Is it too early to ditch the iPhone’s last port?

The Lightning Port
Image via CNBC

Apple is known for making its devices as simple as possible by taking away what they deem to be unnecessary additions. This policy goes all the way back to the Mac, which didn’t feature arrow keys to push users to use the mouse. More recently, it can be seen in the removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone and the narrow port selection on current MacBooks. While this practice has come under fire, it has allowed for the adoption of more futuristic technologies, such as the aforementioned mouse or wireless earbuds like Apples own AirPods, which wouldn’t have been nearly as popular as they are if you didn’t have to use a dongle to connect regular wired headphones. However, we might not be ready for the next step in this line of removing complications from our devices. According to multiple reports, the one with the most weight coming from CNBC, Apple could ditch the lightning port for wireless charging only power delivery on the next iPhone. Such a move would certainly be true to Apple’s history, but are we ready yet? Wireless charging has seen some widespread adoption, and the technology has some clear benefits over the conventional charging over wire, such as being easier to charge your device, easier to remove it from a charger, and more sleek design. It’s also important to note that, unlike the case of the removal of the headphone jack, the removal of the charging port would not be that big of a loss. With the massive batteries in iPhones these days that allow them to last all day without needing a charge, one of the major advantages of conventional charging is eliminated, that being the portability. You don’t really need a charging port when you have a wireless charger, which will presumably be included with the new iPhone in place of a conventional charging cable and brick, and when you don’t need to top off your phone, you wouldn’t need a charging brick and cable to bring with you. Sure, when going on road trips you might need a wired charger to charge your phone, but I foresee new cars coming with built in wireless charging pads and for the right now, many companies make portable wireless chargers. I think, just like in the case of the arrow keys, headphone jack, any countless other examples, taking something away would give be giving you an experience that is that much greater.

Why hasn’t Apple made a folding phone yet?

The Samsung Galaxy Fold, recently released after a delay due to a faulty design
Image via Android Central

Last week the Consumer Electronics Show-Or CES for short-was held in Las Vegas. Tons of future tech products were shown off, from 5G phones, to 8K TVs, to self-driving cars, but one technology showed up the most: foldables. Dell, Huawei, and HP all showed off new foldable phones, laptops, and tablets. So if this is the future of consumer electronics, why hasn’t Apple made any foldable yet? Have they lost their edge over their competitors? Have they fallen behind the pack? The answer to both of these questions: No. The reason why Apple hasn’t made any folding iPhones, iPads, or MacBooks when every other tech company has products using this technology yet is not because every other tech company is smarter than them, but because they are smarter than every other tech company. Right now, folding phones suck. Apple knows this. They saw what happened with the Galaxy Fold, how the review units broke within days of journalists receiving them, everyone did. Apple knows that folding technology isn’t ready yet, and they know that, if they want to make a truly great folding product, they need it to be. Apple has done this before, when they were developing the original iMac, Steve Jobs refused to use a tray loading disk drive, even though cd-burning drives didn’t come in the slot loading form factor yet. Jobs knew it was better to have a better user experience, one where users didn’t have to press a button to insert and play disks, than give them the functionality of being able to burn cds. This core appreciation for the user experience to the extent of the loss of some functionality is the core foundation of Apple today, what sets it apart from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and the rest of the pack, and the policy that has made them the most popular-and most profitable-tech company in the world.

What is the future of the Mac?

The Original Mac
Image via AppleInsider

The year is 1984, IBM has a tight grasp over the personal computer market, and many think it will stay that way. But then, Apple, a fledgling company with a small but loyal group of users, introduces a new personal computer, one that seeks to dethrone Big Blue as the king of the PC, and its called the Mac. Small, well designed, and friendly looking, the original Mac didn’t look like anything else in its league, which was filled with ugly beige boxes and towers. While it wasn’t their first computer, the Mac put Apple on the map, and was there their main product line for a majority of their time as a company. The iMac, the iPod, even the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, none of these would be possible without the first Mac. But now, 35 Years after Steve Jobs walked onstage and unveiled the computer that would change the world, the purpose and the future of the Mac is as unclear as ever. A product line that used to carry the weight of the company is now relegated to a side thought. Sure, Apple has paid more attention to the Mac when it comes to pro products, but their focus on consumer computers is set on the iPad. Furthermore, having two lines of personal computers is pretty confusing for customers to navigate through, making it more difficult for users to decide between an iPad, arguably the better personal computer and the more forward thinking product, and the MacBook, the faulty keyboard adorned, weaker product of the two. To me, it seems that the future of the Mac is that of a professional device, for programmers, filmmakers, and other creative professionals, while the iPad serves the purpose of the consumer computer. This would fix Apple’s confusion problem, while giving them a strong foot in both the consumer and professional markets, allowing them to reach the widest range of customers while retaining the amazing user experience that came with the original Mac, way back in 1984.

