The Look And Feel Of Apple Hardware

A couple of people on Twitter took exception to Ralph Grabowski’s use of the word “dreadful” when describing Apple’s products in his post titled “Experiencing CAD on the Mac“. That prompted Ralph to give the world a piece of his mind about exactly what he thinks about Apple products. He has started writing a series explaining exactly how “dreadful” he thinks Apple hardware and software are and here is the first part. He raises a number of points and some of the counterpoints made by some readers in the comments are quite interesting.

While I may not use the word “dreadful” to describe Apple’s hardware and software, there are some things that absolutely piss me off. I will make this post only about one of them – the look and feel of Apple hardware. Users of Apple products, especially Apple fanboys (who I lovingly call iFanboys), constantly make it a point to highlight the excellent design of Apple products. I have heard the phrase “it looks good” over and over again. So much so that I get the feeling that the “look” is all that matters to them.

I am an engineer. I do give a decent amount of importance to the look of a product. But for me stuff  like comfort and ergonomics comes first – basically the feel of a product. Here I am not talking about features and capabilities of a product or its inner workings. I am talking about how a piece of hardware looks versus how it feels when you touch and use it.

Ralph mentions in his post that his MacBook has a sharp leading edge that cuts into his wrists. My MacBook has that same problem. And it pisses me off to no end. Just yesterday I ordered a laptop stand from eBay just because  I think it will help me solve this very problem.

My MacBook came with a Magic Mouse. In my opinion Apple’s Magic Mouse is the best looking mouse I have ever seen. It also is the worst mouse I have every wrapped my hand around. I mean, just  look at it. It screams of sharp edges at exactly the places where every other manufacturer has put smooth blended surfaces. And for very good reasons.

Another thing. This one makes me so angry that words fail me. I have an iPhone 3GS which has a shiny little sharp edge all around the front face. If I am talking on the phone while sitting down, all is well. But if I am walking around then obviously the phone slides along my ear. And since the speaker is right at the top of the front face, the sharp edge cuts into the skin of my ear. This is freaking unbelievable! I have owned a multitude of phones in my life. Not a single one of them has a sharp edge anywhere close to where my ear will be. In fact, manufacturers make it a point to avoid sharp edges in phones altogether because people need to hold them. Keys are rounded. Edges are rounded. Features edges are blended with the rest of the body. This is basic common sense stuff. How Apple could come up with a design like that is way beyond the limits of my comprehension.

Of course, the iFanboy will say, “No problem. If the sharp edges bother you then go find a smooth case for your iPhone“. In fact, that’s the way I know whether someone is an iFanboy or not. iFanboys have some ridiculous excuse for just about everything that is wrong with an Apple product.

This whole look vs feel thing about Apple products reminds me of when my wife and I go shopping, say for shoes. She tries out a pair and asks me for my opinion. The first thing I ask her is, “How does it feel?“. Of course, it should look good as well. It is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one. Common sense tells me that it makes absolutely no sense to kill yourself wearing an absolutely gorgeous but extremely uncomfortable pair of shoes.

I am not saying that everything about Apple products is uncomfortable. Like all other manufacturers, Apple does give some thought to “feel”, but from the examples of pathetic product design I mentioned above I just get the feeling that somewhere along Apple’s design process, there are times when “look” is given way more importance than “feel”. But then, that’s probably because they very well know the kind of market they are selling their stuff to.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Deelip I tend to agree. Unlike many Apple complainers I actually do use them and have owned over 20 since the early 90s. I think the classic well designed Apple machines are the desktops and pre aluminium bodied laptops. The first thing I do with any new Apple machine is buy a new mouse – usually a Microsoft one, funnily enough. Apple mice are (in my experience and opinion) poorly made and unergonomic.

    The sharp leading edge on all the new aluminium laptops is just plain bad design. It IS sharp, and it IS annoying and for me spoils an otherwise excellent machine.

    But Apple desktops are a different matter. the Mac Pro is a classic design. yes it is large, but it is built like a tank and very easy to adapt due to its case design. Similarly, the iMacs are excellent machines with fantastic screens.

