Hardware design and marketing

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    Posted: 19 March 2011 02:38 PM

    I thought I’d critique the past few years of Apple hardware.  I’ll start with the things which bug me.

    1. Apple mice.  I like the hockey puck.  I used the Pro mouse for several years.  Since I didn’t need a 2nd button, that was okay for me.  The Mighty Mouse ?  I gave it away, ASAP.  Magic Mouse ?  too heavy.  Sits in a box.  I haven’t used it for 3 weeks.  Currently using a cheap 2 button PC mouse.

    2. battery life.  With improvements in battery technology, the iPad and other portables have good battery life.  Only a few years before, Apple (and probably others) overstated battery life.  That especially bugged me.  Apple now states battery life in a reasonable manner.

    3. keyboards.  I like the chicklet keyboards, but I sense that apple can do better.  By comparison, the Apple “Pro” (give me a break— I have nothing but disdain for the name “Pro Mouse” and “Pro Keyboard”) Keyboard was chunky.  I keep one around for emergencies.

    4. Comparative speeds of hardware, and sometimes software.  “iPad 2 is up to 9x faster”, using specialized software.  Safari is another one where its marketing blurs what users really feel.

    5. camera quality of iOS devices.  I don’t have personal experience with cameras of recent iOS devices, but reviews are decidedly less than enthusiastic.

    6. printers.  Apple has not made a printer in a long time.  Apple relies upon HP, Brother, Lexmark, Canon, Epson and others to make printers.  I rarely use a printer.  But when I do, its interesting how often I have trouble.

    7. the sharp edge on iPad 1.  Definitely the most recent of hardware faux pas.  Apple fixed this one, but they should have known in advance that this was poor design.

    8. external speakers and other accessories.  Apple could do some better marketing on accessories here, regardless of who makes them under what brand.

    9. At this point, I don’t use Apple routers, so I’m not going to critique there.

    ====== some positive things =======

    10. Antenna Gate.  This event is the most famous of events where Apple went all out to show the behind-the-scenes nuances of what test data meant. 

    11. LCD displays.  Apple displays of these past few years are very satisfactory to me.

    12. Smooth UI rendering.  My iMac 27” of 2010 manufacture is much smoother than my iMac of 2007.  I attribute this to faster hardware and relevant software.

    === summing up the current rants ===

    Magic Mouse sits in a drawer.  iOS device cameras may or may not be unnecessarily low quality.  My new iPad 1 requires a silicone cover.

         
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    Posted: 19 March 2011 03:13 PM #1

    The main products of iPad 2, iPhone, iPod touch, iPod Nano and all Macs are all very appealing.  There’s no question that the consistency of quality of Apple hardware is the highest it has ever been. 

    Only a few products are bugging me.  The keyboard mouse lines as well as battery issues have been the most visible issues.

         
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    Posted: 19 March 2011 06:28 PM #2

    Apple mice - hated, hated, HATED the puck.  Got one as an emergency stand-in for my Apple Pro Mouse (which I was a big fan of), so maybe the “used” part played a role, but tracking was abysmal.  Mighty Mouse is a fine “evolution” of the Apple Pro Mouse except for the ball which requires constant alcohol-based cleaning later in life.  And then there’s the curling mouse cord, but I’ve had to live with that for so long now on so many mice, Mac and PC.  The Magic Mouse takes time to get used to, but once you do, it’s actually quite nice, especially for scrolling.  Gaming, I haven’t tried yet.

    Chiclet keyboard - “good enough”.  I’m still using the aluminum “pro” keyboard from my first aluminum iMac with no real issues.  Seems to have typical Apple build quality and lifespan, and despite my continuing use of a really, really old wrist rest that isn’t an optimal fit with the keyboard (which is really “short”), my typing is the same speed as before, maybe a little better.  I should probably pick up a spare wired Apple keypad-equipped keyboard if supplies start drying up.  I gotta have my keypads.  I really liked the Apple Pro Keyboard, actually, because of the non-FN, dedicated volume/eject buttons.  Also, I had the “first” version of the keyboard that was bundled with my old 2G/“lampshade” iMac.  That one had nice rounded tapered edges on the sides (really more like a “waterfall” of plastic that gracefully sloped downward towards the typing surface), instead of those sharp edges in later versions that made it seem like you were typing in a “pit” of keys.

    iOS cameras - with my iPhone 4, it’s OK enough for FaceTime, and the 5MP rear camera is at least satisfactory.  HD video requires good lighting for best results.  iPad = blah cameras in my test drives at the Apple Store.

    [ Edited: 19 March 2011 06:30 PM by Mav ]

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  • Posted: 19 March 2011 09:06 PM #3

    I do think the first iMac SE was a stroke of design brilliance.  The mouse puck was indeed wretched, especially for my x-large hands.

         
  • Posted: 19 March 2011 10:10 PM #4

    I love my full-size wireless keyboard with number pad.  Unfortunately, they discontinued it.  Steve does not use a number pad.

