Having owned three iPhones—beginning with the iPhone 6S, followed by the iPhone XS, and currently using the iPhone 14 Pro — I've observed a noticeable regression in the overall design. It's important to clarify that my remarks pertain solely to the physical aesthetics of the phone, not its technical capabilities. While I acknowledge the iPhone 14 Pro's technological prowess, I must express my personal dissatisfaction with its design, especially when compared to the more appealing design of my previous iPhone XS.
In the past, iPhones were handy and lightweight. Holding my iPhone 6S in 2023 feels practically weightless in both the hand and pocket. However, the trend has shifted, and newer iPhones, equipped with larger batteries, have become noticeably heavier. The issue is exacerbated in the Pro models, the premium and expensive variant, which are even heavier due to the incorporation of stainless steel. It's disheartening to pay a premium for a phone that, despite its enhanced features, feels bulkier compared to the standard versions.
The trend of iPhones continually growing in size is quite evident. My iPhone 14 Pro, for instance, has become larger than what I personally find ideal. The iPhone XS, with its more compact dimensions, felt just right for me. While the increased size does offer advantages such as improved battery life and a better experience watching videos in landscape mode, it's becoming increasingly uncomfortable to hold and is often a tight fit in certain pockets.
While the new design of the iPhone with its sharp and angular edges exudes a modern aesthetic, it presents a notable drawback in terms of comfort during use. The pronounced sharpness of these edges makes holding the phone without a case quite uncomfortable. I have had the experience of using both the iPhone 6S and the iPhone XS without a case for four years each. However, with my current iPhone 14 Pro, which I've had for less than a year, I'm already growing weary of the sharp edges that tend to poke my hands, especially during extended usage.
Another minor yet frustrating issue with the newer generation iPhones is their tendency to become excessively hot during charging, gaming, video calls, or prolonged cellular data usage. This overheating renders the phone unusable during that time, which is a behaviour that I find difficult to accept from an iPhone.
iPhones used to look so good. The iPhone XS, is in my opinion, the best looking iPhone to date. However, the current design features a rear camera setup with three lenses, arranged in a somewhat awkward configuration and an asymmetric placement of the LED flash and LiDAR. This arrangement, in my view, detracts from the overall attractiveness of the iPhone's back design. Additionally, the dynamic island on the front has negatively impacted the appearance of iPhones when viewed from the front. While the notch was already a point of contention, the dynamic island, in my view, makes the front aesthetics even less appealing.
Indeed, one could argue that the right trade-offs have been made in the design of recent iPhones. Prioritising battery capacity over size and weight makes sense, as a larger battery is undeniably more beneficial. Additionally, considering that a majority of users utilize phone cases, the design's comfort in hand might be less of a concern, as cases can offset any discomfort caused by sharp edges or bulkiness. And in today's smartphone landscape, having a larger and more versatile array of cameras has become more important rather than focusing on the aesthetics of the phone's back.
But no one can argue that iPhones have evolved to become more functional, perhaps at the expense of maintaining a pristine physical design. This isn't a complaint but rather an observation. While the trade-offs made by Apple may be justified and aligned with evolving user needs, it's fair to say that I no longer hold the same admiration for the physical design of iPhones as I did in the past. If there were a hypothetical museum dedicated to well-designed objects, I'd readily place the iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone X, and iPhone XS within it, but I wouldn't extend that same distinction to any iPhone released after 2018 (post iPhone XS).