Suspiciously similar iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro designs: Who's the copycat?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Suspiciously similar iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro designs: Who's the copycat?
As you might know, during Google I/O, Sundar Pichai & Co (surprisingly) took the wraps off the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro about five months before their official release. While we don't have any confirmed technical details about the Pixel 7 series yet, what's for sure is that the new Pixels will take after last year's Pixel 6 and bring back the "camera bar" design, which is slowly but steadily becoming the Google's most recognized visual trait.

But, of course, those of you who like their tech conspiracy theories stretched, surely would've noticed something familiar about the Pixel 7 Pro's camera bar design, which houses three camera sensors.

As it turns out, the Pixel 7 Pro's back now looks like a blown-out version of the unannounced iPhone 14 Pro's front, which will be housing an i-shaped cutout for the Face ID and camera sensors. Isn't that i-ronic?

So, let's take a quick look at why the Google Pixel 7 Pro's rear camera design looks like it does; why the iPhone 14 Pro's display cutout will look suspiciously similar, and of course, give an answer to the latest (and of crucial importance!) conspiracy theory in the smartphone tech world…

Did Google copy Apple, or did Apple copy Google?

Why the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro designs are much more important than you thought

For starters, you might be wondering why we're discussing this tiny detail, concerning the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro's design at all, which is why I'll start by explaining why there's much more to it than you thought...

The front of your phone also needs to be recognizable, and Apple bets on that

Let's start with Apple's iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max and their rumored i-shaped dual punch-hole display cutout.

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As you know, Apple loves to do things differently. That's why the company had choose and stick with the notch on iPhones for five years straight. Is it pretty? Not really. Does it make the iPhone recognizable from a mile away? Sure. For those with impeccable eyesight.

Back in 2017, the notch made iPhone X and all following models stick out from the crowd of Android phones that were soon going to catch onto the punch-hole trend, officially started by Honor and the Honor View 20.

Did Apple's plan work? Absolutely. In fact, I dare saying that the iPhone is the only recognizable phone when looked at from the front. Now, this doesn't mean it looks better than any other device. But you can surely tell it's an iPhone, which is what matters to Apple.

Cupertino likes devices that market themselves. The old iPhone design (still seen on the iPhone SE) is just as stubborn and stuck around for much longer than needed, but there wasn't another phone with such thick bezels and the iconic Touch ID home button, so it worked for Apple. Respectively, the notch was Apple's way of continuing the tradition of unique-looking iPhones. 

Of course, let's not forget that it also houses a complex array of Face ID sensors alongside a 12MP selfie camera that takes the best 4K selfie videos in the game. So, it's certainly not there only for the looks...

All that being said, Apple simply could've tucked Touch ID behind the power button and call it a day, allowing the iPhone X to have a tinier cutout for a simple selfie shooter. By not doing so, Tim Cook & Co made a deliberate choice of having a huge notch with Face ID, which will probably exist on future iPhones for at least another 2-3 years.

The rear camera bump design has turned into a second logo for Apple and Google 

Phones are becoming ridiculously expensive, which means people keep them in cases, which itself inspires manufacturers to find alternative ways of branding. It's as simple as that!

The camera system on mid-range and flagship phones gets the most attention from both phone-makers and buyers anyway, so why not put all the focus on it? Literally and figuratively. 

Apple's iconic camera triangle, started by the iPhone 11 series, and Google's new camera bar are about as iconic as it gets. In fact, I'd argue that Google's design will help the company's flagships grow into the single most recognizable set of phones in the future.

That's because no other company seems to be interested in copying Google's camera visor, but many have already taken after the iPhone's triangular camera. So, yes! Now the Pixel is more recognizable than an iPhone. Sure, it's not nearly as popular, but it's so original.

The camera bump design on iPhone 14 Pro has a functional purpose; Pixel 7 Pro fixes Google's previously-wrong camera order

And if you ever thought the camera bump on every phone was just for the sake of aesthetics, think twice!

