After watching the documentary Objectified last night (highly recommended), seeing Jonny Ive talk about design and watching people fondle and use the iPhone 3G (the movie was from 2009), I feel that the hardware design of the iPhone 4 is out of step with Apple's otherwise fairly consistent design philosphy, and somewhat out of step with the tenets of good design in general. I always thought the iPhone 3G/s felt a bit plasticky construction wise, but from an ergonomic standpoint, it was nearly perfect. The tapered edges made the phone disappear into your hand, while providing a more effortlessly grippable form, as compared to the iPhone 4. When holding a 3G, I never thought about the physical phone; I was simply cradling a portal to the software. The iPhone 4 sidesteps the ergonomic flow of the 3G. It's sharp edges and dead flat glass back seem superflous. It looks great on a table and in advertising photos, but held in your hands, it calls too much attention to itself, instead of doing the 3G's disappearing act. And of course, the iPhone 4's biggest breach of good design rules is its external antenna. Form follows function was out the window when it came to designing the antenna. If you laid out every iPod, iPhone, and iPad Apple has made in the past 10 years on a table, for the most part you would see a clear design trend towards thinner, curvier, more organically shaped objects that melt into the hands, letting the user forget they even exist, and freeing them to concentrate on the software experience. Save a couple of hiccups, (the iPod 3 with those horrible touch buttons, the oddly wide Nano 3), the progression is clear, until you get to the block-like iPhone 4. I think the iPad 2 is a peek at what we can expect from a future iPhone. (leaked pics would seem to indicate we're paused on the 4's design for the next release) Though I've written that I preferred the iPad 1 from a visual standpoint, after using the iPad 2 for a week, it clearly trumps the iPad 1 from an ergonomic standpoint, sharing much design DNA with the iPhone 3G. The iPhone 3's design stayed around for 2 years. From the minute (and probably well before) the iPhone 3 was released, Apple's design team was working feverishly on the design of the iPhone 4. It's reasonable to assume we'll be getting a spec bumped iPhone 4 (badged as an iPhone 5 or something) before we get a major redesign, letting Apple concentrate their efforts on the iPhone 6. When that redesign comes, I think we'll see a jump backwards, to the tapered design of the 3/G, but likely with the thinness of the 4, and perhaps thinner still, and Apple will be back on track.