iPhone Design Is In The Danger Zone

iPhone Design Is In The Danger Zone

A report about an all-glass iPhone is giving me palpitations. Apple do you want me to die? What would be the point of this mindless gimmick?

Nikkei reports that Alan Horng, chief executive of Catcher Technologies, leaked information suggesting Apple has an all-glass device in the works. Catcher is one of Apple’s key suppliers of metal frames, so there’s reason to take him seriously:

“As far as I know, only one [iPhone] model will adopt glass casing next year,” Horng told reporters after the annual shareholder meeting on Thursday. “I don’t think this move will have an impact on Catcher’s revenue as glass casing still needs a durable metal frame which requires advanced processing technology and would not be cheaper than the current model.”

This certainly isn’t the first we’ve heard of an all-glass device, but the idea of Apple reverting to a design with more glass seems a step backwards that would make iPhones worse. The last glass-heavy design came with the iPhone 4 and 4s. And while the execution was admittedly beautiful, it was the most brutal of liabilities. I broke three of them. That glass back was a disaster — it was just one more surface to shatter. That’s what made the aluminium back on subsequent designs brilliant! Metal is more durable than glass. The thought of carrying around another fragile China doll everywhere I go gives me the shakes.

Apple certainly has an incentive to switch up the iPhone design. The company is still richer than God, but it’s suffered a few setbacks recently as its preposterous growth has sputtered. The slowdown is happening for a whole host of reasons. Among them is users’ decreasing incentive to upgrade their devices. Meanwhile, the new iPhone features are less and less interesting, and carriers have stopped subsidising phones.

(I am not, by the way, about to argue that Apple would make a phone easier to break so people have to upgrade more often. But wouldn’t that be some shit?)

The bigger problem, though, as Nikkei points out, is that the world market is “saturated” with phones. I’ll only add to this that everything looks the same. Apple devices are beautiful works of art that everybody wants to copy. Basically every manufacturer is selling phones obviously modelled after Apple’s aluminium and glass masterpieces.

Apple can’t control everything about the smartphone market, but one critical lever at its disposal is design. To retain its position — and to keep iPhone sales from sliding even further — Apple must act.

But all glass? That is folly. I’m certain that Apple would release such a device with blustery claims about how the glass is sapphire and shatterproof or whatever. We have seen very durable smartphones displays before, so it’s not unthinkable. Let’s step back and think about this, though. Can Apple really make an attractive premium device made entirely of glass that’s tougher than the same device made with an aluminium back? I don’t know!

Look, we don’t have complete details about anything, and maybe Apple will unveil the all-glass phone that revolutionises the industry and inspires a million copycats more. This glass business could all be bullshit to begin with, so maybe my blood pressure is redlining for no reason.

The fact remains, however, that Apple’s going to need to stand out as competitors get better, and the only way to do that might be to bedazzle its traditionally elegant designs with a bunch of silly gimmicks. Android manufacturers, bless them, have already resorted to this tactic. Remember curved phones? Remember wrap around screens? Heck, it’s only been two months, and LG G5’s “slot” already looks like an embarrassing misstep.

Apple’s going do what it does, but say it with me now people: I don’t want a gimmicky iPhone.

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