Apple’s constantly evolving confusing product lineup

Apples Confusing iPad Product Lineup
Image Via Apple

Pretty much all of Apples products are iconic, that’s hard to dispute. Many of them have become so ubiquitous and well known that they have become household names which are used even when talking about non-Apple products that are remotely similar. Recently, however, Apple’s product lineup has become increasingly crowded and, dare I say, diluted. Apples current trend seems to be making multiple variants for a single product line, which often includes a “pro” variant which offers something more than the standard offering. While the first real instance of this came with the iPhone 6 and its two size offerings, the difference between then and what I’m talking about here is that the iPhone 6’s two offerings were based on preference, the differences between Apples product offerings now often offer noticeably different functionalities and user experiences. For a great example of this, look no further than the most recent iPhones. Up until the iPhone 7, Apple only released one iPhone model in two different sizes. In 2017, however, Apple broke their previous trend by releasing 2 different iPhone models, the Phone 8, cheaper priced and similar in design and functionality and design to the previous years iPhone 7, and the more pricey completely redesigned and functionally updated iPhone X. Apple continued this new product lineup both last and this year, where they signified the differences between the cheaper and the more expensive models by adding “Pro” to the end of the latter, something Apple really likes to do. While this diversification of Apple’s product lines does allow for products that can better cater to consumers, it also has less apparent downsides. First off, it overcomplicates Apples product lineups, making it less clear for consumers which product is right for them. For being a company that is supposed to be simple and consumer friendly, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in an Apple store messing around with the iPads and had people come up to me asking for help with deciding which of the FOUR iPads is right for them. Secondly, and more importantly, is that having so many problems encourages complacency and deemphasizes making great products that can cater to a large audience. The problem itself is not with the number of products, but the overwhelming similarities and often minor differences between them. As I said before, Apple is currently selling four iPads, 3 of which are pretty similar, the iPad and iPad Air are incredibly similar looking and spare a slightly larger screen and updated specs for the Air, the are almost indistinguishable when next to each others and the iPad Pro is not all that different from the previously mentioned models.

The simplified product line that Steve Jobs used to solve Apples product lineup predicament
Image via SlopeFillers

The pressing part is that the problem I highlight here is not one new to Apple. in the late 90s Apple faced a similar problem with an overcrowded and convoluted product lineup. The problem was so large that it was one of the key factors that was driving Apple into the ground towards bankruptcy at the time. Consumers had such a hard time distinguishing products from one another that they were often forced to go elsewhere for their computers. It took Steve Jobs to fix this problem by cutting down the fat and simplifying Apples product lineup into iconic, one size fits all products, a policy that stuck with Apple throughout the Jobs’ era and up until recently with Apples change in attitude. I think that this change in attitude is likely a result of Tim Cooks leadership. The simplified product lineup was a staple of Jobs’ Apple, but it doesn’t really fit in Cook’s seemingly more profit-focused vision for the company, as the wider product line allows for their devices to reach wider audiences.

Tim Cooks vision for Apple has lead to many changes in Apple’s policies, which have had mostly positive results for the company
Image via Twitter

Obviously, this has been going well for Apple, with it being the most valuable company in the world and all. It doesn’t seem like Apple is making any changes either, with rumors saying Apple will release yet another iPhone later this year that would focus on being a budget oriented product. This new iPhone, which could be dubbed either the iPhone SE2 or iPhone 9, would feature a design more in line with the iPhone 8 rather than the newer designed iPhones X and later, lacking Face ID and the larger Liquid Retina display. I think that this is the worst reason for complicating a product lineup. Sacrificing functionality and innovation for the sake of price is never the tradeoff to make and certainly not a justifiable reason to further overcomplicate your product lineup. I really hope this policy does not continue and Tim Cook sees the less clear problems with this policy, as I fear it could spell similar repercussions for Apple to the ones it faced 20 years ago, only this time, Steve Jobs won’t be around to save them.

The Google Glass as we knew it is dead.

The Google Glass
Image via Wired

Right now it seems that most people think that AR headsets are the logical evolution of our current technology, the device of the future. However in recent years, many of the companies that have tried to push towards this future have ended up falling flat on their face or producing lackluster products. One such company is Google, with their Google Glass AR headset. Arguably the most known AR headset, the Google Glass probably had the most likely chance go success, just do to the shear size and resources of the company behind it. There was a ton of hype leading up to the Glass’ release date, but when that date finally came in 2013, it was clear that it didn’t live up to those lofty expectations and that the technology just wasn’t ready for primetime yet. The first generation model, known as the Explorer Edition, was penned as a sort of an early access beta program for those who couldn’t wait to see what could be the future of mobile computing, all for the low price of $1500. The Explorer Edition had a few key features which predominately were sending texts, checking emails, asking Google things, taking pictures with the built in camera and watching videos on YouTube. While these features were cool, many people didn’t find them to be enough to justify the hefty price tag.

