Apple's design team talks iPhone colors, MagSafe, HomePod mini, and more

Magsafe Song
Magsafe Song (Image credit: Jonathan & Friends)

What you need to know

  • Apple's iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro bring MagSafe to the lineup.
  • That allows new cases and accessories to be created.
  • Apple's design team has been talking about all that and more.

Apple's been on a release tear of late with new Apple Watches, speakers, iPhones, and accessories all debuting. Apple's design team has been busy, but with devices now out the door, some members of that team have been talking to Wallpaper (opens in new tab) about the iPhones and accessories in particular.

As suspected, everything Apple announced in October was being prototyped during Jony Ive's reign. Work was underway in 2018, according to the report, so it's going to be a while before we see products that have zero Ive input.

With the arrival of iOS 14 we've seen a boom in iPhone customization and, Wallpaper believes, that's further driven home by the arrival of MagSafe and the ease with which it allows iPhone cases to be swapped in and out.

Iphone 12 Magsafe

Iphone 12 Magsafe (Image credit: Apple)

There's a sense that Apple considered the form factor of iPhones 10 and 11 as having reached a sort of zenith, the purist expression of the object. The 12 family is rather more diverse. Now that iOS 14 has opened the door to hitherto unknown levels of home screen customisation, MagSafe promises to make swapping out cases, attaching accessories like the beautifully detailed leather card wallet, and putting on to charge a seamless, wire-free experience.

Evans Hankey, the company's VP of Industrial Design, goes on to say that the colors that were chosen for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are the result of "an exploration that started around gemstones – we loved the depth of colour and the way the colours appeared through the cases."

The work on the outside of the new iPhones also meant that there was work needed on the inside, too. Apple's design team needed to re-work the internals of the iPhones to make room for the magnets and NFC gubbins, something that many will overlook.

As ever, the details go far beyond what you see on the surface — the iPhone team had to tweak the internal architecture — already a literal miracle of packaging – to accommodate the magnetic coil. The cardholder wallet is sprung so that a single card is still held as tightly as three. The passive NFC field ensures the iPhone detects when an accessory is docked, a feature demonstrated best by the sleeve which leaves a small slot for the time display. Putting away your phone will also change the display colour to match the sleeve's. 'This connectivity to the MagSafe eco system is what drove the final form,' explains Apple designer Eugene Whang. 'We designed the phone and the accessories as a single cohesive family,' continues Jeremy Bataillou, another long-time Apple designer.

Homepod Mini

Homepod Mini (Image credit: iMore)

Finally, there's a word on ecosystems. Apple has HomePod mini set to launch in a week or so and that will further drive home the importance of the Appe ecosystem, one that many other companies would kill to acquire. But Apple has it and, importantly, it intends to build on it with HomePod mini.

Apple's massive volumes also allow for other innovations. The new HomePod mini is one of the most affordable Apple products ever, at $99 (£99). A scaled down version of the HomePod speaker system, it is also a command hub for HomeKit, as well as an interface with Siri and a portal to myriad streaming services. With the same geometric mesh covering, proximity sensors that detect your approach and the same levels of high-fidelity as its larger sibling, the mini is destined to enter millions of homes over the next few years. 'We're happy there's an ecosystem around our products,' says Hankey. 'As a design team, we are always exploring how we can add specific new values and make them more personal.'

Be sure to check out the full post at Wallpaper (opens in new tab) for some great insight into Apple's design ideas.

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.