I often discuss my complicated relationship with Apple. Back in 2009 when I eagerly waited for the Fedex man to deliver my brand new unibody aluminum Macbook, I had no doubt that it was a perfect, fully-formed, fully-functioning product. Now, I live in paranoia of every dollar I spend on new tech; will it work? Will it be soon recalled? These are fears I don’t remember having until the past couple years (as I type much much slower and more carefully on my new Macbook keyboard).
Did Apple change, or did we?
We now live in a world where Apple accomplished their mission (in an almost Thanos-esque way): Every tech device is beautiful, which means none are special anymore. We are so thirsty for the next revolutionary announcement like the one 2007, that I can’t help but wonder if we ushered in this dystopian tech future.
We live in a world of iteration, where we realize the potential of something that’s been existing for years right under our noses. Podcasts for example, are literally radio shows, yet they are simply distributed in a way that helps us break out of the mind-numbing AM/FM Rush Limbaugh talk radio format. Podcasts themselves have even been around for quite some time, and it took 15 years for them to catch on and become mainstream, due to all the creative shows that appeal to people of all types out there now. I remember back when tech and gadget podcasts were all that was out there, before Joe Rogan and Serial. I have family members recommending podcasts to me now, when just 5 to 10 years ago, they wouldn’t have understood what I was talking about. Podcasts are the coolest new medium since the television, and one I’m addicted to more than any other form of media.
We are now numb to the amazing innovations that are happening before our eyes with podcasting, smartwatches, bluetooth headphones, etc, that are actually improving our lives and are being used by millions of people. We are almost ungrateful because they just don’t feel as amazing or as big as what we’ve had in the past. Is it Apple’s fault that they haven’t come out with something as mind-blowing as the iPhone, or is it just the times at which we live where we’ve seen it all and then some?
When It Just Works is Innovation
The bar has been lowered for what counts as innovation. Apple doesn’t really care about it’s podcast app, despite it being easily the most used listening app of one of the greatest new mediums of this generation, yet they will call their broken “butterfly keyboards” an engineering marvel. When they removed the headphone jack from the iPhone, usable ports from the Macbooks, and Mag-Safe (which at one point was the coolest feature of a Macbook- you would never break your laptop by tripping over your charger again….until 2016.), they call it bravery, innovation, or a large leap for mankind. The bar is so low, I can imagine a world where Apple has the gaul to call a cracked iPhone screen a “New, abstract way to experience visual media”.
I’m typing most of this blog on my iPhone as opposed to my MacBook Pro. Why? I fell victim to the infamous MacBook Pro keyboard, promised to be improved and fixed with the latest model. It has not been fixed and improved with the latest model.
But, the duality of Apple is that while I had to bring my laptop into the Apple Store to get fixed, they provided excellent customer service and replaced my keyboard in less than 24 hours. Despite now feeling the need to type less on my $2,700 laptop, lest it happen again, I left the Genius Bar a happy customer.
Not only that, but as of two days ago, I joined the ranks of all the drones who walk around spaced out with white ear pieces in their ears. And let me tell you, I believe AirPods are the best product Apple has made in 10 years. They just work, and that’s a story that is rarely told in 2019. So here I am, fooled into singing the praises of the Apple greed machine.
Our desperate search for innovation has led us down a path of companies, not just Apple, releasing concepts that aren’t fully formed, such as the Galaxy Fold, which is such a cool product but isn’t ready for the public. We are so addicted to getting something new, that we’ve grown accustomed to buggy, half-baked experiences hoping that something will stick. For the same reasons, venture capital is getting thrown at every startup with a pulse with the hopes that something will pop like Facebook and Instagram did.
The idea that AirPods are incredible because they literally do exactly what they said they would do isn’t innovation, but something we would have expected 10 years ago. I don’t see anyone hailing AirPods as any sort of second-coming or a revolution, yet it probably has one of the fastest adoption rates of an Apple product since the iPhone. The Apple Watch is the same way; I now see them everywhere (weirdly I don’t wear one anymore because I was tired of constant notifications stealing my attention all the time), but you don’t see people raving about them, they are just easily integrated into our life.
I love AirPods because I’ve never have to think about them: They charge in the case, I can wirelessly charge the case on my desk, I tap them to pause or go to the next track, I can take phone calls on them easily, and I can barely feel them in my ears. They became part of my daily carry within 3 minutes of opening the box. I can’t remember the last time I was this satisfied with an Apple product, or any product for that matter. Even unlocking my iPhone with Face ID is a buggy and annoying experience, and I’ve simply adapted to how much longer it takes to get past my lock screen. (the fingerprint sensor just worked, but we had to get rid of it for some reason)
And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my new home in Dongle Hell. Here I was, living a content life where I could import photos and video directly off a memory card in the native SD card slot on my 2013 Macbook, and I needed to upgrade to a machine that required almost $200 in adapters just to do my job. The learning curve of remembering to carry these dongles with me at all times has been unbelievably steep and has forced me to spend even more money on switching my hardrives and cables to USB-C. In order to upgrade, I suddenly had to welcome myriad of tech problems that used to be totally solved before the second term of the Obama Administration. This is innovation in 2019.
One More Thing…
Unfortunately for me, there’s still not better options as far as phones and laptops are concerned with the use cases I need. The re-learning how to live a more inconvenient life when I upgrade still doesn’t outweigh the problems I have with many non-Apple devices. I would love a Microsoft Surface, they just don’t have enough power for the stuff I do. I had a Google Pixel for 8 hours (and the camera was fantastic), but no one could message me once I left iMessage, and it was just too much of a pain to deal with communication issues when everyone I know has an iPhone. (incidentally, Android users Instagram stories look like garbage to a brand-tarnishing degree)
I don’t want to be a brand loyalist. I want to judiciously get the best and throw out the worst. Apple’s business strategy, nay, arrogance, has led me down this path of constant complaining and doing nothing about it. They know I’m not going to change because there’s nowhere better to go, and they will continually punish me for it. But listen, I’ve seen Blade Runner, and I don’t see giant Atari or Pan Am signs on the skyscrapers of our capitalistic dystopia anymore. I fully believe Apple will one day have to pay the piper, and in 20 years, I may be suffering from a different company’s arrogance.