Japan designer praises iPhone 5S beauty -- inside and out

A Nikkei article compares the quality and refinement of the iPhone 5S design to Toyota's system of Kaizen.

Small refinements in the iPhone 5S point to Apple's painstaking attention to detail, according to a Japanese design expert.
Small refinements in the iPhone 5S point to Apple's painstaking attention to detail, according to a Japanese design expert. Apple

A University of Tokyo professor and industrial designer had high praise for the iPhone 5S' quality and attention to detail.

Shunji Yamanaka, founder and president of Leading Edge Design and associate professor at University of Tokyo, said the iPhone 5S has been improved over the iPhone 5 and in small -- and in most cases imperceptible -- ways that point to Apple's meticulous approach to design.

He was cited as part of an article Nikkei published Thursday (subscription required), titled "iPhone 5S' beauty is in the details."

The design improvements for the 5S can be compared to the kaizen system of manufacturing improvement, often associated with Toyota, according to the article.

That practice espouses continuous improvements in quality and was inspired, in part, by W. Edwards Deming, an American statistician who visited Japan in the early 1950s and conducted training in process control and quality.

Some of the salient iPhone 5S improvements that were demonstrated in the Nikkei article include:

  • Button tolerances improved: The gaps around the buttons on iPhone 5 have been "almost eliminated" on the iPhone 5S. The article focuses, for example, on the on-off button at the top of the iPhone as one example.
  • Speaker grill: Fine, intricate improvements to the design of the speaker grill.
  • Circuit board: The size of the 5S' main circuit board has been reduced compared with the 5's. By making the effort to shrink the circuit board up to 10 percent, Apple has freed up space for the battery.
  • Coils: Even something inside the iPhone as small as the coils has been improved -- the arrangement of the coils -- showing that Apple wants the iPhone 5S to "look beautiful even inside the phone."
  • Anodized aluminum edges: The way the aluminum edges that rim the iPhone 5S have been machined has changed, resulting in almost-imperceptible but significant improvements.
  • Apple logo: The Apple logo mark has been refined in ways, again, that are real but won't be noticed by most people.

This attention to detail and quality is likely one of the reasons the iPhone and iPad have been such big hits in Japan -- and also highlights a shift back to the US in quality control for high-profile products like the iPhone.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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