Buy any Android phone, even one of the more popular ones, and you’ll struggle to find accessories for it. The retailer might have a few different cases and a screen protector, but that’s it. If it’s a model that stopped receiving updates 6 months ago, fuhgdeddaboutit.
Walk into any supermarket and they have iPhone accessories for the 5, 6 and 7 models. There are all kinds of grips, holsters and gadgets that are iPhone exclusive. Not only is the iPhone user base massive, but it’s easy to keep stock when there are only 4 or 6 variations (instead of 400 to 600) to take into consideration.
Companies which create iconic, recognizable, design products don’t inundate the market with dozens of variations trying to cater to everyone. They focus on solving problems their way, to their tribe and ignore the noise. That’s why Apple sold over 260 iPhones while you were reading this post.
Consider these firsts and their Apple counterparts:
Microsoft Tablet PC (2002) vs. iPad (2010)
Rio MP3 players (1998) vs the iPod (2001)
Napster (1999) vs iTunes (2001)
Being first to do something is great when you’re climbing a mountain, breaking records or going to space. Being first to launch a product is great only if you get it right.
The MagSafe wasn’t the best connector because it saved your expensive laptops from crashing display first to the office floor when that klutz, Pekka from accounting, stepped on the cord.
The MagSafe wasn’t the best connector because when you were late for the 7:45 AM bus to work, you ran out of the kitchen so fast, coffee in hand, that you tripped on the cord and didn’t fall flat on your face.
The MagSafe wasn’t the best connector because it would never snap and break inside your laptop, no matter how hard or at whichever awkward angle you pulled it.
The MagSafe was the best connector because it was fun. It was effortless. It gave you wonderful audible reassurance when you connected it: *klak* – everything is OK again. It was that technological wizardry that only Apple can create. It was magical.
The new MacBook Pro is solid and better than ever, but I’m sad to see the MagSafe go.
Back in the good old times, you could swap a VW Beetle engine in just over a minute or improvise a fan belt out of pantyhose. A new S-class Mercedes Benz has 64 ECUs and a Nissan GT-R’s factory tires are filled with nitrogen. I don’t even want to guess how many degrees you’d need to work on a Tesla.
While a modern car is arguably a better product than the car of the past, they’ve in some cases become impossible to fix unless you’re a mechanic with expensive diagnostic tools and specialized expertise. A simple battery jump start might fry all the electronics and effectively write off the car. The shift in who can fix what, whether it be intentional or unintentional, has clearly tilted from the consumer to the dealership.
The same trend can be observed in laptops and smartphones. Way back in 2003 (two years before YouTube launched), Casey Neistat and his brother Van Neistat filmed the viral hit “iPod’s Dirty Secret” where Casey was quoted over 200$ for a refurb when his iPod’s battery died and then proceeded to stencil Apple posters in NYC with this fact. While all old Nokia phones had a removable battery, that hasn’t been the case for most smartphones for years. MacBook Pros have had a fixed battery for years and the 2016 model has soldered storage and memory chips, making upgrading impossible. Again, a clear shift of power from the consumer to the manufacturer.
What’s going on here? Is it planned obsolescence? Is it designing without compromise? Is it both? Should or can consumers do something about it? Are we at a point where technology becomes obsolete so fast there’s no point in fixing it? Should Apple sacrifice a few millimeters and a few grams to make their devices more modular?
Right now I have a lot of questions and not very many answers.
Every now and then I find myself defending why I think the MacBook Pro is the best laptop money can buy. People bring up the high price and the seemingly underpowered GPU and CPU. They bring up examples of cheaper laptops and desktop machines with better specs, and in a way, they’re not wrong. If your main concern at the end of the day is raw performance, don’t get a MBP. In fact, if you have a choice in the matter, don’t get a laptop in the first place.
Most laptops sold today shouldn’t be called laptops. When the consumer switch from desktop PC towers to laptops started somewhere in the mid 00s, a new term should have been coined for these devices: dragtop.
In my mind there’s a clear difference between the two:
Laptops are designed for people who rely on getting work done while sitting on a plane or on a train. Laptops have a long battery life, they’re compact and are built to last (this post was typed on a early 2011 MacBook Pro). Laptops manufacturers provide excellent warranties and customer service.
Dragtops are portable computers which mimic what laptops do, badly. Dragtops are heavy, have a short battery life and their build quality and physical design is lacking. Dragtops fall somewhere in between desktop computers and laptops, not living up to either standard. Dragtops have better specs than laptops, but worse than desktops.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate “dragtops”. I used to own one myself and they’re a perfectly good, valid choice for most people looking for an inexpensive computer. I do however feel frustrated at times trying to justify my hardware choices, even (or especially) to other IT professionals. I hope this short post helps to convey my thoughts on the matter.