A promotional image released for the original Google Glass
Image via Vr-Zone

That brings us to today, where Google has announced that they will no longer be supporting Google Glass Explorer Edition with software updates . This comes after Google restructured its approach to AR in 2017, taking a similar standpoint to Microsoft in using it predominatley for enterprise use with the release of the Google Glass Enterprise Edition, which will continue to be supported for the forseeable future. Although the Glass technically lives on in Enterprise, the original Glass, a deivce that was meant to make AR mainstream and put it in the hands of the people, is basically no more, and with that the future of AR is as uncertain as ever as its arguably most likely to succeed player has dropped out of the race. However, this does not mean AR is done yet, Apple is rumored to come out with their own AR headset, which seems quite possible given their recent push on AR technology. The story of mainstream oriented AR could be similar to the story of the personal computer , with the technologies starting out as predominantly business oriented ones and eventually after many failed attempts and iterations, breaking out into the mainstream. If this is the case, one day we will all be using AR headsets, and the Google Glass will be seen as one of the many failed attempts neccesary towards perfecting a technology so that it is good enough to become a mainstream one.

Apple going portless on the iPhone already?

Perhaps the second to last iPhone with a Lightning Port
Image Via Ars Technica

I can already hear “It’s the headphone jack all over again.”. According to well trusted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, which is definitely not someone working at Apple “leaking” details about future devices to generate hype, Apple will be ditching the Lightning connector in its 2021 iPhones. Now, while this is definitely not set in stone, Kuo is known to be reputable with Apple leaks in the past. I mean, wireless charging, which would almost definitely become the primary power delivery method in the absence of a a physical charging port, has been a feature of iPhones since the iPhone 8 in 2017, when it was a heavily requested feature for iPhones. It also makes sense that the iPhone would be Apple’s first device forgo traditional charging completely and push users into the portless future (the first device besides the Watch that is). The iPhone has always been one of Apple’s more experimental products, simply because Apple knows they will always be able to sell them. Removing the Lightning port would have its benefits for Apple too. It would probably make it easier to waterproof, and not having to make room for the female connector inside the phone would definitely free up some space. Where there are some benefits for Apple, however there are definitely some downsides for consumers. For one, you wouldn’t be able to plug in headphones or any other wired accessories that take advantage of the physical port. Because the iPhone is easily Apple’s most popular device, though, it would definitely lead to one of the biggest pushes into the inevitable portless future, which Apple has been pushing to for years. But the possible absence of the Lighting connector definitely poses some questions. Will the iPhone come with a wireless charger out of the box? Will Apple try to revive AirPower for a portless iPhone? Will we ever see USB-C on the iPhone? Of course all of these questions require that Apple actually does remove the Lightning port, which I don’t think is unlikely, judging Apple’s past, but it definitely is interesting to speculate about.

My thoughts on the Tesla Cybertruck

The Cybertruck
Image via Business Insider

When Elon Musk announced that Tesla was developing a pick up truck last year, everyone thought he was kidding when he said that it would look like “something out of Blade Runner” . He wasn’t. The truck, in all of its low-poly glory, has become divisive for its wild new design, but you don’t need to hear that, you’ve already seen it. Everyone has, and everyone has an opinion on it, and this is mine. Initially, I thought it looked cool, but extremely impractical when thinking about it driving down the highway. In the weeks since its unveil, however, my thoughts on the Cybertruck have evolved. I knew why they went with such a crazy and polarizing design, its free publicity, and its instantly recognizable just because there is nothing out there that looks even remotely like it. I can’t blast this strategy, I mean, it definitely had the intended effect if that truly was what they were looking for. This notion helped fertilize the design to grow further on me, as it added a little bit reasoning to such a wild concept. I never thought the design was ugly, per say, but rather that it was one that would take time for people to appreciate. Its similar to the case of AirPods. Initially lambasted for what many deemed a silly design, they have since gone on to become an instantly recognizable product that have inspired many clones and even knock offs from other companies. This was because of the innovation that went into them to make them such magical products. I don’t think that the wild new design should be criticized just yet, especially as it will take time to grow on many of us and we have not seen how innovative the Cybertruck really is. For these reasons Im holding out complete judgement of the design until the thing comes out, to see how the design and innovation come together to form the whole product.

