Call it ultramodern. Once you get past the signature home page grid of apps, the new design language in Apple's iOS 7 looks more than a little like the "modern" design on my HTC Windows Phone 8X, with its big, rounded sans-serif fonts and flat buttons.
We should expect no less from Apple; after all, Steve Jobs said that good artists copy, great artists steal. Apple's genius isn't in inventing entirely new technologies. It's in taking existing technologies and polishing, commercialising, and mainstreaming them.
We saw that with the Apple II, the Mac, the iPod and the iPhone. And now we're seeing it with iOS 7, which on one level plays catch-up with some of its major rivals, but does so in a way that could crush them.
It's not actually just design
iOS 7's design borrows a lot from Microsoft's Windows Phone 8. The flatness, the focus on large fonts and sliding panels, even the fonts themselves; you see a lot of Windows Phone 8's much cleaner, more "modern" approach. That super-flat weather app looks a heck of a lot like the weather app on my HTC 8X.
Animated wallpapers? Android. Universal multitasking? Android again. The multitasking interface? I'm not the only one who thinks that looks like webOS. Android has auto-updated apps for years. Car integration is one of BlackBerry's last great strongholds. I could go on and on.
There are some unique touches, of course. The bit where the interface moves as you tilt your phone looks slick. The new camera interface is relatively unique, though you could argue that Nokia does a solid camera with built-in photo editing.
Guess what? None of this matters.
The full picture
During the iOS 7 launch presentation, analyst Om Malik said on Twitter: "Somewhere in Microsoft, they are watching iOS 7 and saying to themselves – WTF. We got this thing right first."
Then Canadian software developer Douglas Soltys responded: "Except for the apps support, and the developer support, and the carrier support."
Exactly. Apple's brilliance is in putting the pieces together and marketing them. Apple's developer APIs and its history of making money for developers still reigns supreme – there's less piracy than on Android, and a bigger audience and more design flexibility than on Windows Phone.
But the best third-party apps are only part of the story here. Apple's commitment to marketing is matched only by Samsung, which means that carriers who pick up iPhones don't have to carry the marketing weight; these babies practically sell themselves.
Apple has the ultimate end-to-end ecosystem. None of its competitors can quite match it. Apple controls not only PC and mobile operating systems, but PC and mobile hardware, office and productivity software (now both native and cloud-based), media and app stores, a streaming radio service, and first-party retail.
Never, ever underestimate the power of Apple's retail stores, which give it a massive network of dedicated sales and service locations that none of its competitors come anywhere near matching.
That's what people who say "my phone has this already!" don't get. Love Nokia? Love Microsoft? That's all well and good, but they simply haven't executed a complete, coherent strategy the way Apple has.
The pairing of Samsung and Google comes the closest, of course, but there's still a little bit of tension between the two, balanced out by Samsung's willingness to trade profit-per-unit for market share and not only compete directly with Apple, but also fill niches that Apple doesn't bother with.
Tim Cook: The Executioner
This is why Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple. He's the master of execution. Maybe a Steve Jobs, who knows what consumers want before they do, only comes along a few times a generation; maybe Apple doesn't have one of those now. Maybe that makes Apple a "normal company." It's an incumbent, not a disruptor.
But you can't deny that Apple has smart designers, skilful programmers, and a passionate fan base. An incumbent can stay on top by innovating, co-opting and executing. If Apple executes the smartphone success playbook the best, it doesn't matter that it learned some of the plays from its rivals. It'll still win the game.