For starters, if the camera bump is designed symmetrically, this will keep your phone flat when placed on a table. A small detail, but I can name a couple of people from our team who find wobbly phones rather annoying. My Pixel 6 Pro happens to be the best phone for those who do. Humble brag.

The camera placement helps with is zooming in and out...

That's right! I've written about that in the past, but one of the reasons iPhones have smoother zoom than most other phones on the market is because the triangular camera design puts all three lenses on the Pro iPhones within the same physical distance from each other. Hence, when switching from the ultra-wide to the wide and zoom cameras, you get virtually the same shift in your field of view, which is unavoidable anyway.

Ask Google! For some reason, the search engine giant decided that it's a good idea to place the wide lens of the Pixel 6 Pro on the far left of the camera bar. The ultra-wide-angle camera sits in the middle, and then we have the 4x periscope zoom lens on the far right. This results in abrupt jumps in FoV when switching between lenses.

How do we know this was a mistake? Well, I wrote a piece on it (not a humble brag), and Google has now addressed it! You better believe it!

The Pixel 7 Pro has its three cameras positioned in the correct order: ultra-wide - wide - zoom. The wide camera is your default camera, and it constantly swtiches back and forth between the other two - left and right, so it makes sense for it to sit in the middle. It's the ideal scenario if you have a bar and not a triangle for your camera design.

Kudos, Google! I take half the credit for writing the piece that called it out. Sundar…  I take PayPal.

iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro design: Did Google copy Apple or did Apple copy Google?

And we come to the question that some Google and Apple fanatics raised on Twitter and… OK, mostly Twitter. Did Google copy Apple's i-shaped double punch-hole or did Apple copy Google's i-shaped camera bar? Or is it all a coincidence?

For starters, as far as the iPhone 14 Pro series is concerned, the punch-hole design rumor dates back as far as the summer of 2021, when reliable leakster ShrimpApplePro showed off a Huawei Mate 40 Pro display backplate (which has a similarly large cutout for its Face ID sensors and selfie shooter), and said that this design was coming to iPhone 14. For the record, yes, all of that took place well before the iPhone 13 was announced.

Furthermore, we saw countless leaked renders of the iPhone 14 Pro way before Google officially announced the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. So, that sort of debunks the theory that Apple copied the Pixel 7 Pro's camera bar design just because Google's phones were officially announced before the iPhone 14 Pro.

So, that means Google copied Apple?

Not really. While it's certainly possible that Google's Pixel 7 Pro was designed later than the iPhone 14 Pro, we don't know this for a fact.

And also, what tangible value is there to the i-shaped camera cutout on the back of the Pixel 7 Pro? None. Sure, it looks nice, but the key part here is that it looks just different enough from the camera bar of the Pixel 6 Pro to make owners of Google's 2021 flagship want to upgrade. It's basically what Samsung did with the Galaxy S21 Ultra - S22 Ultra camera designs. The hardware is mostly the same, but it looks different.

In the end, I think both designs will achieve exactly what they were meant to achieve. Apple continues its legacy of "bizarre" but super-recognizable iPhones by replacing the notch with an i-shaped cutout (some think the "i" is for “iPhone”). And Google continues building its newly-found design language and brand identity (some will say the "i" in the camera bar is for "Pixel").

As I've always said, functional design is far more more important than aesthetics, and I'm glad to report that Apple's weird cutout will still be housing the same advanced Face ID tech and a brand new selfie camera with autofocus and a bigger sensor for better image quality in low light.

On the other hand, Google's camera visor doesn't just continue the trend of badass-looking Google phones, but it also prevents the Pixel from wobbling when placed on a flat surface and now has the cameras in the correct order, which must be a tangible functional improvement.

Win-Win. Hey, maybe the "i" is for "win"? I'm on fire. Wait… is it for "fire"?

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