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Has Apple Reached the Limits of Industrial Design?

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New iPhone (left)

The next iPhone is going to look amazing. This is as close to a truism as you get in the tech industry--it's sort of like predicting that Warren Buffett will make smart investments, or that the next Judd Apatow movie will feature fart jokes. But now we know it for sure. On Monday morning, Gizmodo revealed that it had the new device in hand. (The site apparently purchased it from someone who found the supposed prototype in a Bay Area bar.) The gadget blog says it spent a week poking and prodding the phone and believes there's no doubt about the device's provenance. Yes, in the greatest breach of Apple's vaunted security that anyone can recall, the next iPhone has leaked. But that's what makes the big reveal such a letdown. Sure, the new phone looks good. But that's only because it looks pretty much the same as every other iPhone--not to mention just about every other phone on the market today.

If Gizmodo's phone is the real deal--and I believe it is--it proves what I've long suspected: The iPhone has reached the limits of industrial design. The first iPhone was a breakthrough because it replaced nearly every physical button with a touch-screen. It didn't conform to any standard notion of what a phone should look like--which, of course, is a hallmark of thrilling design. Since then, though, the iPhone's looks haven't thrilled. Apple has put out three models since 2007--the original, the 3G, and last year's 3GS--and each one has looked nearly identical to the last. The new one continues this trend.

 From Slate
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