Divining Apple’s Wearable Design

John Kirk / July 12th, 2014

Most of the wearables on the market today are an experiment in artificial stupidity. Rather than solve problems, they create them. Using a wearable today is like using a screwdriver to cut roast beef.

A good design introduces enough unfamiliarity to be interesting, but not so much as to be annoying. ~ John Maeda (@johnmaeda)

Don’t get me wrong. Today’s wearables should not be tossed aside lightly. They should instead be thrown with great force.1 In fact, that reminds me of a riddle:

QUESTION: If you throw the Samsung Galaxy Gear off the Eiffel Tower and you throw the Moto 360 off the tower of Pisa, which one would hit the ground first?

ANSWER: Who cares?

CAPTION: Today’s Wearable Marketplace

How do I know Android wearables are a terrible idea? China doesn’t even steal them and make knockoffs. ~ The grugq (@thegrugq) 7/10/14

What’s Missing?

Most companies are full of processes designed to solve problems from a long time ago. ~ John Maeda (@johnmaeda)

Today’s smartwatches are going nowhere because they’re using tomorrow’s technology to provide yesterday’s solutions to problems that no one has today. But what about tomorrows’ wearables? Apple is rumored to be bringing out a line of their own wearables this Fall and Apple is well-known for their design prowess.

Will Apple use design to differentiate their product?

“I think a lot of people see design primarily as a means to differentiate their product competitively,” Ive said. “I really detest that.”

Hmm. Maybe not.

Perhaps Apple’s wearables will be better because they will have better technology.

We don’t buy things because they have better technology; we buy them because they’re better designed. ~ johnmaeda (@johnmaeda)

Hmm. Maybe not that either.

Or perhaps Apple’s wearables will be better by design.

Design is so critical it should be on the agenda of every meeting in every single department. ~ Tom Peters

I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much. It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod. ~ Steve Jobs

Ah, design. That’s what’s missing in today’s wearables and that’s where Apple shines.

We’re the only company that owns the whole widget — the hardware, the software, and the operating system. We can take full responsibility for the user experience. We can do things that the other guy can’t do. ~ Steve Jobs

Dieter Rams’s Design Principles

Steve Jobs and Jony Ive were admirers of Dieter Rams, a famous designer for Braun, who had a number of mottos and aphorisms about design. Let’s look at seven of his design principles and see how they apply to current and potential wearable devices.



A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it. ~ Dieter Rams

Today’s wearables are not very useful. In fact, they’re more work than they’re worth. Surveys show most of today’s wearables end up in a drawer after about three months of use.

If notifications are to be useful on your wrist then they can’t just be a mirror of the ones on your phone. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)

At best, today’s wearables duplicate the functionality of a smartphone on a form factor not well suited for performing smartphone functions. Now what does that remind me of? Oh yeah, trying to cram a desktop operating system into a tablet form factor. How’d that work out?

Tablet PC Specification

CAPTION: The first public prototype of a Tablet PC (2001). It ran the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition2 operating system3

Good design isn’t about being pretty, it’s about solving a tangible problem. Today’s wearables are answers searching for a question. If wearables are to have any tomorrows, it will be because they provide a startlingly good answer to the unidentified, undefined, unmet needs of today.

If we want to forecast what Apple is going to introduce in wearables, we need to stop thinking about what is on the market today. In 2007, what we wanted was an iPod and a phone. What we got was an iPod and a phone and an internet communicator and (a year later) an app store. What we got was a computer in our pocket. The iPhone didn’t give us what we wanted, it gave us what we needed. The same will be true of wearables.


It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory. ~ Dieter Rams

Below is the remote control that came with the Sony Google TV.


— Not understandable.
— Not self-explanatory.
— Not good design.

A well designed product doesn’t merely do your work, it also works the way you do.

There was a debate [on the Lisa] team about the mouse. Was it going to have a mouse, and how many buttons should it have? Steve and I wanted one button, because if there’s one button, you never have to think about it. One of the former Xerox guys argued for six buttons. He said, “Look, bartenders have six buttons on those drink dispensers, and they can handle it.” But that was a failure to understand what Steve was trying to do with user experience. ~ Trip Hawkins, excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.”

