Apple, it could be said; Often late to the party, but always arrives with the Jagermeister.
On the heels of the of the announcement of the larger iPhone 6 and the “not iWatch”, its apparent Apple for better or worse are better at refining other peoples ideas than innovating. Historically the most enduring and well embraced products Apple have produced are ones that they have observed, assimilated and redesigned from others.
Arguably the design specification and operation of their products may lack the Swiss army knife approach of Android, but in not providing you everything you think you want, they manage to give you everything you need. With Android I was promised I could tinker endlessly, and I did often to my own frustration, with iOS I couldn’t and discovered I didn’t miss it at all. Of course with dictating Apple knows best they have garnered a lot of haters and parody as a result.
I find Apple’s approach of streamlining, simplifying and perfecting technology to be perfectly fine. The only people that willingly want to live in a world of arcane ass backwards, needlessly complex, frustrating non integrated systems are the ones that want to puff out their chests and squeak “Yeah, I know about computers and stuff, no big deal.” I should know, I used to be one of those guys.
Authors note: This is a Fanboy free zone. I am not a Fanboy of Apple Products, I am not a yearly upgrader of Apple Products. As I have matured I can see the pros and cons of competing systems, platforms and technology. Now, all I care about is having devices that work for me, that present the least barriers between creativity, productivity and getting the result I want to achieve. In my ever advancing years I have completely become my Dad and “I just want things to fucking work damnit!”
5. The Gui / Mouse driven interface
Apple did bring about the first widely available personal computer, that was all them, well mainly Steve Wozniak, but still not really something they stole. The operating system that came later however was.
The Graphical User Interface or GUI originally an experimental prototype which was later released as Xerox Star produced by Xerox-Parc (Palo Alto Research Centre). It was lost on the management who figuratively and actually did not know what they had in their hands. Much to the despair of Parc’s development team, who did have an idea of how important their work was, could see it walking out the door with Steve Jobs and his merry band of pirates. Apple’s vision of personal computing took decades to come to fruition and ferment into delicious technological cider. Much butthurt was later experienced when Gates stole what Jobs stole first. Not letting that get in the way of being best frenemies forever, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had a common interest in seeing a computer in every home and their hands firmly in everyone’s pocket. Even they never imagined a day would come when it would be computer in everyone’s pocket instead.
Ultimately the Graphical User Interface made computers more accessible to a wider cross section of people than ever before, this is really what drove the personal computer market, more so than the hardware. Without the personal computer arms race, we would be left with only large companies having access to computers for business purposes only. Think about how many small business, designers, artists, musicians and movie makers would never have had the access to tools without this groundswell.
4. The Mp3 player
The first concept of a digital music player designed in 1979 by Kane Kramer which predates even the Walkman, which was the most influential device since the car radio to make such an impact on how and where we listen to music. I fear generations of people would never have been conceived without the musical mood setting of car radios parked up in lovers lanes everywhere. The Discman suffered from its inability to absorb impacts without having to buffer the music first, skipping tracks and having a less pocket friendly footprint. Minidisc was a step in the right direction, but limited fidelity and uptake of the technology prevented it from gaining acceptance. Portable mp3 devices had been around since 1998 with the Audible music player being the first production volume device, a good 3 years before iPod became the face of the portable music revolution.
The iPod with its mighty storage, easy to navigate interface and clean lines became as much a fashion statement as a gadget. Although definitely intended in its obsessive design it showed a particular combination of love and envy that could be placed on an object. Mp3 players were suddenly leveraged into anything and everything. Music availability (aka piracy) thanks to Napster was easier than ever before. On top of this Steve Jobs also single handedly brought the draconian music industry to heel with iTunes, want to bitch about how Apple is a faceless corporation bent on fucking every last bit of cash out of the consumer? The music industry had that shit on lock-down for almost a century until the mp3 revolution tore their world apart. Indie artists suddenly had a viable forum to release their own music bypassing the stagnant and corrupt music industry. The ultimatum to the record companies was this: You can either make your artists music easily available for a reasonable price and charge the same for all your songs individually or be pirated to death, up to you.
