Iphone 4s design

Can someone please tell me what the purpose of the apple iphone design is when in reality they need to be covered in chunky cases to protect them. I just recently got the iphone 4s and am in love with the design. Its such a shame that I have to cover it up to insure the screen will not smash. Its almost as if the design has become obsolete because its form does not insure its durability.

Why do people buy these?

Is it a failure of car design?

It’s kind of a silly question - but the easiest answer is s3x sells, utility does not. That’s why rugged smart phones sell to a small niche audience and the iPhone sells millions. Not everyone puts a case on their 4/4S and on the flip side plenty of people buy cases for their non Apple phones. I had a leather case on my Motorola v60, and that thing was a beast. So to answer that question for real will always involve some sweeping generalization. There was just a long thread about this and half the people on this forum said they do not put a case on their iPhone. (I do, but that’s because I prefer the grip and tactility of the rubber bumper, especially since my work desk has an angled keyboard tray and it will slide to the floor without it)

2 quick answers: people want to personalize things and/or protect things from even the minor scratches. Most people have laptop cases or sleeves, in reality a scratched laptop case won’t make a laptop perform any worse so a laptop sleeve is only there to protect aesthetics. Would a thin silicone case prevent an iPhone screen from cracking from a 3’ drop, most likely not but it’s a piece of mind people get when they use it at least.

Crackerbell…thank you for bringing this up because it’s something that continually frustrates me with consumer product design. Sure, Apple’s products look great but that’s because they are incredibly fragile!!! Don’t get me wrong, I love my Iphone but why do I have to cover up all of its glossy wonderfullness with silicon cases? Shouldnt’ this be seen as a complete failure of design? If a company like Motorola were to release a new Android device with rubber bumpers and a design that wouldn’t require an external case, would it be seen as sexy enough? Likely not. Just like toddlers, sheeple are attracted to the shiney objects and don’t ever seem to take into consideration day to day use of the device. Just a shame.

Is this really a problem or a “perceived” problem? I never put protection on my phones and by being reasonably careful with my stuff even my old iPhone 3G, including the odd drop every now and then that always happen with phones, still looks great. My experience is that the iPhone doesn’t need extra protection, people just put it on to keep it shiny and “as new” (ironic as you can’t see the shiny surfaces under the protection).

The iPhone 4 eschews ergonomics in favor of a design language and materials engineering.

It’s Apple’s decision and some people like it, and others don’t. The purpose is simple: To sell.

I’m personally sticking to my iPhone 3 because plastic feels warmer than glass, and the rounded back side feels nice in my hand.

It will be interesting to see how the iPhone 5 will look (or rather, it will probably look close to the iPad 2, so maybe the iPhone 6 is the one which will be the most interesting).

I just have the simple bumper around the edge. This doesn’t detract from the great sleek design. Have had it year and a half now and still going strong after dropping it several times! Haven’t had any problems with the screen getting scratched. Maybe I’m just lucky. :smiley:

I was at Mac World yesterday with a client and I’m amazed at the continual proliferation of cases. On one hand we say we want to be more environmental and promote sustainable products, and then we fall in love with products that seem to need another product just to last 18 months. To be a student of human nature is to be a life long learner! :wink:

… and then we fall in love with products that seem to need another product just to last 18 months. To be a student of human nature is to be a life long learner!

There was a time when acquiring a “thing” took some time, planning, and energy. Your comment makes me wonder what this bodes for future generations. Will “they” grow up throwing things away, instead of repairing them? Will future generations not inherit, and cherish, articles from their ancestors or previous generations?

I’m trying to imagine what articles of daily use from before 1910 ( aside from perhaps clothing) had eighteen month lives, or were considered “disposable”.

I chose 1910 because the disposable “Dixie Cup” was invented in 1907, initially to abate germs being spread by people sharing glasses or dippers at public supplies of drinking water.

The innocuous little paper cup… not really; over 6.5 million trees were cut down to make 16 billion paper cups used by US consumers in 2006, using 4 billion US gallons (15,000,000 m3) of water and resulting in 253 million pounds of waste.

From 2005

The photography by Chris Jordan is part of an exhibit titled Intolerable Beauty — Portraits of American Mass Consumption shown at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles.

