As if there wasn't already enough pressure.
Reviews for Samsung's latest, greatest, and hopefully non-exploding Galaxy S8 are starting to hit the web, and there's universal praise among the tech press. After years of shamelessly copying Apple's (AAPL 0.22%) designs (and getting sued for it), Samsung has truly come up with an innovative and unique design that looks nothing like anything out of Cupertino. Even a longtime Samsung critic like myself has to acknowledge that it's a pretty great-looking phone, especially when it comes to the display and virtual lack of bezel.
In retrospect, given Apple's decades-long obsession with rounded corners (dating back at least three decades), it's kind of curious that the iPhone maker has never made a display with rounded corners, particularly since Apple controls the operating system, too. Apple even once scored a dubious design patent that was literally (only solid lines are covered by the patent, while dashed lines are for illustration) nothing more than a rectangle with rounded corners. Rounded corners are just one aspect that makes the Galaxy S8's display look so polished and easy on the eyes, and this is becoming a trend among Android OEMs. (webOS had rounded corners, if you even remember what that is.)
Many outlets are even calling the Galaxy S8 the best and most beautiful phone ever made (examples here, here, and here).
Can Apple reclaim the crown?
Meanwhile, Apple took a big risk in 2016 by using the same overall design for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the first time it recycled a design for a third year. The iPhone 7 design, originally introduced in 2014, does look a bit outdated when compared directly next to the Galaxy S8. It ended up paying off, as Apple was able to set a new record for iPhone sales in the fourth quarter, returning to growth in the process. Presumably, Apple underestimated how much people hate headphone jacks.
Expectations are incredibly high for the 2017 iPhone, since it will be the 10th-generation device. There are reports that Apple is also pursuing a bezel-less display as well, but like Samsung, it then faces the dilemma of where to place the fingerprint sensor and/or home button. Samsung opted for a digital home button while moving the Galaxy S8 fingerprint sensor to the rear. Apple reportedly wants to integrate Touch ID directly into the display, which is presenting significant technical challenges.
Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the high-end model could be delayed by one or two months after the unveiling. In addition to technical challenges, some production bottlenecks are also expected due to challenges manufacturing heavily curved glass, but Apple is also testing a few other designs, including variants that feature stainless steel and glass (like the iPhone 4). Apple still hasn't finalized its designs, and the clock is ticking. The company usually begins pilot production runs in the second quarter before ramping up production ahead of third-quarter product launches.
Apple better have a show-stealer up its sleeve that can meet lofty expectations, or else Samsung might take the crown for 2017.