If you’re designing a product and your customer has to think about how to use it, then you’re not done designing.

Design makes what is complex feel simpler, and makes what is simpler feel richer. ~ johnmaeda (@johnmaeda)

If we want to forecast what Apple is going to introduce in wearables, we need to stop thinking smartphone interface on a watch form factor. Think monitor on a computer (Apple II), a mouse on your desk and GUI interface on your screen (Macintosh), a shuttle wheel in your hand (iPod), and a touch interface on glass (iPhone and iPad). If wearables deserve to be a separate category, then they deserve a form of input uniquely suited to their size and form factor.


Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression. ~ Dieter Rams

Good design gets design out of the way. If it’s done right, it seems inevitable. The best designs feel almost as if they were undesigned because they’re just the way you would expect them to be.

The word that comes up over and over again when describing good design is “disappears”. Here are some quotes, to illustrate:

The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life. ~ Bill Gates

I like things that do the job and kind of disappear into my life. ~ Steve Jobs

If it disappears, we know we’ve done it. ~ Craig Federighi

Technology is at its best and its most empowering when it simply disappears ~ Jony Ive

Herein lies another clue for us all. If we want to forecast what Apple is going to introduce in wearables, we need to stop thinking in terms of what the device can do and start thinking in terms of what the device will allow us to do. A well designed wearable will not make us do more. Instead, it will allow us to accomplish more while we do less. It will not impose its way of doing things upon us. Rather, it will allow us to impose our way of doing, upon those things, that we need done.


It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept. ~ Dieter Rams

Here is Steve Jobs, describing the iMac in 2002:

(Why not) let each element be true to itself? If the screen is flat, let it be flat. If the computer wants to be horizontal, let it be horizontal.

Now compare that sentiment to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, in one-handed operation mode. Ironically, in the image below, the one-handed mode is being demoed with the use of two hands.


— Not honest.
— Not true to itself.
— Not good design.


Abraham Maslow said: “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.” The same is true of devices. Good design doesn’t make a device better than it is. It doesn’t even make a device better. Good design fulfills a device’s destiny. It makes it what is and what it was always meant to be.

If we want to forecast what Apple is going to introduce in wearables, we need to think about allowing a wearable to be true to itself. A wearable will be small. A wearable may be in contact with our body. A wearable will be persistent. A wearable will be proximate. Does a monitor — which is large and battery draining — work within the constraints of small and persistent? I doubt it.

We need to stop thinking “watch” and start thinking sensors (which are small and in contact with our body) ID (which is persistent) information, payments and security (which is proximate). In fact, we need to stop thinking about what a wearable can DO and start thinking about the WHERE of wearables. Wearables may not need to DO anything at all. They may just need to be in the same place and space that we are. That may be their true calling. And that may be more than enough to make them invaluable.


It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society. ~ Dieter Rams

There has been much talk in the tech press of Apple becoming more of a fashion shop.

Might Apple have a future as a fashion conglomerate? – CNET

Apple Has Gone Full-Fashion With Its Newest Executive Hire – Refinery29

Apple Looks to Fashion as it Preps for iWatch – Esquire

I think this talk is misguided.

The following epitomizes fashion:

Fashion is something that goes in one year and out the other. ~ Denise Klahn

Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months. ~ Oscar Wilde

Fashion is made to become unfashionable. ~ Coco Chanel

Apple is a Design Shop. Design is about style. Design is about aesthetics. Design is about long lasting.

Fashions change, but style is forever. ~ Anonymous

Fashion changes, style remains. ~ Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

Good design doesn’t date. ~ Harry Seidler

Design IS beautiful, not because it tries to be, but because it MUST be:

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty … but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller


CAPTION: If it looks well, it flies well — aesthetics and performance relate.

