You read that right. Apple is actually listening to its users more so than it has ever done so in perhaps the last two decades. It is not maintaining its storied drumming of “we know better”. While the legendary silicon valley company has often been proven right, in the recent past its “we know better” mantra has backfired which is why this is a great thing. The new iPhones, AirPods, Mac Pro, MacBook Pro 16-inch, MacBook Air and iPad Pro are all classic examples 0f a company that’s turning a corner and listening more. Let’s take a look at why this is a good thing.
Apple’s missteps have made it humbler
- In 2013, Apple launched the Mac Pro with the now-famous trash can design. Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime senior VP for worldwide marketing pompously announced it at WWDC and proclaimed “can’t innovate my ass”. Of course, this was a gorgeous machine, but its concept was hinged on the fact that creators would adapt external expansion modes like thunderbolt and eGPUs. It was also locked into a thermal corner which Apple admitted on its own which prevented bold upgrades in the ensuing years. On top of that, the fact that a pro workstation wasn’t upgradable hit Apple hard because its Intel Xeon and AMD GPU based setup made it obsolete in just half a decade. Apple was also caught out by its feud with Nvidia which had become the standard in GPUs; by default, the Mac Pro was behind in graphics despite its dual channel system as its design limited its thermal envelope which would be revealed to a trend that plagues a generation of Apple products.
- In 2014, the iPhone 6 came out to great pomp and grandeur. However, this phone was immediately struck with controversy. Be it its grotesque antenna lines which made this one of the ugliest iPhones of all time to bend-gate which a result of the phone being overly thin. In 2015, Apple made a stronger iPhone 6s and introduced 3D touch as a groundbreaking new user interface, however, it failed to catch the fancy of the audience. By 2018, Apple removed 3D Touch in the iPhone XR only to be completely vanquished from the iPhone 11 Pro in 2019. In 2016, when the iPhone 7 came out based on the same iPhone 6 template, Apple did another user-hostile thing — it removed the 3.5mm headphone jack but luckily that blow was padded by the incredulous rise of the AirPods which started the wireless earbuds phenomenon.
- 2016’s MacBook Pro can be counted as Apple’s biggest faux pas in hardware since the company was revitalised by Steve Jobs in the late 90s. Apple’s new MacBook Pro came with its new butterfly keyboard design which it debuted in the retina MacBook a year earlier. This keyboard was notorious for having very low travel which made it uncomfortable for many. It also has the propensity to get muddled with dust particles which made it non-functional. This went on for 3 years with Apple having to have a programme for fixing the keyboard. Every year it even brought minor revisions to the keyboard, but it was clear people hated it. The once legendary MacBook keyboard was now known for all the wrong reasons because Apple wanted to make the notebook slimmer.
- In 2018, the Core i9 version of the MacBook Pro had another gaffe of its own. On paper, this was supposed to be one of the most powerful workstation notebooks on the planet, but clearly its performance came with caveats. It certainly provided an impeccable balance between power and mobility but for many Apple had shoehorned an ultra-hot CPU inside the frame of its famously slim MacBook Pro which couldn’t handle the heat generated by such a powerful CPU. This resulted in this machine throttling coupled with a firmware issue it had at launch. Since 2016, these MacBook Pro models were also gated by Intel’s limited gains in performance on the chip side which further exasperated Apple’s problems.
- In 2017, when Apple launched the iPhone X, it increased the average selling price to Rs 99,900. This was obviously the 10th edition of the iPhone which also featured a major redesign of the iPhone for the first time in three years. However, it also marked Apple falling behind in battery life and photography. In 2017, Google’s Pixel 2 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 smartphones proved that Apple had its work cut out in imaging while becoming even more expensive a product to own. This was also the year Apple was caught out throttling older iPhones using iOS 11 to enhance the life of its battery. Apple didn’t communicate this as a feature and it faced a lot of backlash from customers. Apple also removed Touch ID, a biometrics technology, it had helped proliferate on smartphones much to dislike of customers instead of Face ID which was a facial recognition system.
- Other design oddities like the first generation Apple Pencil which would get charged via the lightning port on the iPad proved to be a stupid design choice for a company known famously for its aesthetic. Another similar act of stupidity was committed by the Mac hardware team on the Magic mouse which had a lightning port below the surface of the mouse. This meant that one couldn’t use the mouse while charging it.
These are some of the most high profile gaffes which have culminated in Apple listening more to its users more and more. And the fruits are now coming to bear in its more recent products. These products may not exude the magic or wow of the Apple of old, but for sure these are best in class gadgets which appeal to the masses as well as pros.
