I know some will see this as hyperbole, but it really does cut to the core of a major issue. When debating hardware design, specifically the transition from plastic/utilitarian to unibody/aesthetics-first across the Android market, Apple fans are likely to argue "hey, it turns out that's just what the average consumer wants, more bling!" While there may be some truth, I'd argue the media/blogs played a major role. Whether you call it marketing, advertising, or whatever else, Apple lives by a different set of rules than the rest of the world, in the eyes of the media. When they make a fundamental design choice, it's the de facto standard by which everyone else has to live, lest they receive poor reviews. And reviews play an important role in driving the success of tech products. Even if Joe Sixpack doesn't read The Verge himself, the ripple effects from those kind of outlets trashing Android hardware circa 2012 for being "non-premium" (read: ewww, this looks like a poor person's phone, everyone I saw this morning walking around Manhattan had a shiny fruit logo on theirs!) are likely quite significant.
It's possible to recognize that Apple has real advantages to their ecosystem and even their OS while also acknowledging that for many, especially what might loosely be called the "coastal elite" in the U.S., it's also a status symbol and ticket into a cultural phenomenon with a significant irrational component. Most of the tech nerds in this thread defending Apple likely enjoy their products for rational reasons, but I doubt they can deny that this phenomenon is real, and the way it influences the broader tech market is annoying as shit. For people like the ones in this thread lamenting how the Note series has changed radically over the past several iterations, it's not hard to see how this played into it.
I feel like you can't have it both ways. You can't say that the Android market can carte blanche blame Apple for the things you dislike coming to Android while simultaneously ignoring all the things coming from Apple that you do like.
I originally wanted to make a smarmy post like: "you heard it here first guys, Android apologists finally admit that Android just takes everything from Apple!", which I could use as being just as bias as your statement is.
The truth is much closer to the middle. Samsung as an example definitely makes their own moves. Yes, they copied some of Apple's designs in the past (who cares, I'm not saying that I do), but at the same time they have been doing their own practices to take over the market in a way that none of their competitors have. Like trying to design their own Android market and forcing their customers to use that instead of Googles. Of course Google closed that loop and that was kind of a marking point in which Google realized that there had to be some standards in Android. And that their 'greatest strength' was also their 'greatest weakness', and that 'the goodness of people' or in this case corporations couldn't be depended upon. Anyway, that's all a side note. The point is Samsung has in more than a few ways gone and done their own things, as they are their own company. You can't say that everything good comes from them while everything bad comes from Apple (or any other Android versus Apple comparison).
If you wanted some hardware specific examples as opposed to their software ones: the idea of "Edge" screens which now they have as standard on flagship phones is a really obvious one. One that Apple has zero to do with. Using a stylus, which Apple says "no" to with the exception of the iPad Pro. Etc. I'm sure you can fill in the rest with tons of other examples. As we both know they're there.
Has Apple influenced the market? Yes, the same way that any market leader in any industry does. Is the market leader just capable of making every other company in the market dance? Frankly, I don't really think so (for a multitude of business reasons). Apple may have opened the door for other manufacturers to do some of the same things, but only because those companies also already wanted to do them. (Google with the Pixel II and Andy Rubin with the Essential Phone removed the headphone jack for their own reasons. If they really wanted to stick it to Apple, they would have kept the headphone jack and touted it as an advantage that Apple doesn't have. And there is no way that you can convince me that Google themselves just tries to do everything that Apple does from a hardware perspective, the Essential phone maybe, but not Google).
And to just sort of talk about your other point, I haven't really heard anyone say anything about wanting Apple-like design decisions for Android (whether they're an Android user or not). I think simply a certain level of polish in a phone is desired. I don't think its been the aesthetic as much as the build quality in general.
When HTC came out with the M7, it blew the minds of the cellphone market. And it didn't look like an Apple device. So to reiterate, I think people just want to have a quality device in fit, finish, and polish. Which is far from saying that it must have an Apple aesthetic (however you define that). "Bling", I would say is hyperbole.
Apple may be the single largest cellphone seller, but they are still the minority when looking at the entire market. Meaning more people are buying an Android device than an Apple one by large margin. No other single Android manufacturer sells as much as Apple does, that's true, but part of that is because of competition with the Android market itself. That's easily recognized here where people are having to decide between the V30, Pixel I/II, Note, S8, Essential Phone, and a host of other devices. The point being, if buying an Apple device in terms of aesthetic or "bling" as you call it was and or is a necessity, the market place certainly doesn't show it. Apple has been the minority for over 5 years now. So if hardware design is their sole influencer it isn't changing things enough to make them gain more than 15% of the cellphone market versus the other 85% that are buying mostly Android devices.
So, coastal, elite status, cool, or whatever has done little in the one area it matters: money/marketshare. Even if it has given Apple 'mindshare' it hasn't done much else. Call me back when Apple has at least 40% of the smartphone market.