I think this may provide us with the biggest clue as to what Apple is NOT going to do in wearables. If we want to forecast what Apple is going to introduce in wearables, we need to stop thinking “watch” and we need to stop thinking “fashion.” Apple will not create a device that is decorative and a slave to fashion. Fashion changes far too quickly. Apple will seek, instead, to make something that is long lasting and enduring. That most probably means an Apple wearable will be restrained, unobtrusive, barely noticeable, virtually invisible.


Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity. ~ Dieter Rams

Robert Browning said, “less is more”4 and there is a lot of truth contained in that pithy paradoxical platitude. However, when it comes to design, I much prefer Dieter Rams’ “less, but better”. It encapsulates — in three words — the concept of good design being as little design as possible.

Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and procedures. ~ Tom Peters

What is left out … is as important as, if not more important than, what is put in. ~ Katherine Paterson

See it big, and keep it simple. ~ Wilferd A. Peterson

‘Think simple’ as my old master used to say – meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms…. ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Good design subtracts features yet increases functionality

Features add complexity. Complexity adds functionality. Good design is paradoxical. It subtracts features while simultaneously increasing functionality. A good design finds an elegant way to put all the features you need in. A great design leaves half those features out.5)

A work is perfectly finished only when nothing can be added to it and nothing taken away. ~ Joseph Joubert

Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away… ~ Antoine De Saint-exupery

The philosophy (at Apple) was never stated, but it was this: Get rid of all the junk you didn’t need. ~ Tom Suiter, director of Apple creative services6

If we want to forecast what Apple is going to introduce in wearables, we need to stop thinking “features”, need to start thinking essentials and need to focus on minimalism — doing the most with the least. That’s why I think an Apple wearable will be more like a band than a watch. But no matter what form the Apple wearable takes, look for it to be less than you expect, yet do more than you might initially anticipate.


There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for. – Milton Glaser

There are no “wow” wearable devices on the market today. In fact, I’d venture to say our initial reaction to today’s wearables has been closer to “Yikes!”

The future lies in designing and selling computers that people don’t realize are computers at all. ~ Adam Osborne

Let me repeat that, because I love it so much. The future lies in designing and selling computers that people don’t realize are computers at all.

That about says it all, so I’ll say little more. We won’t have to guess when wearabables get it right. We’ll simply know, because we’ll stop thinking about how much better wearables have become and start thinking, instead, about how much better our lives have become.

Post Script

Thoughts on my thoughts? Leave a comment, below, or contact me on Twitter @johnkirk.

  1. With apologies to the great Dorothy Parker []
  2. You’ve gotta love Microsoft’s naming conventions. []
  3. Bill Gates of Microsoft showed the first public prototype of a Tablet PC (defined by Microsoft as a pen-computer allows hardware in accordance with the specifications made by Microsoft and running a licensed copy of the operating system “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition”) at COMDEX. []
  4. Popularized by the German-born American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe []
  5. Inspired by Mike Monteiro (@Mike_FTW []
  6. Excerpt From: Max Chafkin. “Design Crazy.” []

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Space Gorilla

    “The future lies in designing and selling computers that people don’t realize are computers at all.”

    Yep. And of course the old guard will argue that these devices aren’t really computers. All the while normal people don’t care, they’re just getting things done with their evil non-computers.

    I’ve long thought Apple’s wearable goo will be more like sensor accessories for the iPhone (mobile hub). The band seems logical since the wrist is an easy place to wear something, but Apple is good at making things small, their wearables could take other forms as well (Star Trek communicator). I think people underestimate just how valuable ID is going to be. That function alone would be enough for me to wear an iBand, iBracelet, iD, whatever they call it. But as I’m over 40, the constant monitoring of certain aspects of my health would also be enough to make it worth wearing (20-somethings, even 30-somethings, totally don’t get that).

    • Brian M. Monroe

      I agree. What most normal non geeks (tech nerds) want is the technology to disappear so they do not have to think about it. Most people buy products it is to do things not for the technology. This is why user interfaces on computers have advanced from the CLI (Command Line Interface) where you had to remember a lot of stupid commands to get things done to GUI (Graphical User Interface) where the commands where front and center to now TUI (Touch User Interface) where the commands almost disappear and you tap on things and they just happen like magic. Next up is VUI (Voice User Interface) that I see as the holy grail in UI’s where you talk to the computer and it does what you ask it to. Just like the master computer on Star Trek TNG.