Should Apple release a cheaper iPhone?

The iPhone SE, the last “budget” iPhone Apple released
Image via The Next Web

Perhaps the most outspoken criticism of Apple in this day and age targets the price of their products. First it was the iPhone, then the iPad Pro, most recently, the Mac Pro. The second Apple releases a new product, someone is already making a twitter post about its “unbearable” price tag. These calls for cheaper products often go unanswered, isolated in the echo chambers that are Twitter and Facebook groups. But according to recent rumors, Apple could finally be listening to calls for more affordable products. According to a rumor first first publicized by Bloomberg, Apple could be working on a cheaper iPhone, rumored to be called the iPhone 9, that would serve as a successor to the popular iPhone SE, which was a more affordable offering from a few years ago. The new model would reportedly go back to the older home button design, last seen on the iPhone 8, with lesser specs and a smaller screen to keep costs down. But while introducing a cheaper iPhone sounds like music to some people’s ears, there are several less clear problems that could arise with such a move. The first pertains to their product lineup. As I have previously stated, Apple’s current product lineup is in pretty rough shape when compared those of previous years. Each product line has way to many devices in it, each with names that mean almost nothing and say almost nothing about the product, I mean, on their website, they’re selling four different iPhones, four different iPads, and four different Mac desktops. I’m all for covering all your bases, but making as many products as you can is the not the way of going about it, for each new product that you add, you lose some focus, and you make buying products harder for consumers, while simultaneously hindering the user experience of products as you make them more specialized and less general. This brings me to my biggest concern about introducing a cheaper iPhone. A lesser user experience. Steve Jobs understood the importance of imputing, or giving a good first impression, to your customers. This understanding led to the amazing user experience that built the foundation for Apple to become the most valuable company in the world. When you introduce cheaper products, with a more limited set of features and worse user experience, you impute a lesser image to your customers. I understand the need to reach users through financial accessibility, and I can see the business benefits of this move, but I think the effect that it would have on the brand and brand image as a whole far outweighs the benefits of a little bit more marketshare and a little bit more money to talk about at your annual report.

Have Subscription Services ruined our connections with products?

Before iTunes, the only legal way to download music onto your computer was through subscription services. But these subscription services were not like the Spotifys and Pandoras of today. No, they truly sucked. They were clunky, hard to navigate, and lacked a lot of popular songs as they were often produced by the record labels. In people’s eyes however, the biggest problem with these subscription services was that they didn’t own the music they were paying for. Steve Jobs understood this, and made owning the music you purchased the foundation for iTunes, on of Apple’s most successful products. But in 2019, subscription services rule the market, and only a small percentage of people still buy their music. So what changed? Was it us? Was Steve Jobs wrong? No. What really made iTunes so much better than all the streaming services it was contemporary to was not that you owned the music sold on it, but the connection you felt with the music for owning it. Today, music streaming services replicate this connection through user profiles, which allow us to define ourselves through the music we listen to and the playlists we make. We have this connection with the music on these services not because of whether or not we own it, but because of the things we can do with it. We can make playlists and share them with the world, and that makes the music feel like it is truly ours. User profiles that suggest music based on our tastes contribute to this connection as well. We feel connected because we are, things that are suggested to us are based on what we listen to, and our user profiles, playlists, and recommended feeds feel like a true reflection of us, just as much as owning a record or a cd.

100 Days of Product Design #5

Design Name: Pen

Design Description: A ballpoint pen

Design Purpose: Every other pen on the market is ugly.

Thought Process: I wanted to design a pen that was both beautiful and ergonomic, as a pen has to both look great and feel great due to the amount of time you have it in your hand. This need for ergonomics lead to the implementation of the divots in the lower body, which provide ample grip without being an eyesore. I wanted the pen to be white because, in order to have a white product, you have to take a lot into consideration, and when someone sees a product in white, they say “oh that must be really well designed” because its really easy to see blemishes and imperfections when your product is white, so everything about it has to be perfect.

Design Description: The pen would have a .07 mm tip, a nice balance between the more satisfying but less accurate .10 style and the less satisfying but more accurate .05 style.