    The Airport router is an improvement over the typical linksys, etc.  A bit pricey, but I am happy with it.

    I don’t get all the complaining about camera quality.  I have a first generation iPhone; the camera is fine for snapping a quick shot.  If I want to take a real photo, I use my DSLR.  I am happy that Apple did not un-necessarily add cost to the iPad 2 with an expensive rear camera.  In fact I’d be happy with no rear camera.  Much rather have an SD slot.

    I’d like to see a “headless” iMac.

    Truth is, I have to stretch to criticize Apple products.  My wife said it again today.  “Don’t you wish Apple made _____s ?”

    [ Edited: 19 March 2011 10:12 PM by capablanca ]      
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    Posted: 20 March 2011 12:31 AM #5

    I do like the scrolling on the Magic Mouse.  But the weight of the mouse bugged me more than it was worth.  Also, at this point in time, I’m not a fan of wireless mice and keyboards.

    Apple is clearly in the one-size-fits-all school of industrial design when it comes to mice and keyboards.  At the opposite end are printers, speakers.  It abdicates the entire fields to others.  At least in the area of Macs and iOS devices, there’s a nice selection.

    I did a lot of productive typing on Mac SE’s and such.

         
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    Posted: 21 March 2011 12:05 PM #6

    Tetrachloride - 19 March 2011 05:38 PM

    5. camera quality of iOS devices.  I don’t have personal experience with cameras of recent iOS devices, but reviews are decidedly less than enthusiastic.

    It’s funny but I compared the specs on the cameras on the iPod Touch and the iPad and found they are the same. Yet the iPT gets thrashed in the press and the iPad gets kudos.

    I’ve used Apple routers and I’ve found them more stable than others. OTOH the ‘others’ I’ve worked with are moderate age D-Links which have a terrible reputation so that might not be a good comparison.

    The one big thing I dislike is my wife’s ‘08 white MacBook. The system is OK but the case is garbage. It has been cracking so badly chips have fallen off. Apple has an extended warranty so we got the whole case replaced once. Within a month it cracked again so we may be getting another one. Apple’s made plastic cased laptops since the early ‘90s. How could they mess this one up so badly?

    [ Edited: 21 March 2011 12:14 PM by geoduck ]

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  • Posted: 21 March 2011 12:54 PM #7

    1.  Camera on iPhone 4:  its fine.  I have a better DSLR which is well suited to its use and I can get it out when I need it.
    2.  Poor rear camera on iPad2:  Huh?  Who exactly would use a tablet to take pictures???  I mean, come on.  The thing is just not shaped for that use. 
    3.  My pet peeve on design:  how unnecessarily hard it is to open up a Mac Mini.  Great computer otherwise—I have owned four of them.

         
  • Posted: 21 March 2011 12:57 PM #8

    geoduck - 21 March 2011 03:05 PM
    Tetrachloride - 19 March 2011 05:38 PM

    5. camera quality of iOS devices.  I don’t have personal experience with cameras of recent iOS devices, but reviews are decidedly less than enthusiastic.

    It’s funny but I compared the specs on the cameras on the iPod Touch and the iPad and found they are the same. Yet the iPT gets thrashed in the press and the iPad gets kudos.

    You’re wrong about that. The iPod Touch cameras were excoriated by the reviewers. The fact that these same cameras now show up in more expensive and higher profile devices simply makes them all the more susceptible to criticism. But it looks bad on those damnably useless comparison grids.

    My take is that Apple did what works good instead of what looks good. The cameras in question are on a huge 10 x 8 inch tablet. They focus on video recording. They are admittedly poor at taking still photos - which is something few will be using their cameras for anyway. In other words, if you were going to cut corners, cutting the quality of still photos that no one takes or uses is a good corner to cut.

    geoduck - 21 March 2011 03:05 PM

    The one big thing I dislike is my wife’s ‘08 white MacBook. The system is OK but the case is garbage. It has been cracking so badly chips have fallen off. Apple has an extended warranty so we got the whole case replaced once. Within a month it cracked again so we may be getting another one. Apple’s made plastic cased laptops since the early ‘90s. How could they mess this one up so badly?

    My white MacBook is a disaster. The case peeled. I took it in and they replaced the whole case. I took it back a second time and they refused to replace the case, suggesting that I had somehow abused it. I’m rather bitter about this experience. It left a bad taste in my mouth regarding Apple’s customer service and it makes me angry every time I use my MacBook.

    I was going to say more, but I’m so angry I could spit. I’ll just say that if Apple hadn’t provided me with superior products and service for over 25 years that this case might have soured me on them forever. Of course, to be fair, where else would I go? No one else is doing anything like Apple. Leaving Apple would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face.

