Elegant Design: Steel-Bound iPhone 4

by Nate Burgos on June 15, 2010

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Detail of iPhone 4 by Apple, Inc.

There were many features worth noting when Apple Co-Founder and CEO Steve Job recently presented the fourth generation iPhone. But with this metals-related publication in mind, the highly visible use of stainless steel was the most distinctive highlight. The material was a part of the iPhone 4 Impressions and Observations made by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber:

“After using so much aluminum in recent hardware designs, it’s interesting that they’re using stainless steel for the iPhone 4. UPDATE:  Stainless steel can be used as an antenna; aluminum can’t. That’s the explanation.

Gruber points to both the form of the band of stainless steel and its role in the device’s antenna system. “Form is the function. This twist on Architect Louis Sullivan’s quotable bon mot not only applies to “The biggest leap since the original iPhone, but also to the comparison that Jobs made”that the iPhone 4’s “closest kin is a beautiful old Leica camera.

Leica M3 (1954). Source: Leica

As designed objects, the iPhone and the Leica camera focus on intuitive controls, high-quality materials and systems, and appealing visual expression, among other aspects. Another comparison to the iPhone can be made to the Farnsworth House designed by Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Farnsworth House (built 19451951). Source of image: lab404

The house’s design echoes the singular geometric form of the iPhone, a precise construction of glass panes and steel frame. It was first conceived in 1945 for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a nephrologist in Chicago. She commissioned van der Rohe to design a weekend retreat house in Plano, Illinois. In this house, immersed in a meadow, the physician envisioned herself playing the violin, reading and enjoying nature. These activities have their digital connection on the iPhone.

More comparisons can be made to the steel-bound iPhone’s utility and aesthetics, materials and manufacturing. Striving for an elegant sense of economy persists in making things, both large and hand-held.

Nate Burgos

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Alex June 16, 2010 at 11:00 am

Bravo for technical change, but finally I prefered iPhone 3’s design

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