Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The myth of Apple's design brilliance

Item: any cell phone that realistically *requires* one to buy a $15 plastic film to cover its glass face - a film that is devilishly difficult to apply correctly - is not, in fact, a well-designed cell phone.


  1. An iPhone requires a plastic film? How so? An iPhone 4?

    I've had one well over a year and never felt the need for a plastic film, and didn't on the iPhone 3G I had before it. For a while, I had the plastic band they had to issue for dropped calls when the 4 was new, but they seemed to have fixed this problem and I quit. I don't like having a case, and seem less likely to drop the 4 than the 3 so I've ceased with a case.

    The design thing that I think clearest questionable is how fragile they are. The glass breaks too easily, and Apple basically acknowledges this by the ease with which their techs in Apple Stores will just hand out a new one if one shatters. The second most clear design flaw is that neither they nor everyone else has not solved the curse of tangled earbud cords. A genius should offer something for that; I'm sure that some economist could prove that the economy loses millions a year from time wasted untangling them.

    The thing I find close to unique about Apple designs is the degree to which they are all works in progress-- a model that looks just like the last one you bought will have tiny tweaks here and there that are often startling and clever. On the other hand, some of their design principles-- e.g. "A user should never be allowed inside the machine"-- can be annoying. I can't change batteries on my laptop, for instance, whereas I could on the last model. OTOH, if I go to their store I can get help that would not be remotely available from any other maker of such equipment.

  2. My family's had iPhones for years before I finally surrendered, and their glass got scratched without the film. You are probably just a gentler and more prudent person than my clan.

    As for the case, I drop everything I touch. Our IT guy, having seen what I did to my BlackBerries, expressly warned me that my iPhone would not survive such treatment.

    ... The glass, btw, was a specific Jobs mandate, as detailed in the Isaacson book.

    The second most clear design flaw is that neither they nor everyone else has not solved the curse of tangled earbud cords.

    Wireless earbuds will probably be standard, if easily misplaced, by 2020.

  3. You are probably just... gentler

    I sort of doubt it (I'm hell on earphones), although I know a couple of people (my daughter, a friend) who seem to always messing up the glass screen on their iphones. Mine doesn't have a scratch on it, and I can't explain why.

    I did break one: In the hospital for a heart cath about 14 months ago, it was on the bedside tray and the tray was moved and it some how slide off and went face down on a tile flour from just above bed height. Whack! The phone was only 3 or so months old, and the story got me a new free one at the Apple Store.

    So should I bother with the Jobs bio? I can't tell. I find aspects of him sufficiently annoying that I'm not sure I want to live with him the length of a whole book.

    Wireless earbuds will probably be standard, if easily misplaced, by 2020.

    Making folks look like they are walking around with little plastic peas in their ears?

    I have a handy bluetooth thing made by Sony that replaced my earphones; my phone can stay tethered to the computer or on a desk or in my pants pocket while this thing is clipped to my pocket, and I can walk around the room. It actually limits one of the easiest way to drop one: Bend over when it is in one's shirt pocket. The Sony device has a mic, so works for both music and phone. The AT&T store is selling them off for $45, which isn't that much more than replacement headphones, which is how I got mine.

  4. I just upgraded to the 4S. (I have a big crush on Siri. Though she won't tell me for whom she is voting, she did encourage *me* to vote.) I refused the plastic film when offered. When testing others' phones who had the film, I found it bothersome, and it reduced visibility, at least for me. I am also not one to use a bumper, but I did relent and purchase one ($35!!!) for this new phone. It probably won't last long. I find bumpers to be useless as I handle my phone with kid gloves anyway, and have yet, (knock, knock), to damage the glass. A few oily fingerprints? Bah. No more worrisome that having to clean my eyeglasses each day.

  5. To my regret, my workplace got me the 4s. I don't want to chat with my phone. It's bad enough that some people use the damn phone to chat with me.

    Re: scratching/cracking the glass, it seems the problem is that "iPhone" is a skill requiring a minimum Dexterity of 11 or 12, and mine's an 8 or 9. The film gives my screen a +2 to its saving throw vs. Scratching Blow, so it's worthwhile, even at 15 g.p.

  6. Oh, no, a D&D reference. The 80's just came rushing back ...

  7. In retrospect, D&D may have been the best thing about the 80s. That and the Pixies.

  8. How many hp do pixies have?

    My iPhone is filmed and cased because I'm a klutz. The fine people at the store put the film on it before I bought it, so I avoided that particular bit of frustration.

  9. How many hp do pixies have?

    I am very happy to say I don't have that committed to memory.

    ... Having botched the film thingy myself, I'm going to buy one from the Apple store and get them to put it on. My phone actually came from Cellular South - or "cSpire" - and I don't trust them to know which is the front, much less put a film on it.