Apple’s new products that are more user-friendly
- iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro: The iPhone 11 Pro is a culmination of Apple’s failings in the last 5 years since the iPhone 6. It’s not the thinnest phone, if fact, the iPhone 11 Pro feels hefty. This has allowed Apple to cram an enormously powerful chip in the A13 bionic which comes with a neural engine and is the first smartphone chip to have twin machine learning cores which make it outwardly in performance. Apple has rid 3D Touch for haptic touch which has allowed it to add a massive battery which also charges quickly with 18W charger in the package. iOS 12 and iOS 13 in the last couple of years have made the iPhone faster and made Siri smarter while also doubling down on privacy. Apple has also caught up to Google in smartphone still photography with the new triple camera system while offering the best video on a smartphone. Pound for pound, the iPhone 11 Pro is the best phone in the world. It may not excite you from the outside, but it will dazzle you when you start using it. And that’s what technology is all about and Apple has been for the better with all these failings in the last couple of years.
- iPad Pro 12.9 with iPad OS: 2018’s iPad Pro was just astounding. Its full screen design meant that users didn’t only have a full canvas but it had the 120Hz pro-motion refresh rate, innate Apple calibre colours, a faster new Apple pencil which charged magnetically and an A12X chip that was faster than most MacBook Pros and graphics that matched if not beat the Xbox One S; this was a mad show of what Apple’s hardware engineering teams could achieve. To add to the pro credence, Apple even ditched its lightning connector and added USB Type C like the MacBook Pro. But at launch, its software wasn’t on the same level as the hardware. It was basically the same thing as the what you were getting on the iPhone, however, Apple rectified this year with iPadOS which now had support for an updated files app that could read files from external sources like USB drives, a new browser which was desktop-class truly and could handle web apps, and a brand new gesture-based interface for more advanced computing.
- Mac Mini 2018: The Mac Mini was perhaps the most neglected Apple product of all time. And then in 2018, Apple launched it was bold new ambition — giving it tons of firepower with the new Intel processors, expansion slots, the ability to daisy chain two machines as one and even having the ability to upgrade the RAM manually. This new Mac Mini is so powerful that it’s not only the entry point to the world of Apple’s way of computing but its a better machine for most people, even power users, over the iMac. This was the most un-Apple like Mac in years and I’m so glad for it.
- iMac Pro: The iMac Pro which was announced in 2017 was a direct response to the fact that the Mac Pro wasn’t living up to the expectations of Apple’s pro customers. It had server-grade hardware, a new slice space grey colour but also int retained the design of the iMac which was iconic. Essentially, it was a Mac Pro which couldn’t be upgraded and had an advanced display. It was meant for an audience which liked the iMac but just wished that it had some more horsepower in it. The iMac Pro had oodles of horsepower and it was a preamble to the Mac Pro which lands in the next couple of weeks.
- MacBook Air 2018: It took Apple 7 years to overhaul the design of its most popular notebook – but its good that it took Apple 7 years because its missteps with the MacBook Pro were behind it by the time the MacBook Air camera out. Sure, it still had the butterfly keyboard but retained a very evolved version of the keyboard which was clicky and wasn’t prone to dust acclamation as the first generation of the keyboard on the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models. It also a decently powerful chip supplemented by Apple’s T2 processor and it incorporated modern niceties like Touch ID, a new Apple design language alongside the much-needed upgrade to the Retina display. It may not wow people like its predecessor, but is a rock-solid workhorse which will just impress the Apple faithful.
- 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch: The latest product that gets a fix is the new MacBook Pro which Apple announced a week ago — the new 16-inch MacBook Pro. Apple has turned a corner with this one — it has an all-new thermal design which allows it to power a core i9 8-core 9th generation Intel processor and while doing so supposedly comes with a new scissor keyboard which is said to be way more reliable than its hated butterfly keyboard. It also got a new 6 speaker audio system which is said to be very cool and there are new whiz-bang things like a studio microphone and of course the new edge to edge 16-inch Retina display which moves upwards from the 15-inch model. Apple is even keeping the price at Rs 199,900 which means this will not totally break your bank considering what you’re buying. This one is a pro move by Apple.
- Mac Pro: Last but not the least is Apple’s most expensive product — the Mac Pro which is geared towards creative professionals. It gets its update after 5 years. Apple’s new Mac Pro harkens back to the past with a modular design with a unique thermal design that will remind you of a “cheese grater” with its unique lattice pattern and quietness levels of the iMac Pro. Internally, it can support up to a 28-core Intel Xeon processors, a new PCI bus and an xPCI bus which can host not only two AMD Vega 2 cards but two infinity fabric links and a new custom afterburner card for video editing. This is also coupled with a new 6K XDR display giving “Pro” cinema reference monitors a run for their money at a fraction of the price. These twins drop next month across the world.
Apart from this Apple has been crushing the competition with its new and fast-growing wearable business. Both the AirPods and the Apple Watch have been established as standards in the wearable space which makes the new Apple a formidable company now that it listens to the users.