      I also agree that ID is more than likely going to be key to Apple’s wearable device. Now that Apple has iCloud Keychain sync going I could totally see your iWatch having all your ID’s and PassBook info in sync without having to think about it. Once again, the technology disappears in to the background and the user does not have to think about it. I feel that with the recent problems we have had with credit card numbers and login ID security issues the time is ripe for a major shift in both the credit card industry and how we gain access do digital resources.

      Just look at the iOS and Mac OS X app store as a perfect example of this. When vendors are not worried about wide spread theft of their IP (Intellectual Property) you can and do end up with lower prices. This is the benefit of iOS being locked down and having most users run non jailbroken iPhones. I believe that the same lower prices can be had in the physical world as well.

      As for the sensors and the iPhone being the digital hub. I do think that Apple will start simple on the number of sensors that they add to any iWatch/iBand/iBracelet to ones that make sense and work well day one. I do think that health angle is going to play a part in the iWatch device. Even if it is as simple as a reminder to take your medications throughout the day. You are right on that I think it is quite possible that this product could have some big benefits to the over 40 crowd. These are the people with health issues and lots of money. While many of them are going to be rightly so careful on how they spend it if there is a value to having the product they will purchase it. Plus as global populations grow older It is important that we are more inclusive with them in creating products that work not just for them but that can have features that they will really want.

      • Space Gorilla

        Yes, when you hit 40 you become aware of many aspects of your health that you simply didn’t pay attention to previously. I don’t have any serious health issues, but I do need to pay more attention to my health as I age now. When I was in my 20s and 30s I never even considered these things. It didn’t matter to me.

        • Brian M. Monroe

          Thats right. Plus as you get older you do end up forgetting to do things that you need to do. I also do not have any serious health issues but the health/reminder angle I do think has a lot of potential that has not really been addressed in any product really well at all. Of course this is not just for people who are over 40 we do have many others who are much younger who need to keep an eye on their health because they are diabetic or have other health issues.

          I really do think that Apple is going to approach the health issues the same way they do with accessibility. They are going to bake it in to their products because it is the right thing to do. There are plenty of people who do not have vision issues but like having larger type on their iOS devices as an example of a feature that started out for disabled people but benefits everyone. Having it baked in to the OS means that all of the apps and the whole ecosystem will work with it. Trying to enable that sort of feature after the fact is just bad design and in many cases does not work well or at all.

      • Voice user interfaces are always going to be limited by the lack of precision in human speech. We can even get other people around us to be sure of what we’re talking about, half the time!

        Note that even on Star Trek they get most of their real work done using touchscreens. Their vocal interfaces are limited to simple queries for information (“Where is…?” “What is…?” “Show me…”), very broad and basic commands (“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” “Lights to full.” “Run simulation XYZ.”) and dictation (“Captain’s log, star date…”). They’re not going to actually program *how* to do any of those things using vocal commands, nor are they going to use vocal commands to do things like create art, or compose music, or directly manipulate objects like holographic models.

        They’re not “the holy grail,” they’re just one of many interfaces that can and will be used.

        • Brian M. Monroe

          Yes. This is true. Voice User Interfaces are going to be limited. I do not think anyone would think that you could use VUI to build software for example. This is where keyboards and mice aka GUI works well. But VUI will allow even more people to have access to technology in the same way that TUI’s have opened up technology to more people. In the end I do see us using and continuing to use a mix of all of them depending on the situation.

        • aardman

          I think voice user interface will not reach any meaningful mass deployment, no matter how good that technology gets, for the simple reason that people dislike being in the presence of a group of people who are constantly murmuring to themselves.

