iPhone 5 and the State of Apple Design

Apple is a master of iterating and refining an idea. If you look back through there history you'll see this in much of their design. From the MacBook Pro, iMac, all the way to the original Macintosh we see Apple refine a singular design. Even the New MacBook Pro is a refinement on the design set forth by the unibody MacBook Pro introduced back in 2007.

With all the fanfare and excitement the iPad and iPhone have brought in recent years we've come to expect yearly revolutions from Apple, but technology simply doesn't work this way, especially when looking at Apples history. We've come to expect amazing new products on a yearly cycle based on the impact these devices had at their inception.

The iPhone 5 doesn't have the "wow" factor that Nokia's new Lumia 920 carries but its not designed to. Nokia is in a place Apple was 3-4 years ago. Nokia is building a brand association and design foundation for future generations of Lumia.

As a tech enthusiast I get very excited by new and innovative products like the Lumia 920, or Lytro Light Field Camera, but these yearly innovations are not apart of Apples philosophy. When they do enter a technology segment Apple typically does present us with a fresh perspective on old ideas. The original Macintosh, first iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad all helped usher in new eras of computing, making us rethink how we view and use technology. But once presented they laid the foundation for the future products of that given line. Each generation building on the one before it. Apples success has been built on this design philosophy and is what has made the company what it is today.


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iPhone 5 is a perfect example of this, it is an iteration and refinement of their original idea. As someone who's used a lot of Apple products the last 5 years it's clear that Apple is sticking to that philosophy. Apple builds devices that take the technology out of the equation. They want the device to disappear, allowing you to do what you need, or want to get done. When a device feels familiar and comfortable it becomes an extension of who you are and not a tool to think about. This is an important idea in photography. You want to become so familiar and comfortable with your camera that you no longer think about how to use it, images "just happen"; your skills and creativity are able to flourish without technical tinkering getting in the way.

What happens when you follow this path is new generations feel "boring" or "predictable". The beauty in Apples design is its simplicity and refinement. When you look at the first iPhone to iPhone 5 it's a drastic step, but from year to year the progression is less noticeable. If you look at the short history of iPhone compared to Apples other long standing devices the pace at which it changes is fast. iPhone has been re-designed every two years since the iPhone 3G, with each device in between being a spec bump of the prior year. This drastically contrasts the rate at which, say, the MacBook or iMac is re-designed.

Not many people like dealing with, or learning new technology, especially on a yearly basis. Apple has been very conservative in the evolution of iPhone and iOS. Every generation has felt like an inevitable next step of the generation before. There is no steep learning curve or stumbling into a new device. You pick it up and use it the way you always have, it's comfortable, efficient, and seamless.

So though iPhone 5 isn't the revolution people were hoping or maybe expecting, it is the best iPhone yet. For someone like my self who appreciates this design philosophy it's exactly what I could have hoped for.

iPhone 5 is simply Apple doing what it does best, iterate and refine.