    Apple have a reputation for outstanding hardware design – and rightly so – but they are not perfect, and to be honest some things that make it through the system do surprise me. Aside from the sharp laptop leading edge my biggest annoyance is the location of the silent switch on the iphone – it is just too easy to knock it to silent by mistake – the number of calls I've missed this way!

  • Info

    Gosh, the alternative is oh so attractive. Middle Age Beige with an OS that needs a yearly cleaning, wait let me rephrase that, a yearly Enema to bring it back from the corruption, infection, etc. etc. I challenge anybody who uses Windows to count how many windows they can maintain on their desktop. With my iMac, I rarely close them until I finish for the day, and rebooting, what a hoot, not the nearly twelve times a day it is on Windows. Perhaps once a week and only if the software update requires it.

    Gosh Deelip, are you sure you are going to be able to make it through with what was it, a sharp corner on the iphone. Want some cheese with that Whine? Grow up, get a head set, and start worrying and complaining about something that matters, like hunger, or domestic violence. a sharp corner, and they call you “guru”

    • Scrapy750

      Your a complete dipshit. does your phone cut your ear, mine does and guess what apple says “but of course we will replace it with one that is made correctly. I cant wait for your mac to crash. Deelip Menezes should be your god.

  • Yup, you just passed my iFanboy test. 😉

  • DJN

    I saw the original post and read yours, and just have 1 question. What sharp edges are you talking about. I have a Mac book pro and a iphone 3GS, and have never been cut or had a cutting sensation with either of them. So WTF are talking about. I will admit that I don't own a magic mouse so can't comment on whether it feels like razor blades or not.

  • I just did a quick Google search to show you WTF I'm talking about.

    Macbook: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=20

    iPhone: http://gdgt.com/discuss/does-your-iphone-3gs-fe

    Magic Mouse: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa;jsessi… (4th post onwards)

    People are actually suggesting filing or sanding the sharp edges. Freaking hilarious!!

  • Sander Scheiris

    Deelip,
    Thank you for not calling the hardware “dreadful”. It's like calling Eva Mendez dreadful because you don't like her toenails. About the Magic Mouse I use it at home and I really like it for home use. At work I have an ergonomic Logitech mouse. I'm curious about the sharp edges. By the end of Augustus I will replace my old 17″ MacBookPro by a new one, with sharp edges.

  • Cwade

    Ok, I don't understand this sharp edge business, I have a Macbook (13″ White model), and iPhone and a magic moues, my wife has a Macbook pro. I have never noticed any sharp edges on any of them. I would probably look at cases if I did, but there doesn't seem to be a real need in my opinion.

    My complaint about the Magic Mouse is that it doesn't work as well with Windows as it does with OS X, I wish it would have full Windows Support, for all buttons and touch sensitive stuff. I would gladly get one for work if it did so.

  • djn

    http://dellideas.force.com/ideaView?id=08770000

    Here is another person complaining about sharp edges on the other machine I own a Dell M6500, which again I don't feel like I slitting my wrists when I type. I also found it interesting that they refer to comfortable corners on a mac and other laptops.

  • djn
  • That's precisely my point. Any notebook with sharp edges and corners has a fundamental ergonomic design flaw. I am simply highlighting Apple hardware here.

  • DJN

    If you want to single out and bash Apple, go ahead but the fact is a search on the internet will reveal that people are complaining about almost every manufacture of laptops for sharp edges. Apple, Dell, Hp, Lenovo, so when is it a design flaw as you claim or user error. Because we obviously don't use the laptop in the same fashion since I don't feel the suicidal wrist slitting you feel. So I am using my laptop wrong?

  • Kevin Quigley

    DJN, one of the issues with the aluminium unibody Apple laptops is that they are machined and anodised, and that is about it. The leading edge issue is particularly bad on the larger laptops as you tend to rest your forearms on the front body of the laptop as you type/use the trackball, or – in my case as a CAD user – use individual shortcut keys in conjunction with the mouse (for example I hold down the Apple key or Alt key to activate rotation in some apps – I tend to do this with my left had thumb so my hand and forearm rest on the laptop front body.

