For many years, I have been perfecting ways to compare computers to cars, since most of my clients know nothing about the magic box under their desk, but they usually know at least a little something about your average car – you change the oil, replace the tires, take it in for a tune-up, that sort of thing. Recently, a similar thought struck me about cell phones – specifically, smart phones – that compares rather well to certain brands of performance cars:
The iPhone is a Porsche 911
Think about it: back in 1963, Porsche unveiled the 911, and it has been in continuous production ever since, with only incremental changes. Tweak a little here, update the technology behind that thing over there, and roll it out onto the dealer lot with a minor incremental change in the type number. Porsche loves the 911 so much, that it can be argued rather well that in fact it is the only car they make, considering that the other models look more like they took a 911 through a funhouse and took pictures of the reflections in the funny mirrors than as car designs in their own right. (That’s right, Panamera, I’m looking at you…)
Well, we have the same thing with the iPhone. Any changes to the iPhone in each generation have been merely incremental tweaks – a slight change to a curve here, a slightly updated processor there, just enough to make sure that the end-users don’t think they are stagnating and not moving forward with the times. iOS compares rather straight across to the venerable rear-engine Boxer arrangement found in the 911 – which was air-cooled until 1998.
So, if the iPhone is a Porsche, then the other major brands can be equated to BMW, Audi, Mercedes and the like. While the iPhone sticks to that rear-engine Boxer, the other brands put the engine in front with Android, using a number of different engine configurations, body styles, performance packages and trim levels. Everything from zippy little two-seaters (your humble feature phones) up to massively overpowered station wagons that you can’t fit into your
garage pocket (Samsung Galaxy Note).
Now, don’t get me wrong – the Porsche 911 and the iPhone it compares to are both capable machines – but sometimes, you have to wonder if maybe the designers have taken what was a good thing and dragged it out too long. While the other major players have been out there innovating and developing and taking risks with design, the iPhone has been playing the same song. With the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it’s really playing catch-up with the other guys.