Jaded and Fickle

Farhad Manjoo doesn’t think Apple is cutting edge anymore:

The absence of a jack is far from the worst shortcoming in Apple’s latest product launch. Instead, it’s a symptom of a deeper issue with the new iPhones, part of a problem that afflicts much of the company’s product lineup: Apple’s aesthetics have grown stale.

Apple has squandered its once-commanding lead in hardware and software design. Though the new iPhones include several new features, including water resistance and upgraded cameras, they look pretty much the same as the old ones. The new Apple Watch does too. And as competitors have borrowed and even begun to surpass Apple’s best designs, what was iconic about the company’s phones, computers, tablets and other products has come to seem generic.


It’s not just that a few new Apple products have been plagued with design flaws. The bigger problem is an absence of delight. I recently checked in with several tech-pundit friends for their assessment of Apple’s aesthetic choices. “What was the last Apple design that really dazzled you?” I asked.

This article could have been written 5 years ago. If people keep writing ‘Apple is Doomed’ stories, I suppose there’s a chance they’ll eventually come true.

I’m curious if automobile news sites complain that the Porsche 911 doesn’t delight anymore. That the design is basically the same as was last year and the year before that.

Perhaps the problem isn’t with Apple’s design chops, design chops I feel are still top notch. Perhaps the problem is with Manjoo and people like him. It’s easy to become jaded and fickle. It’s as if people expect (demand?) the things they buy will solve all their problems and constantly delight them in the process.

I think what happened is Manjoo was given a creative writing assignment: Apple presented a great, albeit iterative product lineup, we need you to show us why is was shit. If this was the case, Manjoo was doing a great job until the last two paragraphs:

And while Apple has slowed its design cadence, its rivals have sped up. Last year Samsung remade its lineup of Galaxy smartphones in a new glass-and-metal design that looked practically identical to the iPhone. Then it went further. Over the course of a few months, Samsung put out several design refinements, culminating in the Note 7, a big phone that has been universally praised by critics. With its curved sides and edge-to-edge display, the Note 7 pulls off a neat trick: Though it is physically smaller than Apple’s big phone, it actually has a larger screen. So thanks to clever design, you get more from a smaller thing — exactly the sort of advance we once looked to Apple for.

So Apple’s design prowess is in trouble, but Samsung continues to make smartphones that are practically identical to the iPhone. So this means what? Samsung’s industrial design is superior to Apple’s?

And then comes Manjoo’s final caveat:

An important caveat: Samsung’s software is still bloated, and its reputation for overall build quality took a hit when it announced last week that it would recall and replace the Note 7 because of a battery defect that caused spontaneous explosions. To the extent that making a device that doesn’t explode suggests design expertise, Apple is still ahead of Samsung.

Ok, so Apple continues to break sales records with their phones, has top-rated customer satisfaction but somehow, “The real danger is in Apple’s long-term reputation.” Not Samsung’s reputation because I guess we all know they’re rip-off artists so they get a pass.