After the bold new Galaxy S8, it's time for Apple to follow Samsung's lead

Alistair Charlton
Samsung Galaxy S8

It recently took my colleague and I a good five minutes to identify a smartphone sent to me in a tweet. The photo was clearly taken (with an iPhone, incidentally), lighting was good and there was no motion blur or grain to blame.

We spent an embarrassingly long amount of time researching potential options online, scratching our heads and gradually eliminating first the Google Pixel, then the Huawei P10, followed by the phones of Honour, LG and Samsung. Eventually we realised it was the new OnePlus 3T, but only after checking the home button shape and placement of the front-facing camera – both relatively small details and certainly not something the average consumer should be expected to spot.

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At least one thing was for sure; we knew it wasn't the new Samsung Galaxy S8.

Smartphone design has stagnated awfully in recent years as manufacturers settled on the black-silver-or-white slab of glass/metal/plastic look with a large rectangle screen and a central home button.

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Curves changed here and there, funky colour options arrived in some markets, modular designs quickly came and went. But the basic formula remained unchanged and, put simply, it had become nondescript, uninspiring, repetitive and dull.

The Galaxy S8 changes this. Switching from a 16:9 screen ratio to 18.5:9 and stretching the display out to each corner gives the phone a unique look, complemented by a chromed metal top and bottom, curved sides and a digital home button on the screen itself.

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Make no mistake, Samsung has bounced back from the fiery ashes and acrid smoke cloud that was the exploding Galaxy Note 7 disaster to produce a real world-beater. The S8 builds on the S6 and S7 but also ushers in a new and, dare we say it, exciting design.

Apple iPhone 7

The S8 cannot be mistaken for any other phone (apart from the larger S8 Plus, of course) and that will be its great strength. Too many Android phones look exactly the same, completely indistinguishable from each other and lacking aesthetic flare. The S8 has this. Its long screen looks weird at first, but is memorable, unique and just gorgeous.

These are all traits that the next iPhone absolutely must have if it is to be considered a success. Apple is in real danger of being seen as complacent unless the 2017 iPhone looks a great deal different to the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and 7; the Home button can go, the screen can curve and the large bezels above and below the screen must be slimmed down. Nothing should be left off the table as the iPhone celebrates its 10th birthday.

Yes, it will be criticised for looking like the new Galaxy, but Apple let itself fall into that position when it chose not to innovate visually with the iPhone 7. Samsung has the upper hand now and the ball is firmly in Apple's court. Of course the company and Sir Jony Ive have the ability to design world-class products, but little in the way of competition may have bred complacency at Cupertino.

Apple will sell a boat-load of iPhones no matter what it looks like, but as industry critics we would love to see the company be brave – not brave in its removal of the headphone jack – but actually brave, even daring. Apple, please, give us something completely new and don't worry about harking back to the first iPhone, because nostalgia will only get you so far.

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