Galaxy S3: Designed by Lawyers


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Ently

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The Galaxy S III is... well... it's ugly. There's really no other way to put it. But why? Why is it ugly? I don't mean aesthetically, why is it ugly, I mean, "How did something like this ever make it out of Samsung's design studio?" I'll tell you how, it was never in the design studio. This phone design was born down the hall, in a room where the door sign reads "Samsung Legal."

It was designed by lawyers.

I can tell just from the press shots, this thing is a Samsung lawyer's dream. I'm sure you must be thinking,"Hmm, that's a weird assumption to make." but don't worry, an explanation is forthcoming. We're going to take a trip, way, way back to the prehistoric times of April 18, 2011: The day Apple claimed ownership of the rectangle.

Remember this? It's Apple's trade dress lawsuit against Samsung. For those that don't remember, or just weren't paying attention: "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 is basically a list of things you aren't allowed to do. Now, individually, those traits aren't worthy of a lawsuit. It's the combination of those things that will send Apple Legal over to kick down your door. The combination of those attributes got the Galaxy S and SII in legal hot water, so for the S III, Samsung made this list their "Hey, don't do this" design guidelines. That's right, the entire phone design revolves around not ****ing off Apple.

Why should Samsung care about what Apple thinks? Well for one, there's the aforementioned legal goon squad, and for two, Apple is one of Samsung's biggest customers. Not for phones - walking around Apple campus with a Galaxy phone sounds like a good way to get fired - Apple is one of Samsung's biggest customers for components. Samsung makes all sorts of phone and tablet components: CPUs, RAM, flash memory, displays, and more, and they want Apple to buy them - and they do. The iPhone 4, for example, owes about 25% of its component cost to Samsung. Apple sells a lot of phones, so that's a lot of cash in Samsung's pocket. The iPhone/Galaxy battle is a win/win for Samsung, and they would like to keep it that way.

Which brings us back to the The Phone Designed By Lawyers. Maybe you aren't a believer yet. Well, it's time for some evidence. Let's run down the list of trade dress grievances, shall we?

A rectangular product shape...

not-a-rectangle_thumb.jpg

Geometry 101: A rectangle is a plane figure with four straight sides and four right angles. I've placed the GSIII inside a rectangle, so you can see how much of a rectangle it is not. Corners are addressed in the next section, so we'll ignore those for now, we're mainly concerned with the sides.

A rectangle needs to have parallel sides; the GSIII sides aren't straight at all. 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. It's more of an amorphous blob.

...with all four corners uniformly rounded;

corners_thumb.gif

Nope. The top and bottom corners are not the same shape. Observe the outlines of the top-left and bottom-left corners. Note how they are different.

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

notblack_thumb.jpg

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

GSIIImeasurements_thumb.jpg

Apple's use of "roughly" is really obnoxious, but just in case they get into minutia (lawyers love minutia!), the top and bottom borders are not the same size. These to-scale measurements show the top bezel is about 16% smaller than the bottom. Also, they're not black!

a metallic surround framing the perimeter of the top surface;

You've got me there. The GSIII has a metallic band around the edge. I guess they just couldn't resist. Like I said earlier, it's not any one item that will get Samsung in trouble, it's the combination of them. A chrome band shouldn't cause too much trouble.

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

not-rounded-icons_thumb.jpg

The Galaxy S (left) put colorful, square backgrounds around all of its icons. They stopped with the SII, and that carried over to the SIII.

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.

no-dock_thumb.jpg

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), Samsung Legal deemed the dock must die. It's there when you scroll through home screens, but it goes away when you enter the app drawer.

So there you have it. A darn-near perfect explanation of the GSIII design. Sure, it's butt ugly, but it's also 100% (well maybe 90%) lawyer approved. An amorphous, unsymmetrical blob that doesn't come in black, with a non-permanent dock and non-square icons. There's no way Apple can add this design to their Samsung lawsuit.

So Samsung, was it worth it? Your product won't sell as well, but you won't **** off one of your biggest component customers either. I understand the motivation, but I still feel like you've sold your soul.

When Apple started patent trolling, they basically admitted they weren't going to win in an open market, and they decided to drag Samsung down with them. The crazy thing is, Samsung is letting them. They've ceded ownership of the rectangle and other common sense design traits to Apple, and did everything they could to bow down to their largest customer.

The result? A phone designed by lawyers. What a scary precedent.

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c3ntury

Just saw this article, and it's sad to see Samsung retreating over Apple attempting to say they own the idea of a rectangular phone.

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downhillrider

I think the larger concern is the lack of originality alot of these companies show.

