Good words by John Gruber, on Daring Fireball, about the iPhone’s industrial design:
I think Apple’s logic is that they want top-tier iPhone industrial designs to sit atop the lineup for two years […].
Keeping the same industrial design for two years serves multiple purposes:
- It recoups the hard work put into design. During this time, designers can focus on developing better ideas for the next generation of products. Remember, design isn’t just the “look”; it’s also the functionality. Considerations like display size, button placement, material selection for durability and radio transmission, heat dissipation, acoustics, waterproofing, and more.
- It allows for a similar hardware configuration inside the device, because the dimensions remain the same. This minimizes changes to the shape and layout of the circuit board, the antenna placement, the battery shape, etc. In turn, this makes efficient use of Apple’s massive investment in manufacturing. Engineers and supply chain experts can shift their attention to new consumer needs and new technologies to address them.
- It allows many customers who like the design, but who aren’t able to upgrade when the first version debuts, to purchase it in year two. And the people who do buy the first version of any design don’t feel, one year later, that their model is out-dated.
Basically, solving important problems is intense work, and Apple wants to maximize the return for the time, investment, and risk.
Update: To improve readability, I shortened the introduction of this post, by removing the reference to Jason Snell’s article and reducing the excerpt from John Gruber. That content wasn’t directly related to the rationale for a two-year design cycle.