2005 (Not a smart phone. Phones used to look like this, though, so I thought I’d set the stage.)
2007 (Apple’s first iPhone.)
2008 (Apple’s iPhone 3G.)
2010 (Apple’s iPhone 4.)
So, to recap, it’s commonly argued that there’s only one way (or not many ways) to design a smart phone, given that you’re dealing with a device that is mostly screen. This argument is made to bolster the view that it’s absurd for Apple to sue manufacturers who copy the look and feel of the iPhone, due to its proven success, rather than innovating — because Android manufacturers simply don’t have a choice.
The 1st generation iPhone (Only 2 Gs!) couldn’t be more different than the cell phones which had previously dominated the market.
The iPhone 3G made modest changes to the 1st generation iPhone, but looking at the two devices from behind, they’re distinctly different.
The iPhone 4, on the other hand, is a complete rethinking of the look and feel of a touchscreen smart phone. It looks nothing at all like the iPhone which preceded it. In fact, Apple’s design change wasn’t merely cosmetic — the change was so radical that it’s new (revolutionary!) antenna system caused usability problems and a temporary media crisis. (Innovation and risk go hand in hand.)
Apple, at least, doesn’t seem to have any problem coming up with new, advanced designs for its touchscreen smart phones. In just over three years, we’ve seen two iPhone designs which are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
Apparently, when people say “there’s only one way to design a smartphone” they mean:
"Whichever way Apple is doing it."