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TheLegendOfMart

I think the larger concern is the lack of originality alot of these companies show.

What other shapes should a phone be, triangular, with a circular screen?

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Pupik

I don't care about the design. Only wonder about the price.

Was it announced yet (without any contracts)?

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Xerxes

Just saw this article, and it's sad to see Samsung retreating over Apple attempting to say they own the idea of a rectangular phone.

Well as far as Apple's lawyers are concerned, they do. Had the S3 looks even remotely like an iPhone 4S they'd be launching salvos of lawsuits at them by now (and there is nothing to say they still won't). Maybe now Samsung will try and be more original and come up with it's own [better] designs instead of copying the market leader.

What other shapes should a phone be, triangular, with a circular screen?

It isn't so much that, I mean granted there are only a certain amount of ways you can design a smartphone that is still usable. However, Samsung just went too far with even mimicking the iOS UI to an extent. All the other phone OEMs can design a phone that doesn't infringe on Apple's patents, but somehow Samsung's do. Had Samsung been more discrete about what influenced their design, they might of gotten away with it. Hopefully with the fear of Apple's lawyers watching their every move, they'll make something truly innovative. Granted the S3 is quite ugly, but at least it shows they are capable of their own designs.

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DomZ

Let's be honest. Samsung have no originality when creating their phones. They always seem to be lacking inspiration and I'm not sure who is designing them but they should get the guys who design some of their TV's.

For people saying you can't make a phone look different blah blah. Have you seen the Lumia line? Actual design that looks refreshing and inspired by something:

lumia_900.jpg

Nokia-lumia-710-deals.jpg

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Zac Bowden

Well, I thought the new Galaxy looked beautiful...

Am I from another species?

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+Frank B.

I don't care about the design. Only wonder about the price.

Was it announced yet (without any contracts)?

Amazon.de sells it for ?588.90.

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Syanide

My only gripe with the design is the decision to not come in black. Does Apple have a claim on that color as well?

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Damian

Let's be honest. Samsung have no originality when creating their phones. They always seem to be lacking inspiration and I'm not sure who is designing them but they should get the guys who design some of their TV's.

For people saying you can't make a phone look different blah blah. Have you seen the Lumia line? Actual design that looks refreshing and inspired by something:

lumia_900.jpg

Nokia-lumia-710-deals.jpg

This. There is no excuse for their awful designs.

You can also add the HTC One X to your list.

htc-one-x.png

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Zain Adeel

HTC One X is hot! they are kinda like inspired by the Lumia line. But they have added their personality to it. Great design. Same with Nokia.

I was really disappointed with Samsungs latest flagship..

Thanks to Apple in some regards.

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jakem1

The One X looks good in the pics above but in person it just looks and feels like any other HTC phone. The Lumia 800, on the other hand, just feels really good and the curved screen is great to touch.

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bbfc_uk

I forgot how much the SGS I and II looked like the iPhone, even down to the UI. The GSIII must of been designed by Lawyers because no design department would come up with something that ugly.

The Lumia 800 is a gorgeous looking phone and IMO is the only phone that comes close to the design and build quality of the iPhone.

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.Blaze

I prefer the white SGS3 compared to the blue. On design though, I love the OneX

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Scorpus

The One X looks good in the pics above but in person it just looks and feels like any other HTC phone.

Not really: the "infinity" curved glass and entire polycarbonate shell have never been used in a HTC phone before; the curved, thin design is surprisingly different from previous HTC designs.

Anyway... seems like the author of that article nailed it. Immediately looking at the phone it looks like a giant white (or blue) turd that throws modern designs and symmetry out the window. It looks like a phone conceptualized for a 2001 science-fiction movie rather than a 2012 reality.

Although, I haven't actually held the phone, and I think that could change my opinion of the design. Probably won't... but it could.

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Geoffrey B.

as far as the interface changes go, if someone puts a custom rom on their phone or a custom launcher that makes the phone look like an iPhone does that technically give Apple a license to sue the user or would Samsung?

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nominak

as far as the interface changes go, if someone puts a custom rom on their phone or a custom launcher that makes the phone look like an iPhone does that technically give Apple a license to sue the user or would Samsung?

Is this a serious question?

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alphaomegainfinity

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), Samsung Legal deemed the dock must die. It's there when you scroll through home screens, but it goes away when you enter the app drawer.

That is the result of O.S. In Froyo and Gingerbread, the dock remained after switching to apps. In ICS, the dock vanishes.

Anyway, the GS3 is too huge for my liking.

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remixedcat

well to me the specs matter the most... you can have a beautiful phone but if it has crappy specs it's not worth it.

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