It seems increasingly likely that the iPhone 7 is going to be a bit of a damp squib, which has prompted us to reflect on some other notably boring smartphone releases from recent years.
A growing number of reports suggest Apple isn’t sticking to the script with the iPhone 7 – and we don’t mean that in a positive way. History dictates that the next iPhone should boast an all-new design, but it seems we’ll actually be getting yet another iPhone 6-a-like. Yawn.
If true, the iPhone 7 will neither be the first nor the last phone to underwhelm with its dull, unimaginative design. Here are six such snoozesome smartphones that left us distinctly unmoved.
HTC ONE M9
This year’s HTC 10 is a handsome phone with a beautiful angled design we really dig. It really needed to be, though, after its predecessor turned out to be the most disappointing phone of 2015.
It wasn’t that the HTC One M9 had a below-par 1080p display, or that it suffered from some early performance gremlins (though it did and it did). It wasn’t even that the camera was a bit meh.
No, what really got everyone’s goat was that the HTC One M9 looked exactly like the HTC One M8 before it, which looked exactly like the HTC One M7 before that.
Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to have learned HTC’s lesson.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S5
The only interesting thing about the Samsung Galaxy S5, in retrospect, was that it marked a turning point for smartphone design.
Its relative underperformance showed that ugly plastic was no longer acceptable for a flagship phone from an elite smartphone manufacturer. It’s been mostly metal across the board ever since.
It also showed Samsung that it badly needed to stop with the box-ticking features and focus more on premium, interesting design. To the manufacturer’s credit, it’s done just that with the beautiful Samsung Galaxy S6 and this year’s equally sharp Samsung Galaxy S7.
The Samsung Galaxy S5? You probably won’t notice any when out and about these days. Not because they’re not there, you understand – Samsung at least built these suckers to last. Rather, it’s because they look like every other cheap phone Samsung has made since 2010.
You might think this is a bit of a harsh one. After all, the LG G4 was a decent phone with a strong spec sheet. We liked it a lot at the time.
So why can we barely picture the phone when we think about it just over a year later? There are two reasons we can think of.
One is a matter of expectation. We made the LG G3 our phone of the year in 2014, thanks such fresh features as a then-unusual QHD display and its innovative camera functions. The LG G4 simply didn’t make anything like the same impact, failing to bring anything meaningfully new to the table.
The second reason is that the LG G4’s design was plain boring, and lacked the premium feel of its all-metal contemporaries. No amount of optional leather could disguise that. The reaction – or lack thereof – to the LG G4’s design probably explains why LG went a bit crazy with the LG G5.
MICROSOFT LUMIA 950
You’re one of the biggest tech companies in the world, but your mobile OS is taking a battering from your two biggest rivals. There’s a big platform relaunch coming that could save your bacon, but you really need a killer flagship to push it.
Fortunately, using your almost unrivalled cash reserves, you recently purchased one of the most respected names in mobile phone hardware design. Meanwhile your internal hardware team has started knocking it out of the park with its own portable device design work.
So what did Microsoft come out with to push Windows 10 Mobile? The Lumia 950, which essentially resembled a tarted up Nokia Lumia 920 from three years prior.
Clunky, chunky, apologetically plastic, and late. The most interesting thing about the Lumia 950 was just how unremarkable it was.
The Nexus 6 is like that person at a party who brags and shows off and says outrageous things to cover up for the fact that they actually have very little to say.
Motorola’s attempt at a Nexus flagship was extremely big, with an outrageously colourful AMOLED display, and it ran on one of the most powerful processors of the time. But really, it was just an oversized Moto X running stock Android. Nothing more, nothing less.
The customised design of the Nexus 5, Nexus 4, and subsequent Nexus devices was nowhere to be seen. It smacked of a rather rushed, late rebadging exercise.
Like most of these phones, the Nexus 6 was certainly not considered to be a bad phone at the time, but it’s looked back on with disappointment at what should have been.
You would have thought that Apple would have known better than to repeat itself more than once with the iPhone 7 (assuming the rumours are true). After all, it has very recent experience of the response it’s likely to get.
The iPhone SE launched in March after a great deal of rumour and speculation. We may forget now, but there was considerable excitement over the fact that Apple was returning to the small phone form factor.
What we got was essentially an iPhone 5SS. No, I’m not an Android fanboy hissing at the mere mention of the word ‘iPhone.’ I mean that the iPhone SE looked exactly like the iPhone 5S, which of course looked exactly like the iPhone 5.
So you see, those in denial that Apple would really release essentially the same phone design for a third iteration shouldn’t be so surprised. It’s actually got very recent boring design form.