Style over substance? Apple products have a look and feel about them that customers love, despite some shortcomings in both hardware and software. Apple often falls behind in some basic hardware technologies while pushing the industry forward in others, and it does so with undeniable style over substance.
The Abandonware List
First, let me tackle a quick but incomplete list of hardware which Apple has adapted and abandoned through the years. Remember Motorola RISC CPUs? They were all the rage back in the day.
Apple touted the benefits of RISC over Intel’s CISC for a couple of decades before leaving the past behind and moving over to half of the dark side.
Remember the floppy disk? Apple was the first major PC maker to move to the plastic case floppy disk on the Mac in 1984, and the first to leave the floppy behind with the original iMac in 1998.
Likewise, Apple didn’t hesitate to adopt the future by putting USB into the original iMac, but wasn’t afraid to add home grown communication protocols to differentiate the Mac from PCs, and to add a little extra performance.
I’m thinking FireWire, Thunderbolt, and Lightning (for the iPhone and iPad). Macs had ’em and have ’em, but all of them are on their way out the door, soon to be abandonware in favor of the new USB-C standard which does even more in a much smaller package (think FireWire, Thunderbolt, Lightning, and MagSafe connectors all rolled into one).
Second, let me point out that, historically, Apple seems to be a company that moves three steps forward, then back a step. For years Macs used anemic CPUs before adopting Intel Inside. Mac RAM was often much lower than comparable Windows PCs. Mac storage always seemed less than what PC makers stuffed into their uninspired and anonymously designed plastic riffraff. Apple often provided design style over hardware substance.
Here’s another example of Apple’s split personality disorder when it comes to hardware. Apple’s A8 CPU in iPhone and iPad. Apple led the industry with 64-bit design, including iOS, but the company’s mobile devices often have less RAM than similar smartphones and tablets from Samsung and others.
Ditto for screen resolution. Every major maker of smartphones has devices with far more pixels than show up on Apple’s newest iPhones. That won’t stop customers from lapping up Apple’s latest, but it demonstrates a zeal for design style over component substance. NFC? Apple just got it, but it’s already in hundreds of millions of Android devices. Yet, stepping forward, Apple brought the world a Retina 5k display with a Mac inside.
It’s as if Apple has a dual personality.
Finally, here it is 2015, and Apple wants to ‘reinvent the notebook‘ by making the new MacBook thinner and lighter; so much thinner that it needs to dispense with typical USB, Thunderbolt, and MagSafe connectors, and push the industry forward with a single, solitary USB-C connector. Going backwards, though, Apple forces customers to use dongles for any connected devices, but that shiny new aluminum clad MacBook with multiple colors has a wonderful Retina display, yet is saddled with a 480p FaceTime camera better suited for 1999.
See? Style at the expense of substance. What do customers want most in their Mac notebooks, iPhones, and iPads? Longer battery life. What does Apple give customers? Thinner iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
The question I would ask head design honcho Jony Ive and his boss, CEO Tim Cook, is simple. Since I’m paying the most for Apple products, why can’t they have the best components? Why shortchange customers on RAM, or connectors, or battery life, or CPUs, or screen resolution. I pay the most so I should get the best, right?
Here’s how I think they would reply.
You are getting the best. The best user experience. That’s what Apple sells. Competitors sell hardware, but the software is more of an afterthought. We sell a great user experience.
That’s hard to deny but I would like to experience more RAM, more screen pixels, longer battery life, fewer dongles, better camera resolution, and some of the best experiences that our neighbors and co-workers running Windows or Android devices experience. After all, I’m paying more, and my allegiance has helped Apple to become one of the richest companies on planet earth.