how that'll fit in hand. But overall, it now looks pretty darn good to me.
And the idea of contextual hardware buttons is also great.

I think its a step backwards for looks and design. Imagine you had never owned an iphone and stick this and the current side by side, which would you pick?
It looks like an ordinary rectangular mobile phone.

Apple does not follow trends! They SET trends!!!
4.3" is totally unnecessary and makes the phone almost impossible to use with one hand.
3.7" like the N1 and incredible are 16:9, which iPhone can't do because of resolution dependance.
If they went to a 3.7" screen, people would complain that developers have to develop for the new aspect ratio. If they went to a 4.3" screen, the 960x640 resolution would be absolutely necessary in every app and then devs would complain about that too! So Apple really doesn't have an option here. They've made the phone smaller along with the bezel on the side smaller as well, which will make the phone easier to use and makes the screen feel much larger.
To all those saying it looks like an HTC phone, um, I think it looks like an iMac, a MacBook, and an iPad. Exactly what htc phone looks like this? Seriously?

Loving the HTC hate in here. Says a lot about who the apple fans fear. I would get a HTC Incredible over the new iPhone as it currently exist. The Evo even more so. Then just think imagine what HTC will release over the next year following the Evo/iPod release. Then imagine that running on android 2.5, then 3.0. The game done changed and Apple is now in a position of playing catch up and copy.

If apple adds everything u all want, then wat is left for iphone G5??? $ is all they wants from us.

i like the former design more (however, this one is not really bad), but since the iphone is nowdays a real gaming device, it may be the right step to produce such a robust design, which lays better in your hands and with 2 buttons for additional functionality.

Don't handsets have to have removable batteries at some point in Europe? Could the break in the aluminum have something to do with this?

I thought that it was a requirement of some country or some carrier to have a removable battery before they could offer it.
Also, I was hoping that the break in the aluminum was actually an LED indicator. Why light up 153,600 pixels to check if you have missed a message or call? Just one would have sufficed.

I am I the only idiot who thinks that while the phone is legit, this is probably a test MULE... meaning the case is just a generic assembly that will probably change completely by launch? So the features are right, the physical design is probably different.

I love the design. I love the breaks. I'm buying.
but I miss a notification LED.
Hope the toggle locks the orientation. Mute should go and be handled by (timed, location-aware) profiles.

I don't understand the need for a bigger screen if it's higher resolution who cares I played with an hd2 it's just too damn big

I think this is Apple's way of testing hardware to get that feedback before they release it.

I just don't believe that anyone writing a comment here would leave iPhone. I would just like a poll come July and see how many of you left your iPhone for htc. Please....people just love to's human nature. As for me, I'm just glad I'm due for an upgrade. See you at the apple store in late June!!

testing the hardware? it's way too late in the game to change it now. shipping in June.

Like most people I want a bigger screen, but this design is a lot more similar their notebook design and gives it more of the "pocket computer" mythos to it.

It still doesn't look as sleek as I would expect... I love the almost pebble like roundness of the iphone 3gs, this doesn't seem to have that.

The rounded edges on the metal sides are what puzzles me. It's not consistent with the flush sharpness of the iMac and MacBook Pro style. And it seems like something they would've been conscious of even on a non-final version prototype.
I never use cases for my iPhones, so the outer design means a lot to me. I do like this more than the current design, but I hope it's improved before released.

Personally, I like the new design. It looks similar to the iPad. I believe the line breaks will be gone in the final release. If you want a bigger screen then get an iPad, anything with a bigger screen is going to be to bulky.

Heads may roll at Apple if this is for real, but this look, consistent with the current Apple hardware design in its COMPUTER product line makes sense given that the last 2 iPhone models (3G and 3GS) were virtually unchanged.
It also looks good in that your new iPhone will "match" your new iPad which will match your new MacBookPro which will match your new iMac desktop. Get it? Brand consistent design in product line 101. Now the iPhone is a computer!

