Is Thick The New Thin In Apple Product Design With Jony Ive Out Of The ‘Loop’?

FEATURE: 11.22.19- Every Apple user and aficionado knows that the form over function factor in the majority of products designed in California by the tech giant during the past two decades has been on the svelte side of the spectrum but with the man formerly in charge of design at the company since having exited stage right (so to speak), has there been a 360 degree turnaround with thick becoming the new thin in the outward appearance of its hardware and devices?

Todd Haselton, technology products editor at CNBC, the financial business oriented news cable channel of NBC News, apparently seems to think so.

Apple’s new flagship notebook computer, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, is 2% larger, weighs 0.3lbs heavier, and measures 1mm thicker than the 15-inch model that it replaces according to CNBC technology products editor Todd Haselton.. (Photo: Courtesy of Apple)

In an article published on November 13 — the same day last week that the new 16-inch MacBook Pro was announced in Cupertino, California — Haselton opines that Apple has started to make its products thicker in an effort to give people what they want: functionality over form.

The technology products editor feels that this is a good thing and gives two recent examples of releases from Apple, first, the 2019 iPhone lineup — the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max (unveiled at a September media event at Apple Park) — and, second, the aforementioned new 16-inch MacBook Pro.

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“This is a theory,” writes Haselton.

“But it seems this may be that there are some design changes being made after the departure of Apple’s former chief design officer Jony Ive. Ive was known for creating gorgeous products but, sometimes, as we’ve seen with the older MacBook keyboard, perhaps at the cost of functionality.”

The classic form over function-centric design mantra at Apple.

Haselton gives another example, that being the new headquarters of Apple itself: Apple Park in Cupertino, California (which opened for business in April 2017).

Referencing a report in February of last year from Bloomberg, the media conglomerate and provider of financial news and data — which reported that the centerpiece of Apple, Inc.’s new headquarters is a massive ring shaped officeoverflowing with panes of glass, a testament to the company’s famed design obsessed aesthetic — he points out that the abundance of the clear material chosen at Apple Park, designed by Ive, was causing people to reportedly walk into windows. Or, as Bloomberg put it, the spaceship campus has one flaw: and it hurts.

Or, should we say, pane full (painful… sorry, had to get that one in)?

However, Haselton writes that he isn’t knocking Ive or his ability to create great products.

“Just look at the iPhones over the past several years along with the iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods. You name it, he had a hand in it. But sometimes there were just parts of those products that seemed to be flawed because the products were too thin.”

Case (no pun intended) in point, comparing the iPhone 8 from 2017 to this year’s iPhone 11 — specifically its thickness with the former coming in at 7.3mm while the latter at 8.3mm — the technology products editor gives the example of the iPhone 8 as Apple’s obsession with creating devices that are as thin as possible, often at the cost of battery life. Whereas, on the flip side, the opposite happened with the iPhone 11, where Apple now has placed a, bigger, emphasis on getting more use on a single charge because, as Haselton writes, it knows that’s one of the top things people want from their phones. This illustrates, as a result, that its users are willing to sacrifice on thinness (as does the company as well, post Ive) for an iPhone that lasts, though not literally, almost 24 hours.

“Then there’s the (new) 16-inch MacBook Pro that was announced on Wednesday,” writes Haselton.

“It’s less than 1mm thicker than the 15-inch MacBook Pro that it replaces and it weighs 4.3lbs instead of 4lbs in the prior model. Its 2% larger than the 15-inch MacBook Pro too. All of this helps Apple include what people want in a similar but slightly bigger form factor: … ”

He gives two examples, first, a keyboard with keys that you can actually type on and works correctly — versus the old butterfly mechanism that, as Haselton writes, was prone to exposure to dust and debris, which could lead to keys not registering or repeating themselves and, ultimately, lots of typos — and, second, battery life which, according to him, lasts an hour longer than last year’s model and charges fully in just 2.5 hours (which he attributes in part to Apple able to increase the battery size which likely contributed to the heavier and larger form factor).

Could Haselton be on to something here?

These two major product lines, the iPhone and MacBook Pro (specifically the 2019 models of the former and the latest iteration of the latter), show an Apple post Ive. With the former chief design officer out of the, loop (a play on words that pays homage to Apple’s original headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California where he spent the better part of almost 30 years), the technology products editor writes that the company’s design teams had a bit more freedom to make gadgets a little thicker than before instead of focusing on thinness and external beauty.

Haselton ponders a crucial factor in all of this, one where, according to him, lots of people seem worried that Apple might lose its way in design after the departure of Ive. Considering, as he writes, how could it possibly create iconic devices if, seemingly, all of the major releases in Apple’s last decade of dominance have been designed under him.

The technology products editor at CNBC ends and leaves us with this thought:

“But if Apple is moving ahead without Ive’s constant input (his new design firm will still advise the company), then it may have a bit more freedom to put function over design, and giving people keyboards that work and batteries that last longer.”

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