The Case Of The iPhone 3GS Case

On June 10, 2009

One of the biggest surprises this past Monday was the fact that the new iPhone looks so similar to the prior generation model because it is exactly the same.

Personally, I’m not thrilled. Twice I had to return an iPhone 3G when the area around the dock connector began to crack. My prior year’s experience is good reason for taking out additional insurance if it is available.

Rumor had it that the new iPhone would be SIMILAR but not exactly the same. Among the main differences… a durable, matte back. That would have been a welcomed feature. Alas, it was not to be. Put the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3Gs along side one another and one cannot distinguish one from the other.

One is left to wonder why Apple took the unprecedented move of releasing an updated generation that looks exactly like the prior one. In the past Apple have always made enough physical changes so that a quick look would tell even the most casual observer that a user had the latest and greatest device.

There have been suggestions that this was due to Apple’s key designers being involved in "other projects". (I presume this means the oft rumored tablet.) I, however, suspect there’s something very different going on.

I suspect that the reason for the continuation of the exact same form factor has to do with Apple wanting to get the next generation iPhone out the door and into customers hands as quickly as possible. Attention was rapidly moving toward products such as the new Palm Pre. Customers having to wait until mid-July before getting the new iPhone would have given the Pre an additional month to either gain momentum or crash. Apple didn’t want to take the chance that it would be the former rather than the latter. By using the exact same physical case they were able to keep the factories moving full steam ahead without needing to retool anything. The one major change is the new oil-resistent screen but that doesnt require any major factory change. As a result of this decision there will be just a week between the announcement of the phone and its release.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an iPhone refresh within the year that includes a more durable and easy to grip case. At the latest will likely see the case displayed in various spy shots this time next year (that is unless there is an entirely new form factor release.) For now, however, the two generations of device look exactly the same.

I’m rather mixed about the situation.

I’m not a huge fan of the black plastic case that will be on my new iPhone. It scratches too easily, and, at least in my case, suffers from cracks around the dock connector even though I take good care of my devices.

On the other hand, because Apple chose to continue using the exact same physical case every one of my iPhone 3G accessories will continue to work perfectly. That is amazing since I have a fair bit invested in iPhone 3G accessories and the thought of having to replace them less than a year after purchasing them would have added significantly to the cost of my upgrade.