3. The Smart-Phone
Do you remember when Nokia was a figurative phone superpower? When Motorolas Razr flip phone was the object of desire for every teenage girl? Suddenly phones could do a lot more than just make a call, send a text or check the time. It was the Wild West of Smart Phone development, the gold-rush brought so much market fragmentation and very little parity between services or devices.
Interestingly pre-iPhone, Apple had looked into integrating its iTunes capabilities from its iPods into a phone. A short lived partnership was formed with Motorola and the music player marketed phone, Rokr. Touch screens were a mostly stylus driven affair and were not all that accurate. To bring out a Smart-phone that was entirely touch-screen based with no keypad was unthinkable to most people at the time. In 2007 Apple rolled out the first multi touch-screen Smart-Phone, this triggered a huge production revolution in touch screen smart phones which has showed no sign in abating.
Samsung have recently released a phone that can turn into an occulus rift style VR device and one with a curved screen for control icons. It looks amazing to me, and yet no one cares, only the niche few will buy them, the marketing guys will scratch their heads and blame it on Apple Fanboys.
2. The Tablet
There is much litigation on who had the idea for tablets first, which is rather ridiculous anyway, somewhere out there is a descendant of the first caveman to build a wheel flinging shit at a Ford dealership. With the tablet there would be a long list of cavemen lining up.
But what is clear is that Apple had tried to market the Newton PDA during the 90s, it never caught on and was allowed to die in obsolescence. Microsoft gave it a go in 1999 with their own tablet pc which suffered a similar amount of indifference due to its weight, bulk, application ecosystem and battery performance. It wasn’t until a decade later the tablet would go through its boom.
In 2010 Apple produced the iPad. I was one of the first to mock “If only it was smaller and could take calls.” I later choked on my words after using one for a while, I have owned 3 models since. Initially I resisted Apple hard, buying an early prototype Android tablet, that although technically superior to the iPad was just was not anywhere near as satisfying experience wise. I sold it within a month, took a loss and still covered my purchase of an iPad 2. That didn’t put me off Android as a platform, but at that time to get the best experience you had to do a lot of tinkering, conversely with iOS and Apple I already knew the level of quality I was buying into.
1. Smart watch
In this regard, my dad had the current Smart Watch fixation beat by 20 years and can rightfully claim total hipster street cred by owning a Casio Databank watch. He used it for storing numbers and names much the way your current phone contact list does.
Within the last 4 years there has been a push from companies to have a smart watch device, It still seems that its for the most part no one knows what its meant to be. Is it a phone enhancement, or replacement. Why wouldn’t I just use my phone for what it does, it measures my fitness activity and heart rate, does it know I’m masturbating, is it judging me? If the previous examples are anything to go by these devices didn’t find their identity until Apple released a product as a benchmark, now its here it will only become more refined with every iteration going forward.
Its clear that these products were around prior to Apple getting hold of them. But would they have progressed without Apple being a part of it, would they be where they are today? Arguably a resounding no. If nothing else Apple has been a rallying cry to companies, designers and developers everywhere to push all of these aspects further, lift your game or be left behind. Criticisms about the disparity in prices between Apple and others should first consider how much any devices would cost if subject to construction in first world countries and first world labour union law, also consider the Vertu Ti Android phone that sells for $10,000 presumably to Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. We pay far less for these devices than we have any right to.
Its like comparing a Holden Commodore, a Lexus, and a Bugati, they are all cars and they essentially do the same thing, you pay for the badge, the design and the features. A Holden may still smoke a Bugatti under the right conditions. Its the same deal with phones, although the race losing phone brand may turn to a life of drugs, crime and prostitution.
Certainly some devices have better specifications and have had for some time over whatever Apple’s latest offering may hold. The ability to be greater than the sum of its parts from the design, build quality, application ecosystem and user experience of Apples products is undeniable. In every case mentioned here, everyone else had ample opportunity to produce something better, but until Apple took a crack at it, it was clear no one really knew what they were doing.
So even if you are staunchly anti-Apple whatever it is that you are pro would not be as good as it is without them.