iPhone 4 Just Like a Leica?

June 8, 2010

So the iPhone Mk4 is finally a reality and is wobbling its way to NZ sometime for a late July launch. That’s all well and good. It seems that Apple has made some tangible improvements over the iPhone 3GS, with a thinner form factor, better camera and a new high-res screen (among others) but the following pronouncement from Steve Jobs almost had me rolling off my Swiss ball.

It is really thin” said Jobs. “It is one of the most beautiful designs you’ve ever seen. Its closest kin is a beautiful old Leica camera.”

Sorry? Come again? Previous generations of iPhone were pretty sweet with Apple’s usual excellent industrial design and the new model is obviously a big leap forward in terms of functionality and a small step forward in terms of design but comparing it to a Leica, particularly an old Leica is a reach.

Hell no, strike that. It’s not a reach, it’s a liberty. Leica cameras are things of beauty, with a design ethos that’s stood the test not of years, but of many long decades. They’re also enduring functional products that have become icons of desirability. Yeah yeah everyone desires an iPhone but they’re throw-away short lifespan products. An old Leica is likely to still be operational and if it isn’t, a some fettling by an expert will probably see it right. That antique will take incredible photos, even today. It will also feel like it was carved from a solid block, with controls as precise as a watch.

Now I appreciate that digital years are very different to analogue years and that an old Leica will have aged in a totally different way to an iPhone, which can only be cutting edge for a narrow window of time. I ask you though, in 10 years, let alone 50, will anyone even acknowledge the iPhone 4 as an amazing design or will it be forgotten, along with all the other digital products that fell by the wayside?

The old Leica will still be a collectors piece, even when the last roll of film has faded from the planet. They’re special. End of story.

PS – Don’t get me wrong, I’m still getting an iPhone 4. I just won’t be pretending it’s a modern day Leica.

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