That thing I said about Apple failing to deal with its two biggest design flaws? Someone addresses the fragility here. The writer makes a good case, and I like the tension between beauty and practicality, which is what I was trying to get at when I talked about Apple products being friends, and not merely tools.
The eye of a low-level hurricane (but still a hurricane) is expected today to pass just south of Hilo, where I went to college. It doesn’t look like it’s big enough to affect Oahu much except for the high-surf warnings which have been in effect since yesterday, but the thing about hurricanes is that they can be pretty unpredictable. My first week in Hilo, an enormous hurricane was tracking right for Hilo before it swerved in the last hours impossibly north at almost a right angle (headed straight west and then headed straight north). It was amazing. The front-page headline on the local newspaper the next day was simply WHEW!
There’s another hurricane following almost the same path, just two days behind. It’s a category 4, so it could be nasty. And the predicted track is west, right for Hawaii island again, and then north west, which is exactly the direction of the rest of the chain.
I’m less prepared than usual. Because of the leaner year I’ve been having, I’ve consumed my edible emergency supplies. Still have a bunch of batteries for the flashlights, plus candles, matches, and a butane stove. I’m not really worried, though. My folks live about a three-hour walk from here, so if things get bad, I think I can just go there.
The important thing is that I have plenty of books.
The President is landing this evening, around sixish (they’re never very specific about these things, for obvious reasons), for an international conference on conservation or something. Traffic is expected to be horrible. It’s a convergence of superpowers on this tiny island state.
I’m an Apple guy, when I can afford to be. For decades, Apple hasn’t done everything right, but it has done things the right way. We’re talking about lifestyle hardware here, necessary tools for daily living, yes, but also stuff we have to interact with on personal levels. PC manufacturers’ approach, before they figured out they had to do at least a few things in Apple’s spirit, was to focus on utility: technology as a tool. Apple looked at it differently: technology as style, personality, and relationship. Early Macs actually smiled at you when you turned them on. As I used to tell my students, a PC is a tool. A Mac is a friend. And that’s been the dividing line, most of the time, between PC people and Mac people. As a guy who likes to roll my sleeves up and get my hands dirty with my technology, I totally get the PC appeal. I want to pop open the back and move things around. I like PCs. But most of the time, I want to interface with my tech.
So Macs. Then iPods. Then iPhones. Then iPads. Then iWatches. With a focus on design and interoperability (plug any Apple device into a Mac, and they know what to do), Apple keeps giving us solutions to problems before we’re even aware we have problems. It’s why the other manufacturers always seem to be playing catch-up. I will save my treatise on Apple’s M7 motion coprocessor (now on M9 and soon to be on M10) for another day, but that’s a huge example of what I’m talking about, something most Android devices are still not caught up with, something that solved a problem with a new trend — fitness tracking — before people knew it was a problem.
This is why it breaks my heart to say this, but Samsung’s new phone is the first gigantic leap in smartphone technology I can think of that Apple didn’t come up with, and it’s a huge disappointment. Besides the fear of losing a smartphone, what stresses people out about their phones most? Two things: dropping them in water, and dropping them on a hard surface.
Water is such a big deal that when an iPhone isn’t working and you bring it to a Genius Bar, the first thing they ask you after “What seems to be the problem?” is “Did you get it wet?” And because people know water is the enemy and a sure sign of negligence, they often lie about it. That’s why every iPhone has a water indicator on each end of the phone. The Genius looks into a hole at the top of the phone and another at the bottom to confirm or refute your claims about getting it wet.
The other fear, dropping it on a hard surface, remains a challenge, although I’ve read that the new Gorilla Glass is nearly indestructible. I admit I don’t know much about this detail yet.
Weirdly, I follow on Snapchat two women who were invited to the Note 7 previews, one in New York (Samsung flew her from her home in Alabama or Arkansas to New York without telling her what she was going to participate in, and of course she Snapchatted the whole thing, which is why she was invited in the first place) and one in Manila, and the previews were on the same day. And the big reveal, in case you haven’t heard, is that the Note 7 is waterproof as deep as five feet (or so; I don’t know the exact number, but I know it’s deeper than a bathtub or sink). These two women, half a world away from each other, got to demo the phone under water, using some cool apps designed specifically to show off this feature. Not only did the phone survive under water, it was usable under water. Snapchatting underwater. Swiping and finger-sketching on the phone’s glass surface, underwater. And then, of course, participants in the preview got to take their new Note 7s home for use right away, weeks before the big rollout later this month (perhaps later this week, even).
I honestly can’t think of a single more significant improvement on the original iPhone’s design than this, because it addresses a bigger problem with the technology than any other, except maybe the shattered glass. Every other improvement in these ten years — the better swiping, the better cameras, the bigger or smaller screens, the thinner designs, the improved voice commands, or anything else — simply made the experience better. It didn’t actually remove one of the two biggest (easiest) ways to break it. I suppose the case can be made for Find My Phone, but I’m not buying. A phone you can get wet.
I’m not in any position to make the switch any time soon, and I probably wouldn’t anyway, but come on, Apple. This should have been your thing. Now copy the idea and get on that shattered glass problem, and maybe all will be forgiven.