Must new tech always LOOK new?

What’s better? Radical redesigns every time a new gadget comes out, or constant improvement? I know what I think…

iPhone 4S... or is it the iPhone 4?I remember when the iPhone 4S came out… I was online, watching the live blogs and tweets from Apple’s now traditional event, and the news was that the new iPhone was… well… the same as the previous one. Oh yes, it had new insides and features but, to any casual observer, it was the same at the iPhone 4.
I was disappointed.
The thing is, I’m not quite sure why I was disappointed. I mean, what was I expecting? The previous design worked well, and it’s the insides that really make a difference anyway. But, still, I was disappointed.
By the time Apple announced the iPhone 5, I had learned my lesson. “It’s not going to look radically different” I told myself. And I was right – the iPhone 5 is more of a refinement than a revolution. It’s a different size, yes, and has a redesigned chassis, but you immediately recognise it as an iPhone when you see it. Wired wrote recently about how the iPhone 5 is simultaneously amazing and boring. It’s a further step along the evolution of technology, and can do things we couldn’t even dream about five or ten years ago but, at the same time, it’s not radical. Thing is, as I’ve said before, when the majority of the real-estate on smartphones these days is taken up with a screen, what can you do?
It’s not just the iPhone that “suffers” from the problem of evolution rather than revolution. The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is tipped to be more of an improvement on current successes than a radical rethink.
And, you know what? I think that’s the way to go. If you have a good design to start with, why throw it out every year? Why not take that design and tweak it, along the lines of the Constant Improvement pioneered by Heinrich Nordhoff, who worked on the Volkswagen Beetle?
I know why… it’s because as well as wanting the latest features, gadgeteers want everyone else to know they have the latest features. And to do that, you need something that’s instantly recognisable as being the “new thing”. If it looks exactly the same as the last time, nobody will know how cutting edge you are. Yes, I fall into that mindset sometimes but, on the whole, I would rather have improvements on the inside: better camera, updated software, faster processor, and put less emphasis on fancy new designs that add nothing to the usability of the product.
How about you? Am I mad, or am I on to something here?

2 thoughts on “Must new tech always LOOK new?

  1. Ha! I was reading that thinking “Volkswagen Beetle and Porsche 911” and then I came to the link to my post on the subject – thanks Chris.
    And I agree with your point – why change what is a fabulous design when the innards are what actually matters?

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