I have a complex relationship with Apple. I started using their products in grade school, but was never a fan of any of their early line ups. In my later years of university, I became a convert after playing with OS X and seeing some of the beautiful hardware that they were producing at the time (the very first 2006 MacBook Pro running X86). The quantum leap advancement in touch technology culminating in the release of the first iPhone added more fuel to the fire, and since then I’ve championed the company at every opportunity.
For years I’ve been of the opinion that the only laptop a developer should own is something out of the MacBook line. I like Linux as much of the next guy, but between the far superior stability of OSX, the incredible battery life, and the absolute build quality of Apple’s laptops, my next computer has always been an easy decision.
But more recently, Apple has evened out the equation through a combination of total negligence towards most of their computing lineups, and a series of highly impractical product and design decisions that suggest a new core value for the company: form over function. It doesn’t matter how a product works as long as its design is a bit sleeker, its line are a little more symmetrical, or its body a little thinner.
Specifically, these major releases come to mind:
(March 2015) The 12” MacBook was an early hint of more to come. I actually really like this laptop and still use it every day, but Apple’s decision to ship it with one port was so deafly unpragmatic that we could have used it to predict the future at the time.
(April 2015) The Apple Watch. Apple paraded around strong initial sales numbers, but let’s face it, about 80% of those are now sitting in people’s sock drawers. A device that gives you only nominal benefits over the phone you already have in your pocket and needs daily charging is never going to make it past “novelty”.
(September 2016) The removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 (see courage previously). This one is a bit of a milestone because it’s the first change that made me want to get out of a product lineup that I’ve always been very happy with. Others might say that the jack was dropped because Apple believes that wireless earphones are ready for prime time 1. More cynically, I think it’s because they wanted to make the bottom of the iPhone symmetric.
(November 2016) The new MacBook Pro. Obviously TouchBar is the lightning rod; a pointless gimmick that, after the initial novelty dies off, is going to be obviously useless to pretty much everyone. But the bigger red flag for me is the that they reduced battery capacity by 25% because the new components were expected to make up the difference by being 25% more power efficient (they didn’t). Sacrificing a major practical advantage to satisfy the urge to shave a few mm off a computer that’s already thin enough for anyone gives us a small window into the very concerning thought process of today’s Apple.
I don’t know where this leaves me. I don’t really want to move out of the Apple ecosystem, but I also don’t want a TouchBar and do want a headphone jack. For now they’ve left a small escape with the so-called “MacBook Escape”, but expect these holes to close over time.
1 As evidenced by the continually delayed “AirPods”, they’re not.
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