Samsung Galaxy S III, phone designed by lawyers?

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The Galaxy S III doesn’t look like the best phone out there…is it ugly? maybe not…it’s subjective, but it seems like it wasn’t really “designed” by designers….looking more in depth in this article, it might make sense it was designed in the legal department.

Check this lawsuit. It’s Apple’s trade dress lawsuit against Samsung.  “Trade Dress” is a legal thing, a form of intellectual property, basically a trademark for how a product looks, as opposed to a logo or word. Like a trademark offers protection to the use of a word or the look of a logo, trade dress offers protection on design. Trade dress lets Apple say to Samsung “Your product looks too much like our product; prepare to be sued into oblivion!”

Back in April 2011, Apple’s trade dress infringement claims against Samsung went like this:

  • a rectangular product shape with all four corners uniformly rounded;
  • the front surface of the product dominated by a screen surface with black borders;
  • as to the iPhone and iPod touch products, substantial black borders above and below the screen having roughly equal width and narrower black borders on either side of the screen having roughly equal width;
  • as to the iPad product, substantial black borders on all sides being roughly equal in width;
  • a metallic surround framing the perimeter of the top surface;
  • a display of a grid of colorful square icons with uniformly rounded corners; and
  • a bottom row of square icons (the “Springboard”) set off from the other icons and that do not change as the other pages of the user interface are viewed.

That’s basically the list of things Samsung are not allowed to do. Each alone, those aren’t worthy of a lawsuit, but it is their combination that will send Apple into court against Samsung. The combination of those attributes got the Galaxy S and SII in court, so for the S III,  looks like Samsung made the above list their “not to do” list. It’s like the entire phone design revolves around not pissing off Apple.

Why should Samsung care about what Apple thinks? Other than the legal issues, Apple is one of Samsung’s biggest customers.
Not for phones, but Apple is one of Samsung’s biggest components customers. Samsung makes all sorts of phone and tablet components: CPUs, RAM, flash memory, displays, and more, and Apple buys them

The iPhone 4, for example, is 25% from Samsung components. Apple sells a lot, so that means a lot of business for Samsung.
The iPhone/Galaxy battle is a win/win for Samsung, and they would like to keep it that way.

Let’s go over the design details and the ‘not to do’ list above and see what’s happening with the S3.

A rectangular product shape…

“A rectangle is a plane figure with four straight sides and four right angles.”
Putting the the GSIII inside a rectangle you will see that it is not totally one. Mainly referring to sides, corners in next section.

A rectangle needs to have parallel sides; the GSIII sides are not straight nor parallel.
The outmost part is about 1/3rd of the way down, with serious curves leading to the top and bottom. So it’s very much not a rectangle, or a rounded rectangle, or even horizontally symmetrical.

…with all four corners uniformly rounded;

Notice the difference in outlines between the top and bottom parts, so not uniform!

The front surface of the product dominated by a screen surface with black borders

Having a giant screen on the front is kind of unavoidable. The only colors available though, are white and dark blue. Neither of those colors are black. The lawyers can sleep easy.

Substantial black borders above and below the screen having roughly equal width

Apple’s use of “roughly” is really obnoxious, but, the top and bottom borders are not the same size by a good amount just for that. And they’re not black!

a metallic surround framing the perimeter of the top surface;

This is about the only thing that’s actually done from the list….but as mentioned earlier, it’s not any one item that will cause trouble, but the combination of them.

a display of a grid of colorful square icons with uniformly rounded corners

The Galaxy S(left) put colorful, square backgrounds around all of its icons. This was stopped with the SII, and the SIII as well.

a bottom row of square icons (the “Springboard”) set off from the other icons and that do not change as the other pages of the user interface are viewed.

On the Galaxy S I and II, (left and center, respectively) the dock stuck around when you entered the app drawer. On the SIII (right), the dock was removed. It’s there when you scroll through home screens, but it goes away when you enter the app drawer.

So the SIII seems like a 100% lawyer-approved phone before being design-approved. Will this less aesthetic phone cause less sales? maybe.

But it’s probably worth it for Samsung. This won’t piss off one of their biggest customers.

 

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