         
  • Posted: 21 March 2011 01:12 PM #9

    FalKirk - 21 March 2011 03:57 PM

    My white MacBook is a disaster. The case peeled. I took it in and they replaced the whole case. I took it back a second time and they refused to replace the case, suggesting that I had somehow abused it. I’m rather bitter about this experience. It left a bad taste in my mouth regarding Apple’s customer service and it makes me angry every time I use my MacBook.

     

    Do you have a photo of this?  I’m just curious what a “peeled” case looks like.  Very odd.  I’ve owned Apple gear since the 1980s and never had a problem with Apple’s plastic enclosures.  My sentimental favorite notebook of all time was the black 15” Pismo circa year 2000, or thereabouts.

         
  • Posted: 21 March 2011 01:21 PM #10

    Here’s a great article about Jony Ive, the man behind Apple design.  And he’s a car guy, driving a Bentley. 

    Read here.

         
  • Posted: 21 March 2011 02:33 PM #11

    Mercel - 21 March 2011 04:12 PM
    FalKirk - 21 March 2011 03:57 PM

    My white MacBook is a disaster. The case peeled. I took it in and they replaced the whole case. I took it back a second time and they refused to replace the case, suggesting that I had somehow abused it. I’m rather bitter about this experience. It left a bad taste in my mouth regarding Apple’s customer service and it makes me angry every time I use my MacBook.

     

    Do you have a photo of this?  I’m just curious what a “peeled” case looks like.  Very odd.  I’ve owned Apple gear since the 1980s and never had a problem with Apple’s plastic enclosures.  My sentimental favorite notebook of all time was the black 15” Pismo circa year 2000, or thereabouts.

    I’m not sure a photo would do it justice. Picture where the flat surface surrounding the keyboard touches the surrounding sides of the MacBook. Both corners started to break away and peel up. They’ve gotten larger over time. The East side is missing a 4 inch strip, the South side is missing two two inch strips, the West side is missing a 3 inch strip. The South East corner has broken off a triangular piece and about an half inch in length which is threatening to break away. There’s a crack running down the West side of the case from where the screw secures the case down to the battery. And only recently, the case has started to break away from the camera. I don’t treat may MacBook with kid gloves, but neither do I abuse in in anyway. It sits in my lap and travels in a padded case and that’s about it.

    Frustrating. Can be easily solved by buying myself a new one. Also makes you all richer.  grin

         
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    Posted: 21 March 2011 02:58 PM #12

    FalKirk - 21 March 2011 05:33 PM

    I’m not sure a photo would do it justice.

    Mine is just the same. The <1/8” lip on the front of the top panel, the one that surrounds the keyboard cracks off. This leaves a gap at the front of the case and then the unsupported front of the bottom case is vulnerable to impact, flexing and cracking.

    I believe that the root of the issue is that when the computer is open and pick it up with one hand this puts too much strain on the top plastic

    Here are a few pictures of others with this same problem
    http://www.marccizravi.com/2010/old-white-macbook-cracked-case/
    http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/macbook-cracks-threaten-to-upset-apple-cart-20090805-e9fj.html

    And an Apple forum discussion
    http://discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=11277069

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  • Posted: 21 March 2011 03:05 PM #13

    I’m really surprised folks don’t like the Magic Mouse. I love it and need another one. At first they were a bit strange, but now I can’t stand using regular mice except my logitech gaming mouse. I use that for gaming, but for everything else the magic mouse is the bomb. I love the weight of it and the responsiveness, and the low profile. At first my hand would get tired until I learned to totally relax and let my hand drape over the device. Now it is less fatiguing than any mouse I have used other than my old ps/2 logitech trackman marble which I could rest on my chest and kick my chair back to use.

    I’ve had no problems with any of my Apple products other than an Old iPod photo which came up with an error indicating I needed a new hard drive or a new battery, but that turns out to not be the case in most cases. I followed a tutorial which showed how to repair it oneself and I went inside, pulled the necessary ribbon cable out and put it back in. Then everything worked flawlessly.

         
  • Posted: 21 March 2011 04:11 PM #14

    geoduck - 21 March 2011 05:58 PM

    Mine is just the same. The <1/8” lip on the front of the top panel, the one that surrounds the keyboard cracks off. This leaves a gap at the front of the case and then the unsupported front of the bottom case is vulnerable to impact, flexing and cracking.

    My damage is more extensive, but you nailed it.

         
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    Posted: 21 March 2011 04:40 PM #15

    FalKirk - 21 March 2011 07:11 PM
    geoduck - 21 March 2011 05:58 PM

    Mine is just the same. The <1/8” lip on the front of the top panel, the one that surrounds the keyboard cracks off. This leaves a gap at the front of the case and then the unsupported front of the bottom case is vulnerable to impact, flexing and cracking.

    My damage is more extensive, but you nailed it.

    I had this fixed under Apple Care 3 times in 3 years on my kids laptop.  The final time they also replaced the trackpad.
    I think we want to sell it and get a new MacbookPro before it cracks again.