Our consumerism holds an anesthetizing kind of mob mentality; collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences… So perhaps my photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-reflection. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know we are awake." - Chris Jordan


…I find much of this very disconcerting in terms of the future of the human race. Producing inferior products with shortened life/use cycles to satisfy a price drive mass market model is ultimately unsustainable. Products of the highest quality will almost always cost more, but high quality products that require less maintenance, repairs, or replacement are arguably the most sustainably friendly products due to longevity. …

I was just thinking the same thing. I love the design simplicity of the IP4 but is it really good industrial design if it has to be covered up by a hulking mass to protect it? I had a nice gouge on the back of mine after 1 week from having it in my pocket so now i cover it in a minimal plastic case. unfortunately you can’t appreciate the design aesthetics of the phone anymore, so what’s the point? Functionally the design is adequate but practically it does not solve any of the problems of handheld mobile devices such as wear and tear and daily abuse. I have decided it’s just a built in design flaw to sell more products in the cellphone accessory market. Apple has disappointingly become just another corporate money suck to me. no battery access, no memory upgrades, forced software upgrades, no support without paying for it, non-durable products. I guess it’s built in obsolescence to sell new products. They aren’t the only ones doing it but where’s the different thinking? Where’s the green mentality they sell you on?

After owning the iphone 4s for a month I dropped it on its back and the entire piece is shattered.

I actually own an incase which has protected it nicely, but I had to removed it the day before to plug in a non-apple headphone jack. 1-day with the cover off and probably the second time it’s hit the ground. Now the case is back on covering up my accident! Bad luck or bad design?

Phones developed as rugged devices have some critical drawbacks. I’m using the Casio Commando as a reference. The problem is you can’t get the latest features in a rugged platform. Screens are usually small due to environmental requirements (actual environmental not eco). Seals and bumpers take a lot of room. Often, rugged phones don’t have the latest hardware as it may not be tough enough (mechanically or thermally) to take the abuse. These drawbacks in association with the higher purchase price deter customers.

Easier said than done but, don’t drop the iphone.

I choose not to cover mine because I really covet the design. If I covered it up I feel like its a disservice to the design team that developed it. As someone who designs and develops electronics I can’t help but wonder what sort of drop test this thing goes through. They blatantly are sacrificing drop/robustness for form/material.

Plastic overlay = more durable/lower perceived quality/lower touch performance.
Glass overlay= less durable/higher perceived quality/higher touch performance

C’mon…it is a piece of electronics. You all can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’ve destroyed more POS electronics by dropping than I have done damage to my iPhone. I’ve seen just as many Blackberry and Nokia phones with cracked screens, or simply DOA after a drop.

Let’s cut to the chase here. Smartphones (iPhones in particular) have changed the game. We’re now willing to pay $800 for a phone (well, really it’s a computer in your pocket, but nobody wants to talk about that).

Oh, and just because you’re paying $300 or less to the carrier doesn’t mean you’re not paying the $800, btw.

But, back on the subject…

People want a bumper on their phone because that commodity item is no longer a commodity item in their view. It is an $800 piece of equipment that breaks your heart (not to mention the pocket book) if you drop and break it. That bumper feels like an insurance policy.

So, let’s not blame Apple. They designed a fantastic piece of hardware (as have HTC, and RIM, etc.). I put the blame on “us”. We want the iPhone to be a “cheap” device that we feel as though we can drop it and if it breaks, “no big deal”. We want the product to have the build quality, and the look and feel of the iPhone. And then there’s the “BUT”… but we don’t want to be responsible for the fact that we want to blame Apple rather than ourselves for buying an $800 phone (computer). We want to blame Apple for the fact that we are human and we drop things. We want to blame them for making the phone too slippery, or whatever other thing They did wrong.

But that’s not what any of us want to hear. It’s way easier to bitch about Apple as opposed to talking about what we as a consumer culture is doing to be part of the problem.

That may be true, but this is a design forum, not a consumer forum or a “things for a parent to say when scolding their kid for being careless with something valuable” forum. Justified or not, a bunch of bitching consumers is a prelude to a design brief.

The points being raised about this being as much a problem with consumer culture as it is a problem with the object’s design are very appropriate and need to be explored, but “don’t blame Apple, HTC, etc.” isn’t a real answer.

Were in complete disagreement here. The idea of bitching consumers as a prologue to a new design brief should take into consideration the context of the complaints.

I simply don’t buy that the market would react positively to the changes that would occur to the design of the iPhone if it made it a toughbook.

If you don’t like the iPhone, don’t buy it. It really is a simple equation.

I attribute it to the same discussion I have had with my Mother recently about American Girl Dolls. A very similar brand to Apple. They’ve created a high end, holistic brand experience that is costly to enter. If you want an AG doll for your daughter, prepare yourself for a vacuum applied to your bank account.

My Mom, bitches to me that she can’t afford the dolls. She wants to buy them for my daughter and gets pissed off because they are so expensive, etc.

All the complaints about scuffed glass, or fingerprints are a driven by the price point of the iPhone and are not “legitimate complaints”. They’re complaints driven by the idea that we want the iPhone to be cheaper so that we don’t feel as wonky about buying it.

So, yes, I believe this is a Design discussion. I believe, as Designers, it is our choice to design products by committee and listen to all the “complaints of consumers” or not.

