Industrial designer critiques Apple’s next-gen unibody iPhone (with video)

The video below could be one of four things, Don Lehman, industrial designer, writes for The Tech Block:

1. A very elaborate hoax. If it’s a hoax, kudos to whoever made it because it would require the same amount of design and engineering effort that would go into an actual smartphone. Not to mention all of the collaboration that would have been needed between the numerous different sites that have posted images and video already. That’s an insane amount of work for a laugh, so I don’t think it’s a hoax.

2. A decoy made by Apple to throw everyone off the scent and root out leaks. Now THAT would be amazing. I’m secretly rooting for this option if only because it would be so diabolically awesome.

3. An early model or sample of a design that Apple is working on. Maybe, but we have seen this same design pop up in too many places and it looks way too far along in development to be a model or early sample.

4. An actual production sample of the next iPhone. This is where I would put my money. I’m fairly convinced this is what the next iPhone will look like. If true, this design will be noteworthy for being the first unibody iPhone, making it the thinnest, strongest, and lightest housing to date.

Tons more in the full article – recommended – here.

[Attribution: Cult of Mac. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Judge Bork” for the heads up.]


  1. I’d be very disappointed if that were the final design. Apart from the bigger screen, which is very welcome, none of the changes are in themselves all that radical. More iterations along the same lines established by the iPhone 4.

    The iPhone 4 I thought looked revolutionary when it debuted but if it put it alongside newer releases from HTC and Samsung, it looks positively dated. I thought Apple was all about cutting edge design that pushed the envelope, not incremental changes that are virtually indisguishable from one generation to the next.

    1. Hey, I hear you can buy shiny floresent plastic cases from Samsung!!! Each one looks shiny and different. Every 3 months you can buy a new one.

      PS, I see no way to do the antennas on this design. The side pieces being separate and insulated on the 4 and 4S make them usable as antenna sections. But if this is one piece, where do you put the antenna.???

      Just a thought.

      1. The antennas are actually essential to the new design since Apple had to get rid of the antennagate problem completely. The large central pice is were you hold hand. It is separate from the antennas on each end. Since these preferably should be outside your palm, they had to make the midriff longer. In fact, i believe this is the major reason for the larger screen. The front would not look good with the original small screen between two largely unused end pieces. This is the way Apple works, intelligent engineering and worldclass design.

        1. I don’t agree that this is the reason why they would change the aspect ratio of the screen, especially since they have seemed to eliminate any of the “antenngate” issues with the 4S. I think from a design perspective, it was always more desirable for them to have a metal “unibody” enclosure. I put unibody in quotes, because we know it can’t truly be unibody with the antennas at the top a bottom. A metal enclosure is more of a return the the broad material design athetics of the original iPhone (which was awesome, especially compared to the 3G’s cheap plastic back). I can’t really put my finger on why they would change the aspect ratio of this phone. There has to be a compelling software feature in iOS6 that they haven’t told us about yet for it to really make sense. An extra row of icons isn’t very compelling. Maybe it has something to do with the forthcoming Apple TV?

          1. I can think of a couple. A longer aspect ratio would allow for more screen real estate without eliminating the one handed operation (that virtually all of the “big screen” android phablets have eliminated- a major drawback IMHO) In addition, most of the video available is a 16X9 (paralleling HDTV aspect) so the wiser aspect would allow (most) videos to play larger and without letter boxing.

            I don’t however think this argument translates to tablets where single handed operation is simple not possible and (16X9) video displays at a reasonably large size even when letter boxed.

    2. Porshe 911 comes to mind for me… Incremental changes to a classic design with big changes reserved for the innards that provide big gains in power and Perfomance … The formula has worked for years but you either love or hate the 911… Those who love it will settle for nothing else..

    3. Well, duh, we know you’d be very disappointed, BLN, because that’s what you are about – expressing your disgust at everything Apple produces, because they don’t have mag wheels, lots of chrome, and extremely low profile tires.

      How about just letting us know when your basic personality changes? Now, THAT would be news worth reporting.

    4. You must be disappointed by Apple lately. The iMacs, laptops (except the retina display) Mac Pros, and the iPod touches have shown little revolutionary change in shape in the last several years. The degree of evolution shown by this device (probably not called iPhone 5 btw – since they are getting away from numbering) is in keeping with their recent development ethos, and while I won’t put money on it, I would certainly not be at all surprised if this is the real thing. Apple is all about function over form.

    5. BLN, I disagree -I still think an iPhone 4 with no case looks beautiful- but I’d like to know what it is about the HTC and Samsung designs that you feel makes that of the iPhone look comparatively dated?

    6. Why mess with something totally awesome?!!

      Does Apple really need to make something “radical”?

      At first I didn’t like the look of the back. It seemed radially different to me. But after watching this video it is growing on me. I actually think it looks awesome.

      I have been using iOS 6 for a few months now. And it is also awesome. I just wish I had the extra power I am sure the iPhone 5 will have.

      You guys keep saying your disappointed or do t line it. Is that because its radically different than the 4S?

      I love it… And will be the first in line to get one. My only hope is that it is 4G compatible here in Singapore (and Australia)

    1. Yea, the old design of the 4 and 4S look so terrible…. its a shame we have been subject to them for years!!!! years I tell you.
      We want plastic.
      We want plastic.
      Shiny…. shiny…. glow in the dark…. led lit shiny!!! 🙂

      Actually, for me, I think it looks great. Keep the same basic style which means my 4 still looks like a new one. I still can look cool. LOL

  2. Once you have a strong and functional design you do NOT have to radically change it every year. Cars often go many years with the same basic body style. So has the iMac and MacBook Pro. The current iteration of a smart phone requires compact size high quality touch screen and thin, sleek design. Apple is all about simplicity, not design for design’s sake. I am happy if they make the phone better each generation… mostly through improved processing and memory along with software innovation. There is only so much you can do with the enclosing rectangle (as Samsung would argue).

  3. I like the matte black backside and the rounded corners are stronger, lighter and more pocket-friendly than more squared-off ones would be, but it does not quite appear to match the 1:4:9 proportions that we were expecting.

  4. (sorry for shouting)


    Please give me an iPhone that is thicker so it can have a bigger battery.

    How think is the battery now? 2mm, 3mm?

    Double it and make the iPhone 2mm or 3mm thicker. I don’t care and it might actually fit better in my hand.

    1. Actually, it’s not about thick or thin when you look at the battery.

      What you want is something that you don’t have to plug in when you get to the office.

      If your like me, then you can’t even SMS your wife or you have a boring bus ride going home if you forget to plug it in and make more than one phone call.

      This is all about Apple’s specifications for acceptable mwH’s or VA’s on this device.

      Apple needs to continue to improve the life of the battery. We will see how many more minutes we get because the 30pin connector is now a tiny 9pin? 19pin? Whatever.

      The iPhone is awesome.. No other device has the form factor, screen, and battery life that the iPhone has. But, yes, battery life must improve.

      Since we are now used to non-serviceable batteries, time to install the nuclear power cells.

  5. Do you really care how it looks??? If you do, then you are going to cover it up with a case.
    I care about how it performs, the weight, and the operational feel.
    Again, if the front is beautiful, you will then cover it up with a case.

  6. Cutting edge design is not just how something looks. It’s about the materials used, how the device functions, how it is manufactured and assembled, and how it enables a great user experience. This is why Apple is suing Samsung (and others). Superficially, the Apple and Samsung phones are similar, but Apple doesn’t want customers to be misled into thinking that Samsung’s knockoffs–shoddy materials and Android operating system–are in any way equal substitutes for the quality of iPhone and iOS.

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