    People can say “it is bad typing technique” but that is wrong. It is poorly implemented product design. It is a case of style and production costing over user ergonomics. I say production costing because all Apple would have to do to alleviate this issue is run a shaped cutter over the front edge – but that was obviously one machining process too many. More likely they were concerned that by tapering the leading edge the screen half would have needed to be deeper to compensate. Deeper = more cost.

    As a designer you need to consider all likely user styles, and to be frank there are not that many options for using a laptop, so I maintain it is a design flaw that should be addressed in the next redesign.

    In the meantime, I used a couple of plastic clips fitted to the back of the laptop to raise it up and help reduce the issue a bit. Kind of ruins the sleek lines though….

  • Indeed, I wish to single out Apple because people have this fancy idea that Apple hardware has the best design and looks better than other “boxes” out there.

    • Scrapy750

      Thus you should single them out. they think there perfect (Iphone 4 lol)

  • MC

    1) Did Ralph take the time to learn to use the Apple hardware/software before ranting about it? NO
    2) Did Ralph’s rant set off Deelip’s hate/love relationship with Apple products (he likes to complain about Apple products, but continues to use an iPhone and a MacBook)? YES
    3) Are the edges on Apple laptops sharp? RELATIVELY YES
    4) Did I notice the edge on my MacBook Pro until I read this post? NO
    5) Is resting your wrists on anything lazy typing? YES
    6) Does the Mighty Mouse suck? YES
    7) Are Apple products perfect? NO

    IF YOU DON’T LIKE THEM, DON’T USE THEM! Most people, including myself, could care less what you use. So stop b1t¢hing, and use whatever makes you happy!

    • I use all kinds of products: Apple, Microsoft, Dell, HP, etc. And I write about all of them, not just Apple. Maybe you didn’t read this: http://www.deelip.com/?p=1104

      And I could turn around and say to you, if you don’t like what I write, don’t read it. Stop bitching and read whatever makes you happy. But I won’t say that. 😉

      • MC

        Certainly, you could tell me “If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it. Stop bitching and read whatever makes you happy”, but that would mean you are a biased blogger without a backbone. Since you did not tell me that, then I suppose there are no implications. 😉

        Although you may use many products, in all the time I have read your blog, I have never seen such vehement critical focus of another company or brand (this includes your posts on the iPhone, iPad, Steve Jobs, and now Apple design in general). You label anyone who disagrees with you regarding Apple products and design an “iFanboy”. I don’t believe I have ever read a post where you created such a title for Linux or Windows fanboys. This appears very biased to me.

        I provided SolidWorks VAR Tech Support for a number of years. About 40% or more of the tech support issues we faced were due to problems with Microsoft/Windows operating systems and PCs, not because of SolidWorks. In the future, perhaps you could more frequently target some of your acute and stunning acumen in that direction.

  • Truth be told, I think I do get some sadistic pleasure riling up iFanboys. 😉

    But just so that we are clear, I don’t label “everyone who disagrees with me regarding Apple products” as iFanboys. Just the people who make up stupid excuses for the deficiencies that Apple products have. For example, the excuse of not having a file storage is DropBox. The excuse of not being able to sync an iPhone to more than one computer is MobileMe. The list goes on and on. If I’m paying so much for an Apple product, I expect it to have some basic things that products far cheaper have. And not have to pay even more for something like MobileMe or for iPhone an app that apes a file system.

    Every product has flaws. Windows and PC’s are not perfect either. I have publicly stated that Microsoft is the root cause of all the joy and sorrow on my life. And I really mean that.

    Although I may seem biased to you, I don’t believe I really am. Just that these iFanboys get me started from time to time. 😉

    • Scrapy750

      I Love You Deelip

  • Anonymous

    Deelip,

    I hate to break this to you but TRUE fanboys don’t read your blog. The best you have is those of us who realize that both Apple and Microsoft makes some great products and some big mistakes.

    And who are not afraid of new technology and different ways to use said technology (unlike our friend Mr. Grabowski)

  • “TRUE fanboys don’t read your blog”

    Heck, I don’t want them to. Because those guys will find stupid excuses for sharp edges which will piss me off even more. 😉