And, yes, I believe “don’t blame the company’s” is a real answer as well. Just because it isn’t en vogue, or it puts the onus back on the consumer to take some responsibility for their actions doesn’t make it wrong, or not a Design discussion. Design is about context. The context of the iPhone is an expensive, well-designed piece of high tech equipment. You may not like their version of it. If you don’t, I revert back to the simple equation above…don’t buy it.

I have a different angle on that. (As one might have seen in my question about outdoor smartphones.)
Most certainly I am not unable to put some attention to the things I like. My shoes tend to last for ages
and I kept my current phone for 6 years now. But I dropped that Sony 3 times during those 1800 days
and it has broken edges as a result. The metal “bumpers” came out to be nothing but anodized plastic…

I don’t like that.

If I intend to keep something for a long time I am willing to pay a price for durability and serviceability.

In the case of the car I was able to specify the materials that I want the surfaces to be covered in. There
is no such choice in phones. You’d have to go Vertu to be able to do the same…

The latest I - Phone design just invites traces of wear to mangle its shiny surfaces. It was designed like a
holy relict not like a tool. To me that feels a little perverted as much as it attracts me. Which is comparable
to shoes. Why do I buy fine italian sneakers made out of higly polished leather in different shades of grenade
red? Because they are just so uber cool. Wearing those on your feet is sacrilege that you have to atone for by
buffing and polishing them after every other day you wore them. Polishing the shiny I phone is nearly as good.

I’d hope that Apple uses wood or leather for the next gen., so that it is even more satisifying to “care” for that “object”.

In terms of creating a usable phone it still looks like a miss to me.


IP: I may have come off a little too dismissive of your points, and for that I apologize. But I really think this discussion indicates there is a space in the mobile phone market that hasn’t been explored.

A little background for context: I actually own the iPhone 4s. It is my first smartphone and was a gift (I was actually leaning Android, hadn’t made up my mind), but I have enjoyed it. The iOS works intuitively and I thought the ID was spectacular. I actually liked the hard edges, and dug the non-plastic materials. It felt “real” and possibly worth the hundreds of dollars it cost. I resisted getting a case, but eventually concluded that a drop was inevitable and I didn’t like the idea of shattered glass.

The point about consumer choice in this case is tricky, because if you want a phone with iOS (and don’t want an outdated model) you only have one choice. The physical design is only one part of the purchasing decision for an iPhone, and since these are “mini computers” it maybe secondary for many.

I think this is a good description of the iPhone 4 (not so much the 3G), especially in comparison to other brands. I think that is really a point of differentiation that feels positive (at least initially), but I wonder if there could be a phone that stands out because of its outstanding build quality and “real” feeling materials without also coming off as fragile. I realize many fine things are fragile (like glassware), and this fine connotation is positive to a certain degree and to a certain population, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a really well made tool.

And I think it’s very much within today’s or the near future’s technology to make a phone that is durable without the bulk and performance compromises that many extremely rugged devices have. And by durable I don’t mean submersible to 30 meters, can survive a 3 story drop, and can be buried in the desert without sand ingress. I mean able to survive a 6ft drop with only cosmetic damage (even if it’s significant gouges or dents), a scratch resistant screen, and can be submerged in 3in of water for 15sec. We really already have the ingredients: Liquipel for waterproofing and Gorilla Glass for scratch resistance (yes I know the iPhone has it). If you recess the glass with a bezel and use something like aluminum (someone suggested leather, which would be quite classy) you’ll probably get some decent drop test results. I know it’s very easy for me to just spew that and quite another thing to actually execute that really well, but I don’t see why it can’t be done. And this discussion makes me think that maybe it should be done.

Don’t apologize. You’re entitled to your opinion no matter how wrong it might be :wink: You’re not dismissive, nor are you hurting my feeling.

See, I don’t see this as tricky. It is like my previous example of the American Girl Dolls with my Mom. She feels she’s entitled to be able to buy those dolls for my daughter even though they’re not within her budget. She gets pissed off at AG because they’ve created a brand that demands a higher price.

I see this discussion in a very similar light. Every consumer has an opinion that the device should be a certain way, or a certain price. They (you?) go as far as saying that Apple is wrong for designing a device that is TOO shiny or “requires” a bumper, or too this, or too that. When in reality they created a product in a way that they believe is best (and if you believe Jobs’s Biography, he truly believed everything they made was the best they could have done).

This sense of entitlement that seems to course though discussions like this, for me, is the disturbing (irritating?) part.

I agree, it definitely was designed that way. Holy relic is not quite the right term, an object of Zen is more appropriate. But, semantics aside, I 100% agree with Apple’s philosophy. They don’t pander to the masses. They see a problem that means something to them and then they fix the problem.

I guess the final point I would make to all of this is…why is adding a bumper a bad thing? If the owner thinks it needs one, and Apple have designed the product to work very well with a bumper on it…isn’t that good/versatile design?