The hardest transition for fans of Apple Computer from the 1990s is realizing that Apple no longer needs us to defend the company. If I’m sometimes critical of Apple, both here and on Core Intuition, it’s because they’re the largest tech company in the world.
I will always hold Apple to a very high standard of excellence. They’ve earned it. When airline flight attendants tell passengers to turn their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones off along with the usual warnings about oxygen masks and life vests, we shrug and laugh because it’s Samsung. From Apple, we expect higher quality and attention to detail, not shortcuts.
Steve Jobs has been gone for 5 years, but the spirit of building insanely great products is well-rooted at Apple. Apple employees are doing incredible, passionate work.
And yet the company itself hardly resembles the struggling computer maker of 20 years ago. Apple is a giant corporation now. Unlike its employees, who have the best intentions, giant corporations are by default selfish, arrogant, and rarely courageous.
Apple does a lot of good for the world. I doubt there’s another company even approaching Apple’s size that does as much, from renewable energy to safer materials to workplace diversity. But that good doesn’t absolve them of criticism.
Everyone’s thinking the same thing: Samsung’s new smartwatch looks significantly better than the Apple Watch. Even the rounded scrolling control looks as usable or more usable than Apple’s digital crown. If Apple tried multiple designs internally, including a round watch — and I’m sure they did — why did they opt for a nerdy square shape that looks more like a computer than a watch? Especially in a product with such a focus on fashion that they felt the need to charge $10,000 for the high-end models.
Surprisingly, this might be Apple showing they can still choose a functional user experience over purely beautiful form and design. Square looks worse but it’s just more practical for reading text. The digital crown is a better fit for scrolling vertically.
It’s rare in the modern era of Apple (post-2000 or so) for the company to sacrifice beauty for usability. The iPhone is always thin at the expense of battery life. Mac scroll bars are hidden in the name of cleanliness. The new MacBook has a single new cable type which no one owns peripherals for. But with the Apple Watch, I think they built something with a foundation that could last for years, despite its initial awkwardness, and square was the right call.
Guy English writes about why Apple was questioned on the fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S but Samsung wasn’t for their new phone. I like this part about holding Apple to a higher standard:
“Apple is held to a higher standard of conduct. They’ve spent years, countless hours of hard work, and untold advertising dollars, to earn that expectation. They have it.”
Expecting the best from a company isn’t unfair; it’s a form of respect. We want Apple to be amazing, and when they fall a little short, we’re disappointed. If they disappoint too many times in a row, we’ll no longer expect greatness. That that hasn’t happened yet says everything about quality at Apple.
Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels, commenting on a Wired essay by Mat Honan:
“Maybe it’s just the headache I’ve had since the Samsung Galaxy 4 event or the fact that Apple’s turning up the heat, but I find the increasingly defensive views held in the technology community increasingly offensive.”
I got into the Mac in the 1990s during the lead-up to Apple’s certain doom, so I spent quite a lot of time arguing with Windows users. The problem with the new version of that debate, Apple vs. Samsung and the smartphone wars, is that I’m not sure it’s ever going to end. There are good phones on either side, the pundits can’t wait for Apple to fail but Apple is strong, and there’s no hope to escape the noise for those of us who just want to build some apps.