A Designer's Eye On The iPhone

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The imminent Apple iPhone: Is it the 21st century equivalent of Samuel F.B. Morse's "What hath God wrought" message of 1844, or is it maybe only on the level of Alexander Graham Bell's "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you!" of 1876? Armed with nothing but the available hype and hearsay, we asked designers to weigh in on the alleged miracle device and give it a provisional rating on a scale of zero to five stars.

Tom Greenwood Writer, Base Design/New York There are so many features to the new iPhone that the name seems largely to be missing the point. Indeed, the point of this gadget has to be that it's the technological equivalent of a large pizza with everything. Though with as many functions as the iPhone has, the actual phone component ends up seeming less like the pizza than a topping, albeit a meaty one. One tasty detail on the iPhone is the ability not only to zoom easily in and out on webpages but to flip orientation to optimize the rectangular screen, which is roughly half the size of a slice of New York Sicilian. Like Macs, iPhone's organizational logic is as intuitable as grabbing a slice of pizza by the crust and eating from the tip out. The interface, too, is all Mac, so much of the actual design of the iPhone isn't exactly reinventing the pizza, but, then again, pizza doesn't need reinventing. As sure as pizzita, knockoffs of the iPhone are sure to come. But in the meantime, it's clearly designed for today's sophisticated pizza eaters—any way you slice it. Five stars.

Debbie Millman President, Design, Sterling Brands Blah, blah, blah. Yes, we all know by now that the iPhone is "revolutionary," and we know it will allow you to make a call by magically pointing your finger at a name or a number in your address book. We've been told ad nauseum about how the iPhone will automatically sync all your contacts from a PC, Mac or internet service. But guess what? It'll be years before I'll be able to experience all of this wonderful technological advancement, because I have a contract with Verizon, and the iPhone is only for Cingular. So while all those Cingular users can proudly touch and talk, I'll be checking off boxes in my ratty little paper calendar until my cellphone contract expires or Apple seals a deal with other service providers, whichever comes first. Since I can't use it, I'm not giving it any stars; design should be something that you can use, not just admire.

Graham Clifford Graham Clifford Design In true Apple style, the company does what it does best—take an existing product and refine the details out of it, much the way a boring old MP3 player got a sexy makeover and became an iPod. It's a smart business decision learned the hard way; does anybody remember the Newton? Rather than trying to break new ground in the early days of cellular technology, Apple sat on the sidelines and has finally decided to enter the ring and steal the show. Ultimately, phones are only as good as the calls they make, so I'll have to wait for my final assessment. But I can't wait to get my hands on the iPhone and toss my BlackBerry in the bin. Five stars.

Ken Carbone Creative Director, Carbone Smolan Agency The moment I saw Steve Jobs' introduction of the iPhone at Mac World, I was sold. Then again, I was sold years ago by the mere anticipation that Apple might produce a phone. But let's not call it a phone, because it's an "internet communications device" that offers so much more in a beautiful package. For me, a brilliant phone would have been just enough, and this one is extremely neat—solid, practical user-friendly technology with a well-designed interface. So what's not to like? The huge unknown is how the service partnership with Cingular will work; Apple has set the bar pretty high. I also feel that the size of the introductory model is a bit clunky. I expected Nano size. Can you imagine how cool the 2009 clip-on Shuffle version of this will be? That one will get five stars. Four stars.

Dirk Kammerzell Creative Director, TippingSprung Critical when extending a brand into new product categories is to maintain the established personality and design features connected with the brand's image. With the iPhone, Apple enters a category that is incredibly crowded with other design-driven competitors. Take the automobile market as an example: when brands with established, unique design features started experimenting with their style, they made it easier to be copied. The result: design parity. Apple's iPhone design isn't as radical as the iPod was, and if the technology doesn't outperform everyone else, it might have a hard time matching iPod's success. Three stars.

Carlos Segura Segura Inc. Five stars does not do this justice. Once again, Apple proves that "smart makes cool." What a company. Look at all the things they've brought to the masses that companies much larger are unable to do. But two things I hope they've addressed: battery exchange (I hope it doesn't do what the iPod does); and scratches (will it?). Five stars.

Vince Frost Frost Design I want it! We're connected like never before, and the iPhone is a logical addition. You can't help but be attracted to Apple products; they're sexy, robust and well designed. The traditional monolithic big-boy brands have had their day—this is the ultimate convergence. In the future, the only cost will be the device. All services, phone calls, broadband, broadcasting, will be free. Apple is very cleverly positioned, appealing to designers as a designers' tool, differentiated from the accountants' PC. The only thing that isn't working for me is the antiquated way we all sit and type on an old-fashioned Qwerty keyboard on a high-tech, forward-thinking device. Nevertheless, like the instant success of the iPod, the iPhone will be the only phone to have, and it will blow all the big-boy brands away. They should be afraid, very afraid. My only concern is having all your eggs in one basket—you lose it, you're lost. Five stars.

Eric Zeitoun President, Dragon Rouge USA The success of the iPhone will depend largely on its ability to attract and convert highly discriminating target audiences. For Design Aficionados, who place a premium on aesthetics, design and exclusivity, will the iPhone be the next big thing that allows them to distinguish themselves from the "others," or is it one brand extension too many for this crowd? Gadget Geeks have been blogging and debating about the iPhone long before Steve Jobs officially announced its release. Will their desire to be the first to own override their expressed doubts about the quality and reliability of Apple's first foray into phones (especially since iPod breakdowns have become legendary)? For Entertainment Lovers, who always have some combination of cellphone, music player, camera and/or laptop with them, will the iPhone be the multipurpose product of their dreams or one that overpromises and underdelivers? As for Status Seekers attracted to the instant cachet of luxury brands, who always have the latest must-have phones—will their association with Apple hurt the brand? If iPhone is all beauty and no brains, the product will be a bust. Three stars.
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