Look around the technology industry and what do you see? A growing list of products which do much the same thing. Speakers are speakers. Televisions are televisions. Smartphones are smartphones. PCs are PCs.
It takes a trained and knowledgable eye to look at modern gadgets and quickly determine the brand and model because so many companies stick to the same time honored designs. Where do the standard design originate?
Design Is Usability
For many of our modern devices that connect to the internet, one can argue that Apple sets the standard and has done so for decades. What do PC notebooks look like today? The Mac. What did they look like before Apple created the modern MacBook Air notebook? Ugly and fat pieces of plastic.
What do smartphones look like today? iPhones. Most smartphones today are what the original iPhone was back when it was introduce in 2007– flat slabs of glass with rounded corners. Does that not describe nearly every smartphone you see in use today?
The problem here is that Apple differentiates their products– Mac, iPhone, iPad– in ways their competitors cannot. Yes, the hardware can look the same as Apple, but not necessarily function the same.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs:
Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
See the distinction between what a device looks like and how it works?
Even PC notebooks from Dell or HP look like Macs these day, and many have similar hardware at similar prices. Do they work the same way? Point and click is about the only similar consideration because macOS is highly differentiated from Windows 10.
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
That might be one reason why Apple customers get upset over issues like Antennagate, Bendgate, and the like. We expect more.
The same design differentiation holds true for iPhone vs. Android. The latter comes on many different hardware platforms with price tags that range from $100 to $1,000. Why spend big money when basic and simlar functionality can be had on devices that cost hundreds of dollars less?
Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.
Apple’s approach to product design often borders on the simple but with premium hardware and software that is easily differentiated from competitors.
How is it that Apple leads the design elements in a variety of industries?
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
Regarding the iPhone and design, Clancy Morgan summed it up this way:
- Today, smartphones all look the same — most follow Apple’s iPhone design trend that has lasted over a decade.
- The original iPhone design focused on the touchscreen, instead of a keyboard.
- Companies have continued to follow Apple’s design after the iPhone X, now many Android phones also have the iPhone’s recognizable notch.
Apple dominates industry designs from a visual perspective, but less so from a usability perspective. Why? Competitors find it easier to copy an Apple product’s physical design. It’s more complicated and far more expensive to copy Apple’s software, overall usability, and ecosystem.