All of today’s music sucks, but it won’t always be that way. Here’s why:

SoundCloud is one of many companies that has made it easier for users to spread their music
Image via FACT magazine

Money. It supposedly makes the world go round. At least it does to today’s “musicians”. In decades prior, the popularity of a musical genre directly correlated with large societal changes and shifts, but now, the popularity of genre depends on how much money it makes its producers. I’m not saying all modern music is shit, but almost everything that gets produced by the big record labels is. Producers aren’t willing to take the risks on genre-starting new artists they used to, instead opting to to play it safe with rappers and pop stars, which have proven to be popular, despite the lack of meaning in their music. New genres only emerge through this risk taking, and because these risks aren’t being taken, new genres aren’t emerging like they used to. Where as before, there was a vast offering of musical genres being produced, that vast number has shrunk to just two: rap and pop, with the line between the two becoming ever blurred. There’s no more variety in music, simply because the record labels don’t want to take the risk and sign artists that could create era-defining new genres and types of music. But this dangerous pattern is ripe for disruption. With the accessibility of music production software like GarageBand and the vast reach of online music sharing platforms like SoundCloud or YouTube, producing and sharing your own music has never been easier for aspiring artists, many of which would have been seen by record labels as too avant-garde or risky to sign on. This ability to circumvent the producers, who have been the greatest limiting factors on which musicians get the spotlight, will undoubtedly lead to the development of new genres that would never had been heard under record labels, and with advances in accessibility for this software, both in terms of ease of use and availability, more and more people will have the ability to make music, and when everybody plays, we all win.

100 Days of Product Design #4

Design Name: Better Bottle

Design Description: A water bottle/travel mug

Design Purpose: When you look at any water bottle or coffee mug out there, you can instantly observe multiple flaws that they share. The first is that almost all of them are ugly, the designers who designed them didn’t put any care into the details of a product that is going to almost everyday. Secondly, they all have a specialized function, they are designed as either water bottles or travel coffee mugs, but none do both. Third, they all have flaws with their mechanisms. There is no way to tell whether you have fully screwed the top on and gotten a good seal, which leads to you spilling your drink all over the place and often all over yourself. I designed the Better Bottle to combat these flaws with other bottles, and make a well designed, all purpose, spill proof bottle.

Thought Process: I really wanted the Better Bottle to look unlike any other water bottle on the market, while still clearly conveying what it is. I started with a simple outline of a basic travel mug, and made slight alterations from there, so that the final product is a simple as possible, while still being recognizable. I wanted there to be a seamless transition between the main body of the bottle and the lid, making the bottle look as if it is one piece fused together. I made the opening a circle, as to fit the overall design language of the bottle. I wanted to make the lid itself pretty small in relation to the rest of the bottle, both so that the bottle could hold more, and because of the way that it makes the lid feel like a dial or manipulatable object.

Product Specifications: The Better Bottle has two different openings, if you turn the bottles lid once, you will find the standard opening, a full circle ideal for drinking water and other cold beverages, and if you turn it again, you will find an opening in the shape of a semi-circle, ideal for drinking hot beverages like coffee or tea. These two openings allow the Better Bottle to function as both a bottle and a travel mug, depending on your preference, eliminating the need to buy two different products. The Better Bottle improves on faulty bottle designs by stopping the user from opening the bottle with an open lid and stopping them from drinking without a complete seal between the lid and the bottle. To do this, we devised and implemented a innovative new locking technique where the lid is separated into two parts, the first being a smaller portion that connects with the bottle, and the second being a larger, hollow portion that fits over and rotates around the smaller portion. In order to rotate the upper portion and line up the holes on the two parts, the lid must be completely screwed in so that the right amount of force is being applied on both the larger and smaller portions. Furthermore magnet located near the closed, bottle opening, and mug opening sections correspond with magnets located in the larger section of the lid, and when two magnets line up, a small bit of feedback can be felt, so you know exactly when you’ve locked the lid open or closed. To stop liquid from spilling when drinking, the bottle uses an innovative new technique where the threads for screwing on the lid on the bottle are on the inside of the bottle and those on the lid are on the outside, instead of the other way around, so any excess liquid just goes back into the main body of the bottle instead of the other way around. The outside of the bottle is made out of polished aluminum so that the bottle doesn’t get to warm or too cold, and the inside of the bottle is coated in aluminum oxide, to maintain the temperature of the liquid inside.

The Bottle when closed
The Bottle when on the standard opening
The Bottle when on the travel mug opening