Fortune has a lengthy piece addressing the question of whether Apple has lost its design mojo. It opens with some of the customer complaints being made about the company.
The Watch isn’t out-of-the-box intuitive; the latest keyboards are annoying and fragile; Apple Pencils are easy to lose; the iPhone has been flawed ever since Apple introduced that camera lens that juts out on the back, and things have gotten worse with the “notch” on the screen of the iPhone X.
And goes on to present conflicting views from tech industry figures …
Tumblr cofounder Marco Arment admires most Apple design, but says, “Apple designs in the post-Steve era have been a little off-balance. The balance seems too much on the aesthetic, and too little on the functional.” Don Norman, a former member of the Apple design team (1993–1996) who now heads the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego, beats the drum that Apple has abandoned user-centered design principles. “They have sacrificed understandability for aesthetic beauty,” he says.
Not everyone agrees, of course. Says Steve Troughton-Smith, an Irish developer of sleek iOS apps, “I have enough historical context to understand that these things have no relation to [Steve Jobs’ departure], and are not a new aspect of being an Apple user. Things like USB cables and iTunes were bad for many years under Jobs too, and I have a collection of frayed Firewire-to-30-pin cables to remind me of that.”
It cites some of Apple’s design wins and losses over the years, arguing that neither are new phenomenon, As examples of design failures under Steve Jobs’ watch, the piece lists the iMac’s ‘hockey puck’ mouse, the iPod Hi-Fi and original Apple TV.
It argues that Apple doesn’t always get things right first time time, but is good at listening to feedback and improving products over time. Even Jony Ive acknowledges this, with the Apple Watch an example. Apple initially pitched it as a way of running apps when you didn’t want to pull out your iPhone, then effectively reinvented it as a fitness device.
Sometimes we are very aware that there are technologies that aren’t ready. We’re very aware of where the product is going. Then there are things that you don’t truly know until you’ve made them in large volumes, and a really diverse group of people use them.
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