Apple’s design has lost most of its character.

The new App Store Icon next to the old one
Image via The Verge

Apple is a company that appreciates design, sometimes to a fault. But in recent years, especially with the absence and eventual departure of Jony Ive, Apple’s once market leading design has lost a lot of what made it special. This is apparent in its software but more so in its hardware. Where Apple once distinguished consumer and professional products through the use of fun design choices and vibrant colors, all of their computers today share a plain metal design once reserved for their pro products. Sure, some of Apples phones come in somewhat vibrant colors, but they share too similar of physical designs to stand out against the rest of their products. On the software side, app icons have lost almost all meaning they once had. For example, the App Store used to have an icon that depicted a pencil, a ruler and a paintbrush in the shape of an “A”, symbolizing the great tools and entertainment you could find within the store. But now, the icon is simply three lines put together to form an “A”, leaving the icon devoid of almost all meaning. This really highlights Apple’s current problem with design. Sure, all of their designs look cool, but they have no meaning, and since products can’t talk, design is the only form of communication between users and products, and right now, Apple’s products just aren’t saying anything.

100 Days of Product Design: Day 2

Design Name: AirPods 2

Design Description: A redesign of the original AirPods, updated to fit in with modern tech aesthetics and utilize updated manufacturing techniques to make the AirPods smaller and more streamlined than ever before.

Design Purpose: The purpose was to update the design of the current AirPods, as to make them fit more in line with Apple’s current design language and the tech design landscape as a whole.

Thought Process: I wanted the new AirPods to feel like a distillation of the iconic design, almost like a characeteur that streamlines design while still retaining all of the essential and recognizable elements and aspects of the original design. I wanted to give the design a more rounded and organic feel, as that is the direction the current tech design landscape is headed in, and I like the warm, friendly feel the more rounded curves evoke. I also felt that they should be completely matte white. Gloss is out right now, and matte is in, and it should conceal scratches and dings much more effectively. decided to make the stems shorter, as that was my main design gripe with the original AirPods, and I feel like the more stubby stems carry on that friendly feel from before.

Product Specifications: AirPods 2 would sound even better than the original AirPods, with larger speakers than before. But not only will songs sound better, you can listen to them longer, with the AirPods themselves having a battery life of 16 hours, and the case having the ability to recharge the AirPods 2 times, and if your batteries do end up failing, its easier and more environmentally friendly than ever to get them replaced, with a new, easier to take apart design. Finally the new AirPods 2 case comes with wireless charging out of the box, and you can get them for just $169.

Will the 2020s see an end to the smartphone?

The first iPhone came out 12 years ago, and ever since, people have been asking what the next device to share its cultural effect will be.
Image via CNBC

A lot of companies have thrown around the phrase “the next smartphone” when talking about their products, a claim that has lost most of the weight it once carried with it due to the sheer amount of times it has been used to describe products that have failed to recapture even a sliver of the cultural impact of the smartphone upon its introduction. Nonetheless, companies are always looking for new ways to develop their vision for the future of mobile computing, which means they’re always looking for the next smart phone. Some companies think the next big thing will be less of a new type of product and more of a new innovation for the smartphone, such as the case with folding phones, which companies like Samsung and Motorola seemingly view as the future of mobile computing, for now at least. However, others believe that only a radical new technology like AR would be able to capture the same response and amass the same number of users as the smartphone. Many people believe that the future of mobile computing lies in wearables, especially augmented reality headsets. But in its current state, AR is not ready to become a mass market technology, and whether it will be by the end of the decade is something that we will have to wait and see about. Another possibility for the next smartphone could be found with innovations in smart watches. Smart watches have been a mainstream technology for some time now, and have seen widespread adoption. The limitation with a majority of them is inability to be used independently of a smartphone. This flaw is analogous to one in pre-iphone smartphones, where users couldn’t really conceivably to accomplish the tasks of a computer due to hindrances like less than adequate web browsers and email clients. The iPhone was the first smartphone to come without these flaws, being the first phone to include a web browser and email client that were built from the ground up for the device they was running on, rather than being a dumbed down desktop browser like on other devices. These innovations allowed for smartphones to finally made the use of smart phones without the need for a personal computer feasible, and similar innovations to smart watches could finally allow them to transcend being neat gadgets for your phone or fitness trackers. These are just a few examples of some of the endless idea of where mobile computing could go within the next decade, and it is crucial to note that the execution of the idea is equally if not more important to the idea itself, as all it takes is one company to make a great product for “the next smartphone” to be born.

