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I'm not sure if this is on-topic. So feel free to close it or suggest re-wording. But I figure the look of a product does affect the user perception which is why I'm posting it here.

So I was browsing though ebay the other day and I noticed that the 3gs looks ancient compared to the 4.

Aside from the obvious fact that well, the 3gs is older, I just want to point out that these two phones are only a year apart. It's not like looking at a 20 year old and wondering why it doesn't compare to today's car.

Also, they're pretty similar - they're the same size, they're both black - aside from curved corners, there's not that much difference

So why is it that the 3gs looks older? Is this just classically conditioning? Because the media campaigns have just trained me to remember that the "iphone 4" look looks more modern than the iphone 3gs and that if apple were to have released the iphone 4 model first, then the 3gs model later, I'd be thinking that the iphone 4 model looked ancient?

Or does the iphone 4 actually aesthetically look newer and more modern than the 3gs? If so, what quality allows them to achieve this effect? And wouldn't they have just had the iphone 4 model to begin with if that was the case?

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closed as not a real question by Charles Boyung, JonW Jun 26 '12 at 7:40

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Apple a) puts aesthetics and form factor in high regards and b) constantly changes form factors as the technology allows. So, I'd say it's a matter of conditioning. It's how they've always done it. – DA01 Jun 26 '12 at 2:10
up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are many factors that contribute to a design, and a finished design is as much a product of its constraints as the designer's aesthetic judgement.

The first iPhone was thicker and larger than the current one because the technology demanded it. By rounding the edges they were able to reduce the feeling of size without necessarily reducing the size itself.

For the iPhone 3G/3GS the unit was made plastic, apparently to improve its wireless reception. That made it look less high-end though (the previous model had been aluminium-backed like most of Apple's products at that stage).

In order to produce the iPhone 4, Apple needed to invent a number of new technologies themselves (something they were, partly, only able to do by having geared themselves up with the test infrastructure and cash-flow from the previous iPhone models) including the way the display adheres to the glass, the way the antennae work and the relative thinness.

If you took all the constraints away from Jony Ive and the design team it's very likely you'd end up with something altogether different from the iPhone 4. In each successive model Apple (and the industry as a whole) have been able to improve their process and technology to reduce the number and impact of the constraints imposed on the hardware.

That's why over time Apple's products tend to converge on a given aesthetic that meets Dieter Rams' 10 principles of good design.

Sure enough in the future materials science will invent ways to allow the phone to get thinner and lighter and simpler. As that occurs, you can confidently expect the iPhone 4 to look like a classic (although given its minimalism it's likely to be remembered as a classic design even as Apple moves subtly away from it).

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thanks this is a good answer – RoboShop Jun 26 '12 at 10:08

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