The Year Apple Listened

The Recently Reopened Apple Store at 5th Avenue
Image via me

Historically, Apple has been known as a company that doesn’t listen to customers. They got rid of the floppy drive in the original iMac G3. They ditched the headphone jack. These are just a few examples of Apple’s “The customer doesn’t really know what they want” mindset coming into play. In the past, these choices have often proved to be the right ones. After the removal of the floppy drive, almost everyone moved onto cd’s. Even though people were up in arms about the death of the headphone jack on the iPhone, Apple’s Airpods became one of their most popular and recognizable products, as they didn’t require the jack, and lately, we’ve seen history repeating itself, as many smartphone manufacturers are following in Apple’s footsteps and omitting the headphone jack from their own flagship smartphones. However, this policy has not always worked in Apple’s favor. Perhaps the best example of this in recent memory is the saga of the butterfly keyboard.

MacBook Pro Butterfly Keyboard
Image Via The Verge

Apple first introduced the now infamous butterfly keyboard with the 12 inch MacBook in 2015. Apple went on to bring the new keyboard design to the MacBook Pro in 2016 and to the MacBook Air in 2018. The butterfly keyboard has been commonly cited as one of the worst design choices in Apple history. Due to the keyboard new design, it was easy for crumbs and other gunk to easily get caught beneath the keycaps and the switch, which would often cause the key to stop working, requiring a (often expensive) visit to the Apple store. With a failure rate of 30%, Apple was forced to introduced a keyboard warranty program and is wrapped up in a class action lawsuit as a result of the butterfly keyboard. Adding insult to injury, the previous keyboard design, found on all Apple laptops up until 2015, was praised and often said to be best in class. All of these factors came together to make the butterfly keyboard infamous for all the wrong reasons. Despite this Apple continued to refresh the MacBook Pros each year, trying time and time again to get the keyboard design to work properly without failure, but to no avail. The 12 inch MacBook was discontinued earlier this year, but Apple continued to use the butterfly keyboard on the all of the Pro and Air models that they continued to sell, until now.

The New 16 inch MacBook Pro
Image Via Apple

This week, after seemingly endless amounts of rumors and speculation, Apple announced a a brand new 16 inch MacBook Pro. Besides the new screen size and slightly thicker profile, arguably the most important new feature of the new MacBook Pro is the upgraded keyboard. Apple has gone back to the old scissor mechanism, which was used in the previous generation of MacBooks. However the key mechanisms aren’t the only changes Apple made with the new MacBook Pro. They also answered two other complaints about the keyboard. First, they reverted the arrow keys to the upside down t layout, a choice that will be popular with programmers, and second, they added the physical escape key back to the keyboard, which was removed and put on the Touch Bar previously. However these improvements to the keyboard did not come without a price. The new MacBook Pro is significantly thicker than the previous model, of which the thin profile was a key selling point. Many reviewers and people who have gotten there hands on the 16 inch shrug the increase in profile and weight off, but in actuality it is quite noticeable, even without comparing it to the 2016 model.

The New MacBook Pro Keyboard
Image Via Apple

However, the new MacBook Pro isn’t the only example of Apple listening to customers this year. Back in June, Apple unveiled a brand new Mac Pro at WWDC 2019. This announcement came after years with the current Mac Pro dubbed the “Trash Can” by many. The trash can was notoriously pricy and seemingly favored form over function. While it was beautiful in its tiny form factor, it was not nearly as powerful as some other similarly priced workstations, especially as the years dragged on and the Mac Pro continued without any upgrades to its specs. On top of this, the current Mac Pro was not nearly as upgradable as earlier models, meaning you were pretty much stuck with whatever specs you got when you bought the thing. For these reasons, Mac power users had been waiting year for an updated Mac Pro, and were understandably ecstatic when Apple announced the 2019 model, which has gone back to the previous larger form factor which allows for much more upgradability then the trash can did. So, like in the case of the MacBook Pro 16 inch, these heavily requested new new features come at a cost.

The Long Awaited New Mac Pro
Image Via MacWorld

While Apple finally listening to its customers is what many people have been dying for, I don’t think this is necessarily always a good thing. As previously mentioned, Apple, at least under Steve Jobs, largely adhered to the policy of “The customer doesn’t know what they want”. This almost always meant ignoring the public’s opinion and advice as to focus on new experiences that they never could have imagined. This policy led Apple through the original iMac, which put the failing company back on the map, to the iPod and eventually the iPhone, quite possibly the most influential and important innovation of the last 20 years. Because of how well this policy has worked for Apple in the past, it is at least some what concerning to see this new attitude from them, and while I’m not in any way saying they are doomed to fail and will no longer innovate, I am saying that Apple is definitely changing, and we’ll have to see whether that is for better, or for worse.