Shifting the Blame: Giving Apple responsibility for the industry's choices

14 June 2018

You know what we should blame Apple for? Things other companies have done. Seems like a great idea. Someone should do tha—

“Apple killed fun”

Quartz’s Mike Murphy is one step ahead of Uluroo. The title you’ll find in the tab bar is “Apple’s design language has killed fun in consumer electronics” but for conciseness’ sake it’s been shortened to the much simpler “Apple killed fun.” How depressing.

What has Apple done to, um, end the life of an abstract concept?

There was a time when visiting Apple’s website, or one of its stores, was an explosion of color.

Murphy includes a 2008 screenshot of the Apple homepage, and it does not make Uluroo nostalgic. While it certainly is an “explosion of color,” that screenshot is proof that explosions of color are not necessarily “fun” or a good thing. Although it certainly sounds “fun” to attempt to navigate that homepage.

Murphy briefly reminisces on Steve Jobs’ return to Apple and the subsequent introduction of a bunch of playful products such as the original iMac and the iPhone 5c. Now, though, Apple products are totally boring.

Today, the only colors you’ll find on Apple products is black, white, shades of grey, and occasionally, gold. We don’t even have rose gold anymore.

Uluroo isn’t sure where this information is coming from because rose gold is still an option on the MacBook, the iPad Pro, the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6s, the iPhone SE, and the iPhone 7 — all of which you can buy from Apple right now. But yes, Apple’s highest-end devices like the iPhone X and MacBook Pro do not have a lot of color options.

Real pops of color are reserved for accessories like watch bands and phone cases.

Exactly. And the vast majority of people use cases and obviously watch bands. If you want a lot of color, get a colorful case. You probably would have gotten a case anyway.

Something changed over the last decade. Perhaps it was the hiring of Angela Ahrendts from Burberry to run Apple’s retail division and her increasing influence within the company.

Right. That makes sense. Ahrendts joined the company in 2014, and this transition has supposedly been happening for longer than the past four years. And it certainly seems logical that the retail head would have influence over Jony Ive’s design choices.

Perhaps it’s just because metal looks more premium than plastic does. For whatever reason, Apple looks and acts far more like a luxury brand than a consumer-technology brand in 2018.

Well, Murphy is right that metal (along with glass) certainly looks more premium and better in general. But Apple is basically a luxury consumer-technology brand. It gives people more than they actually need. And its products are generally more expensive. Plastic is cheap.

Before the iPhone (and for a little while after), phone designs were wacky as hell. They had sliders , bizarre button layouts , fold-out keyboards , removable fronts and backs , and trackballs . Nokia had an entire line of phones that seemed dedicated to trying out new ideas. None of them worked out, really, but it was still fun to try.

Terrible user experiences are so much fun! We want more of them!

For the past decade, everyone rushes out to copy whatever Apple does.

This is certainly Apple’s fault. “Hey, everyone! Copy this, please!”

Dozens of Android smartphone manufacturers imitated the iPhone X’s notched-top design, and many have removed home buttons and headphone jacks as Apple has.

How is this Apple’s fault?

Some even have glass backs like the iPhone, even when there’s no technological reason to have one.

Any Android fan will remind you that Android phones had glass backs long before iPhones did. How non-factual do we want to go?

In short, it’s now difficult to tell one smartphone from another, whether it costs $500 or $1,000.

We should really blame Apple, rather than its dozens of copycats, for this lack of variety. Wonderful idea.

By refining its products to near-impenetrable pieces of glass and metal, and bringing the aesthetic of the entire consumer electronics market along with them, Apple has stamped out much of the fun within its own company, and the greater industry.

How exactly has Apple propagated this change of mood through the entire industry? The Apple haters will be quick to tell you that Apple’s products account for a very small portion of their respective markets. How then would they have such an influence over the entire industry’s design choices? Because the other companies made the decision to rip them off.

There are no smartphones that take real design risks these days…

Because Apple forces them not to. This seems totally logical.

Even beyond phones, high-end laptops emulate the MacBook , tablets are samey , and everything else is still pretty much just a black box.

This is Apple’s fault because…?

Perhaps others in the industry will look for ways to succeed beyond just drafting in Apple’s wake, and find something valuable in a return to color and joy.

In the meantime, though, Apple is twisting other companies’ arms behind their backs to make them copy its designs.

What is Murphy talking about? First of all, the fun is not completely gone in Apple’s designs. Murphy himself acknowledges this by pointing out examples like Animoji and that weird HomePod advertisement. Uluroo will also point out that although he hasn’t tried this himself, he’s read that it’s very fun to open and close the AirPods case over and over again. According to some, Face ID is also a lot of fun to use. It’s supposed to be, anyway.

But more ridiculously, Murphy claims that Apple is responsible for the whole industry’s imitation of its design. Apple didn’t kill the “fun” that came with the diversity in the early smartphone market, Samsung and everyone else who copied it did. Why are we blaming Apple for the industry’s choices when Apple has no control over what other companies do?

It’s not surprising that a few people took to Twitter to alert Murphy of the, um, slight inaccuracy of his article. *iMore*’s Rene Ritchie points out a few problems :

Interesting thesis but “facts” as presented seem wildly off. Shift towards aluminum began under Jobs and long before Ahrendts. MacBook/Watch are still in rose gold. 8 is copper gold and red. 5c, post-Jobs, was in a ton of fun colors. Cases still are…

If iPhone 5c had resonated more with consumers we’d be seeing more colors in the line.

Good points. Murphy responded by saying the iPhone 5c’s failure was because of its positioning and competition, not necessarily consumer rejection. Then Ritchie responded again:

I think the positioning was good. The attempt was to replicate iPod nano success in the iPhone line with colors and shelf-friendly packaging.

To which Murphy very logically replied:

ty for Apple-splaining

No defense was given for Murphy’s piece. Just an attack on the nature of Ritchie’s response. When Ritchie tried to shift things back to an actual discussion, here’s what Murphy said.

You’re defending the richest company in the world for… reasons?… and you really have no interest in a discussion, you just want to show you know a lot about Apple. You work for a publication with “i” at the start of its name.

Great ad hominem attack.

Why is Uluroo documenting this Twitter conversation? Because it’s clear that Murphy doesn’t want to actually defend his piece. Maybe it’s indefensible. Murphy’s justifying his logic-defying attack on Apple by saying it’s rich and that there’s no reason to defend a rich company.

And Ritchie wasn’t trying to show off his knowledge of Apple. It seemed that Murphy wanted to show off his lack of knowledge of Apple. Ritchie didn’t do anything wrong by stating some facts that contradicted Murphy’s fiction.

So, to recap:

First, Apple has not destroyed the fun in its own designs. Sure, Apple devices are more premium now, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be fun sometimes, especially on the software side. They’re getting the right balance of fun and finesse.

Second, it’s ridiculous to say that Apple is responsible for the fact that the entire industry has followed its lead. These other companies are autonomous; they made the choice to rip Apple off. It’s not Apple’s fault that virtually every modern smartphone is derivative of the original iPhone. Uluroo isn’t even saying it’s bad that companies have been inspired by Apple, he’s saying that Apple hasn’t caused it to happen.

Finally, Murphy himself has no real response to a logical critique of this article. When he was presented with facts, he resorted to personal attacks. He tried to shift the focus away from his own work and onto those who disagreed with him.

If you were looking for a ridiculous article whose author would go to ridiculous lengths to “defend” it, well, today’s your lucky day.