Function follows form


Tuesday 14 October 2014 by Nazib Beedassy

Man leaving Apple store

My name is Nazib Beedassy. I am a graphic designer and I am not an Apple fan boy.

There. I’ve said it. I’ve never erected a tent outside any of its stores and I’ve never high fived anyone as I’ve walked out with my purchase. There will be plenty of raised eyebrows from my fellow designers reading this blog. I’m sure I’ll get comments like: "You're a creative, how can you not like Apple?".

But I do like the brand. My first pay cheque as a junior designer a decade ago was spent on my gold iPod Mini and in the years since I’ve owned a first-generation iPad, a MacBook Pro, an iPod touch, an iPod nano and an iPhone 4s. Those products were great in their elegance and ease of use. When Apple gets it right, it creates spectacular products. But recent releases have not been up to its own high standards. To borrow a phrase I sometimes use with my little girl – “I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed”.

Controversy

Apple has been faced with a string of well-documented issues following its high profile iPhone launches – and they’re often because of poor design. First, there was “antennagate”, soon after the launch of the iPhone 4 in June 2010. It emerged that the handsets’ antennae, which wrapped around the sides of the phone, could sometimes be blocked by our pesky fingers (causing dropped calls). Rather than admitting that he got it wrong, then-CEO and Apple visionary Steve Jobs simply blamed consumers for holding their iPhones in the wrong way.

A close up of an iPhone 4

The launch of the iPhone 5 two years later sparked “scuffgate”, as hundreds of consumers complained that the device's aluminium chassis was scratching and denting easily. But Apple again stopped short of admitting fault. In an email response to a customer complaint, the company’s marketing chief, Phil Schiller, said matter-of-factly: “Any aluminum product may scratch or chip with use, exposing its natural silver color. That is normal.”

A close up of an iPhone 5

So, onto the latest furore – “bendgate”. The argument from some tech “experts” is that today’s modern smartphones aren’t designed to be carried in our pockets. Sorry, but if you can’t carry your phone in your pocket, where should you carry it? It seems the mantra form follows function is truly dead. In fairness, there have only been nine recorded complaints of bent iPhones to date. But that’s nine more than HTC, Samsung and LG have had to contend with.

Compromise

Apple undoubtedly has its reasons for prioritising the thinness of the iPhone 6 above everything else. But it compromised its famously sleek design to get there. The camera lens now protrudes, which exposes it to scratches – but hey, all’s fair when you’re trying to shave off a few extra millimetres. My iPhone 4s was a chubby beast at 8.9mm thick. The slimmer, hipster-like variant looks the part at 6.9mm, but battery life has been compromised. Benchmark tests on the iPhone 6 show it lagging against its Android rivals. You’ll need to charge it at least once a day to do the basics calls, emails etc. If you want to play Candy Crush Saga or watch BBC iPlayer on the commute home from work you might struggle for juice.

Varying thickness of iPhones

I liken the new iPhone to a Lamborghini Murcielago: high-end, slender, expensive, but terribly inefficient (the Murcielago does between 8 and 14 miles per gallon). It’s our fault though. We’ve become so obsessed with appearance that we care more about how a device looks than whether it actually works. I’m all for top-notch industrial design and I’ll happily sacrifice some usability for gorgeousness – but the device still has to work.

This is not about Apple-bashing. But if a consumer invests nearly £700 in a premium handset, it’s fair to expect one that doesn’t bend, lose signal or scuff easily. I just want Apple to up its game. Only then will I again kneel at the Church of Jobs and maybe even high-five one of his prophets on my way out.

Nazib is no longer a Frameworker.

Categories

  • Apple
  • Design
  • iPhone
  • #bendgate