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iPhone 4S Designers Could Learn from Auto Industry



The iPhone 4S has more power under the hood, but it looks exactly like last year’s model. That’s a bad thing since it’ll be too easy for consumers to confuse the iPhone 4S with the iPhone 4 that’s already sitting in their pocket. What’s worse for Apple is that iPhone 4S owners won’t be able to bask in the glory of being early adopters since their admirers won’t even know if they have the latest iPhone or are still rocking the one they picked up in June 2010.

I understand why Apple doesn’t want to fix something that they don’t perceive as broken, but Apple really should’ve done something to differentiate the iPhone 4S from the iPhone 4. Apple could’ve kept the same basic design, but altered the iPhone 4S design in some way to freshen things up. Perhaps a glowing Apple logo on the back of the iPhone 4S could do the trick.

iPhone 4S - Do I look familiar?

The glowing logo isn’t only possible, it apparently isn’t all that difficult to set up considering there’s a DIY kit that’ll illuminate the fruit on the back of the iPhone 4. There are of course other cosmetic approaches Apple could have taken, bu this is just one example that would help early iPhone 4S adopters stand out from the millions of iPhone 4 users.

So what does the iPhone 4S’s design have to do with the auto industry? Auto manufacturers produce generations of vehicles that they plan on selling for a few years at a time. Things can get pretty stale if you sell what’s essentially the same car for three to eight years. To keep things fresh and entice buyers to buy the latest and greatest. Those in the know can instantly spot when someone has the hot new car.

Auto manufacturers will often offer slight tweaks to body panels, new colors and different wheels each year while maintaining the same basic design. In some cases the power train will change, offering a horsepower boost they can brag about.

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For example, the 1967 and 1968 Ford Mustang were nearly identical, but Ford changed the scoop on the side of the car in 1968 for a more aggressive appearance. It also wiped the FORD emblem from the hood and offered sporty C-stripe decals to enhance the appearance. In 1968, Ford also moved away from the 289 V8 to the beefier 302 V8, complete with an emblem on the side of the vehicle to let everyone know that you had 30 extra horsepower than the chumps stuck with the 1967 Mustangs.



Mercedes E-Series

In more modern vehicles, such as the Mercedes E-Series sedan, the latest models come complete with Bluetooth audio streaming and a color LCD in the dashboard. Like the Mustang example above, the 2012 E350 will have 30 more horsepower than the 2011 model.  The newer E-Series sedan will have a sleeker appearance due to a new fog light design compared to the 2011 model. All of this is enough for Mercedes fans to instantly recognize if you’re driving the new or old model.

So where is Apple’s new wheels or racing stripes? It may sound ridiculous for some of you, but the lack of any obvious physical differences will mean a lot of iPhone shoppers will think the iPhone 4S is exactly the same thing as the iPhone 4. And why would anyone pay $100 extra for something that looks the same as the cheaper model?

Apple doesn’t need to drastically change the iPhone year to year to sell millions of units, but it should put more effort into design since that’s one of the company’s key strengths and differentiators.  Most consumers aren’t going to look under the hood whether they’re buying a new phone or a new car. Apple should make it easier for people to justify upgrading to the iPhone 4S or opting for the newer model if they’re switching from another platform. Would it be too hard to throw in some spinning rims with the iPhone 4S?



  1. Dak's Quacks

    10/05/2011 at 6:37 am

    Fully agree!!!

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