I like the design. Apple definitely needs to change things up from previous. And a bigger screen isn't needed. In the end, this is a phone. Hopefully it'll be a killer screen.

i would love to see it have the same design of the iPad, unibody aluminum back, and I think the micro-sim is interesting considering that is what the iPad 3g will use as well, I wonder if you can swap the sim into the iPad and avoid paying for 3g twice and just use the data plan on your phone?
it works if you take the sim from the current iPhone and drop it into any other phone.

for everyone who wants a bigger screen.........get the iPad, I think Apple will NOT put a bigger screen on the iPhone for that exact reason, they want you to buy both.

If this is really it, I'll be throwing the ugly thing in a case for certain. The design speaks to it's function. Camera on both sides therefore both sides are pretty much the same- flat. The aluminum band makes it more like an actual camera and serves to be held in your hand easier when you're snapping photos, and finally the buttons obviously are shutter buttons. I bet we'll see Steve pushing the camera aspects of this big time come June. I hate the way it looks.

...and in June we will then hear "This is so amazing", "This is really amazing", "We made it best" :D
a 5mp camera, flash light, higher resolution, nothing which is groundbreaking, every other major smartphone allready has it...but like Steve says "We made it best!" .... HAHA

I really hope that they don't change the overall shape/size. Many of us have invested significantly in accessories and it would be very frustrating if the design was changed so much that the 3G/3Gs accessories didn't work. In fact, it would likely keep me from upgrading. I would like to see Apple keep the same overall shape and simply use the capacity to expand things like memory, battery life, and other functionalities. I don't see why one would have to change the overall shape to add, for example, a front-facing camera.

About the ugly lines for a removable battery. They would most likely be taken out. I'm sure if this is real, they would want easy access to the internals to tweak it, hence the break lines, the finished products would not have those.

Personally, I think the new design is hot. Having worked at Apple in my younger years as a hardware designer, I recognize this as a prototype, but a final stage proto. They were testing performance in the real world with this unit, so it's pretty damn close to the final design. They wouldn't have been testing if it weren't.
That said, I think it looks like sex on a cinnamon roll. Something sweet and tasty and nasty enough that I want it all the time.

OK everyone needs to realize that Apple needed to have a complete refresh... lets face it phones have caught up the the iPhone... it needed an A+ upgrade.... and I think we are going to get it.

I LOVE the new design Im really thinking of switching to apple from android I've been using my iPod touch for the last year and I love the iPhone OS!!

Android seems so cheap and just tossed together while the iPhone os is more stable and the apps on android crash 50% of the time... The HTC EVO 4G looks nice but no WiMax in my city and imagine the price Sprint sucks at priceing phones and on top of that Android has the worst upgradeing I mean why not let us download it from the computer... I seen APPLE, RIM, and MICROSOFT as the 3 major phone OS I think android is good but not put together rite android is basically hype and when that hype dies down it will just be another palm...

I know i wrote a lengthy comment about keeping the design but after watching the video found on this site i think its not that bad... still want the old design but seeing it in the video its actually not ugly... just different.

What's great is reading the comments through this past week. People hated the design when they thought it was a fake. As soon as they felt I was a true Apple design, they love it. Really shows how strong of a hold Apple has on people.

"If you want a bigger screen just buy the ipad" Shut it up. Sounds so simple right? Or... Why not make the iPhone screen about an inch bigger, sounds simple enough. I guess it's 3.5 inches or 10 inches. Nothing inbetween lol.

There are so many beautiful concepts out there. This one falls flat in comparison. And a smaller screen? Bah.

Am I the only one who thinks that this phone was left out purposely to create buzz. I mean I refuse to believe that an Apple engineer would be so careless with such a precious item. I would think that Apple wouldn't allow anyone let it out of HQ. I think Steve Jobs certainly has something up his sleeves. Too many phones out here dominating with what everyone is asking for....A LARGER SCREEN.

My opinion on the design I'll hold till I see it in person. I don't care too much since I would have it in an otterbox case anyway. I have had a 3gs for almost a year and have only held it 4 times without the case. I don't much care to hold an iPhone without a case. Too slick and almost to small for my hand. The otterbox makes it just the right size.
I'm afraid this new model doesn't inspire me to buy before my contract is up. Ipad 3G is in my future.

Is it really called "4G"?
Because 3G and 4G refer to the wireless technology, not an iPhone version number. If it's really a 4G cell phone, then it won't be out for at least a year.