Surprise: the iPhone 4S looks just like the iPhone 4. Disappointing? Sure. However, consider this: it's been more than four years since the original iPhone debuted. In those four years, much has happened under the hood of the iPhone, but surprisingly little has changed about the iPhone's outward appearance.
Even amid yesterday's outcries over a possibly similar-looking iPhone 4S, I was reminded of how little the iPhone has changed previous to last year's 4. The iPhone 3GS and 3G both shared an identical design, and that design only changed slightly (mostly in the curved plastic back as opposed to the original's flatter aluminum) from the first iPhone. The same is true with the iPhone 4S. History repeats.
The iPhone was revolutionary back in 2007; no other phone looked like it. Today it's still an exceptionally attractive phone, but it blends into a sea of me-too touch-screen competitors. What was once utterly futuristic has now become commonplace. That's what happens when you have a phone estimated to ship more than 80 million units this year.
The original iPod debuted in the fall of 2001. Its design, unlike the iPhone's, wasn't utterly revolutionary. Still, its iconic scroll wheel remained until 2007's iPod Touch. Over that span of six years, the iPod had its share of spin-off designs, including the Shuffle, Mini, and Nano.
The iPhone may be 4 years old, but will a functional design shift happen, even next year? It's unlikely, because right now it isn't necessary or even practical.
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Full-screen touch screen: The iPhone is a tabula rasa, a slab of screen that can be transformed into whatever software or graphics are displayed on it. Buttons, movies, maps: the iPhone becomes what it displays. That means the iPhone can reinvent itself based on the software and OS it runs. The iPhone can't change its dimensions easily because its screen dimensions are used by so many apps, and because the screen needs to be used for vertical and horizontal functions constantly. With all the effort made to make a Retina Display, it's not surprising that Apple let the iPhone 4S screen stay the same. … Read more