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.