The 4th generation iPhone HD/iPhone 4G revealed this week doesn't look exactly like the iPhones that have come before, but could it just be the iPhone Apple's senior vice-president of design, Jonathan Ive has always wanted to make?
If you're not familiar with Ive, a man who's won more high-level design awards than just about every other consumer electronics whiz on the planet combined, just look at any Apple product since the iMac. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad -- and few unibody MacBooks and Magic Mice in-between -- have all come from Jonathan Ive and his team. From deep, monochromatic plastics to unblemished aluminum to polished black glass, it would be fair to call Ive's work industry leading -- if the rest of the industry hadn't but lately decided design was even something worth considering.
The original iPhone 2G in 2007 was something new for Apple and Ive, and it had to work, just work, flawlessly out of the box, and you could see it's compromises right on the large black plastic strip that cut across the aluminum on the back. iPhone 3G and iPhone 3G boosted the radios and the power under the hood, but not much else happened on the outside other than the adoption of a full plastic jacket to make those radios work better. And all the while Apple's other designs -- the ones where they long since found their footing in time and technology to really unleash their A game... well, they started to leave the iPhone design language behind. Rounded aluminum rectangles with sharper corners came to the iMacs and MacBook Pros as the parts inside got smaller and the batteries (and battery life) for laptops grew and grew.
A lot has been said about Jonathan Ive's influences, almost singularly and iconically Dieter Rams of Braun. To say Apple products now bear striking resemblance to Braun products then is not an understatement and is unmistakably intentional. Rams and Ive share the same philosophy and language of design. They're minimalist. There's only as much form as is needed to utterly get out of the way of function. The radio is a speaker, the iPad is a screen. They are what you use them for.
And because of Apple's inexperience with phones and the compromises mentioned above, perhaps it's no more coincidence that past iPhones bear less resemblance to the work of Dieter Rams than that the next generation one bears total resemblance.
Apple's gone unibody, they gone glass edge to edge, and most importantly they gone Apple A4 inside and shrunk the guts down to unbelievably small sizes, leaving room for ginormous batteries and little else but design. What was previously curved and more complicated now be flat and simple. It not only just works, it just fits in the broader context of Ive's work and the influence of Rams he's shown such homage for over the years.
Check out the videos of Jonathan Ive discussing design from the outstanding documentary Objectified, and from Apple's iPad event below, and hop on over to Gizmodo for a look at Ive's work in context to Rams.