100 Days of Product Design: Day 1: Design Thinking

Design Name: PureWatch

Design Description: The challenge was to invent something new. I chose to invent a smart watch that could replace a smart phone and take away the distractions that come with it.

Design Purpose: We see it everywhere, people’s faces buried in their phones, wasting precious time with friends and family to read some tweet or check their texts. More often than not we are baited into opening our phones like ancient greek sailors being seduced by the songs of the sirens, only to be sucked into an endless void of time wasting and distraction. The PureWatch aims to solve this problem by giving users the essentials of a smart phone, while cutting down on the distractions. It comes with 5 essential apps: Messages, Phone, Maps, Calculator, and Calendar. These bring the productivity of a smartphone without the downside of all the distractions.

Thought Process: My thought process when designing the PureWatch was to make it feel less like a piece of technology and more like a piece of jewelry or a fashion statement. Because the PureWatch would be used solely with the apps provided and would only need these apps, you would never need to upgrade to a newer model, which is not true with other smart watches, which become obsolete like any other piece of technology. Because their is no hindrance of obsolecense, users would most likely be more willing to spend a little bit extra on the PureWatch, which means it could have a more luxurious design than other smartwatches that have to be cheap enough to be bought every few years. I took note of this advantage and designed the PureWatch accordingly, with a titanium frame and band that feel more high-end than aluminum and rubber. When it came the coloring, I wanted the PureWatch to be able to cover the widest range of color options with the smallest number of variations. This lead me to choose the most basic colors: black and white. While they may not be as expressive as other colors, anybody would be happy with one of two, with their clean design and ability to go well with any clothing choice. On the software side, I wanted the operating system to be utilitarian and functional yet friendly and warm, like the watch was tailor made for you. This ideology led to the inclusion of the “Hello” which gives off a welcoming attitude and makes the user feel like the technology is truly serving them and not the other way around. When summed up, my thought process was to design a piece of technology that celebrates humanity and human connection over artificial connection on the internet, while simultaneously creating a device that makes us more productive and self-reliant.

Product Specifications: The PureWatch would be made entirely out of titanium, giving the watch a premium and durable feel. Users navigate through the watch by gesturing on the touch sensitive sides of the watch. Swipe up or down to scroll, tap to select, double tap to go back and squeeze to power off. For the display, I wanted the PureWatch’s beautiful operating system to be displayed on a clean but equally as beautiful e-ink panel, to increase battery life and decrease eye strain. The massive battery life alloted thanks to the low power consumption of the e-ink panel allows the display to always be on, so everything on the PureWatch is there exactly when you need it. The watch would have a battery that would last 2 days, so even if you forget to charge, you still have your watch, and if the watch does die, the time is still displayed. The watch would include a cellular radio so that users can use the PureWatch without a phone if they want, or use it as a companion device to their phone.

100 Days of Product Design Website:

When the quest for the best user experience goes too far.

The Sonos One, one of the company’s latest products
Image via B&H Photo and Video

So called “planned obsolescence” is something we hear a lot about lately. Just a few years ago, Apple made headlines for supposedly using software to make older iPhones seem slower, with the goal of pushing users to upgrade to a newer model. While Apple never admitted to the latter, they dd acknowledge that they had held back older phones in the past, which they said was to increase their longevity, through practices like reducing the amount of charge batteries on older iPhones could hold, so that, while they may not hold as big of a charge, they could last much longer without needing a replacement. This method of putting some restrictions on hardware with the goal of “giving users a better user experience” is not a new one. Most recently, Sonos has come under fire for using this practice. The company introduced a new trade in program this week that offers users 30% new speakers when they trade in their older models. The kicker is that users have to brick their perfectly working speakers to be eligible for the offer. The company makes users put their speakers into “recycle mode”, which effectively makes the speakers unusable, before they can send them in to the company for a discount. This means that people who want to upgrade to a new speaker an utilize the offer have to ruin their perfectly functioning model that could easily be sold to someone else. Not only does this practice have a financial impact, as it stops recycling firms from being able to sell perfectly fine used hardware to people who may want them, it could have a drastic environmental impact as well if other manufacturers follow in Sono’s poor example. I’m all for scrapping old, obsolete hardware to gain materials for newer devices with better user experiences, but in this case, the hardware that is being thrown away is perfectly functioning and there is a marginal gain in user experience between the newer and the older models. It is clear that the choice to introduce this trade in program was made purely as a financial one to get older speakers off the market, and not as one with the benefits of the user experiences of consumers in mind, whereas it should always be the other way around.