Cult of beautiful

I recently saw a post over in Googleplex talking about the "Top 5 Most Beautiful Android Apps" and it started me wondering. We live in an age where our gadgets and apps let us do some incredible things. Yet, increasingly I see a focus on sites like this on how things look rather than what they let you do. We talk and obsess about the materials a phone is made out of without worrying about durability of those materials. We screenshot app screens and talk about "design languages" without thinking (as much) about what the apps do.

Have we reached an era where all these things can pretty much do the same stuff, so the things we're left to differentiate them with is how they look? I do understand that looks are important, but if something doesn't do what you want it to do, is how it looks really important? So, that gets me to back my question: do all these things do pretty much the same stuff, so it's time to talk about how they look?

I've seen this scenario in other industries such as TVs or refrigerators. TV's to a large extent all do the same thing: display TV shows. Once you get past resolution and technical specs, the functional differences from one manufacturer to another might take a magnifying glass to see. The same for refrigerators. Now they talk about finishes, or their decorative looks to differentiate their products.

There was a time when there were radical innovative leaps in function on computers, internet services, and mobile devices. Things came out that did things no other competitors did. Now, though, there is very little new under the sun. Every new thing does barely incrementally different stuff than other similar things. So, what we're left to talk about is how they look. It suggests to me the rate of functional innovation is slowing. At that point, how things look becomes a very important differentiator.

As my title suggests, I personally feel like the fixation on looks is like fixating on how a baseball player looks rather than how they play, and so is missing the point of why the baseball player (or technical gadget) is there. But, I understand if every baseball player is pretty much the same, looks are a concrete thing to fixate on to differentiate them. Am I missing the point of the "cult of the beautiful?"