  • klahanas

    Nice article. You do go out on a bit of a limb judging existing nascent products versus an unlaunched and undescribed device from Apple, and anticipating a winner (without actually saying it). I do agree with your criticism of existing products, especially regarding screen size, but on the other hand, who thought people would be typing on non-tactile little screens?

    I’m not well versed in design, except for my own opinion, which tends to favor function over aesthetics. Nice to have both. Function is mandatory. The rest is price/value.

    If I were to buy a wearable, it would be to replace a traditional watch with an “as yet to be determined” added value. Not for the blood pressure, step counting, yada, yada, sensors, except for maybe GPS. Of course, I would have the privilege of NOT using those features (I think), or using them occasionally. I don’t mind if they are there. If I want to take my temperature, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, etc., I want to use the best instrument for the measurement. Not sure how accurate AND precise these sensors are. Measurement is a demanding business.

    I also don’t have much opinion yet on the “sensors alone” products. On one hand they seem kind of creepy. Wearables are one step away from implantables. Kind of spooky. Not quite ready to Lojack myself.

    If I were to buy a wearable, from the one’s I’ve seen on paper, it would probably be the Moto360. Yet you kind of disparage it, along with the other’s in the article. For $250, I’ve made worse decisions. Since an existing traditional watch would easily cost that, and also be as gawky, this will at least do more. Believe me, this is not something I’m going to get fanatical about, but it seems that this device transforms from the traditional, to something else. That’s kind of magical too.

    • FalKirk

      “You do go out on a bit of a limb…” – klahanas

      Yeah, I really did. The truth is that I have no idea what Apple and others are going to do but it was a fun exercise to take design principles and extract out from there. I personally learned a lot by writing this article and I hope others did too.

      • klahanas

        It was an interesting perspective. Thanks.

      • Kenny

        So you think that Apple will introduce a wearable item call IWatch that has nothing to do with a watch or any watch related stuffs

        isn’t that like expected Apple to introduce a Cat while calling it a Dog? if you know what i mean.

        i’m willing to bet that Apple will introduce a Watch similar to the one on the Market with all the Fitness related stuff and an integrated IPod style music player and wireless Beats headphone which will be tomorrow’s technology to provide yesterday’s solutions

        What say you?

    • jfutral

      There really is no such thing as function without aesthetics. That is like trying to say that as humans we can be either intellectual or emotional. They both influence each other so much that they are inextricable. We can, for ease of study, examine each independently, but at some point it will become impossible to effectively study one without taking the other into account.


      • Space Gorilla

        “There really is no such thing as function without aesthetics.”

        Agreed. Good, purposeful design is both form and function as one. If the point needs to be argued with someone, that’s a clear sign that person does not understand design. Or as I sometimes say, “All their taste is in their mouth.”

        • jfutral

          I do agree with klahanas, though, in that if how something looks is getting in the way of the intended function, that is a bad thing. But that was the whole point of Modern aesthetics, removing the ornamentations that have nothing to do with somethings function and how this does not mean it has to look uninteresting or boring in doing so.

          There are a lot of companies out there who are trying to make something look pretty without regard to its function. I do think the Moto360 is one of the more attractive wearables I’ve seen yet, at least that is supposed to be an actual in the wild product. I still have to figure out the why of its existence, though. It may serve its function or it may not. I don’t know. if it doesn’t that is bad design.


          • Space Gorilla

            “if how something looks is getting in the way of the intended function, that is a bad thing”

            Yep, and that is also not good, purposeful design. For me, the Moto360 looks good in the concept photos, but terrible in relation to an actual human.

      • FalKirk

        Both of your insights regarding the fusion of function/aesthetics and human emotions/logic are spot on. This is one of my favorite quotes:

        “The brain and the heart are like the oars of a rowboat. When you use only one to the exclusion of the other, you end up going around in circles.” ~ Dr. Mardy

        I think the simile applies equally well to design.

        • jfutral

          “After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well.”
          —Albert Einstein


      • klahanas

        So very true. I think you will agree that it’s a deeper sense of aesthetic than “how it looks”.
        Take the Hubble Space Telescope for instance. It looks that way for a reason, it was not made to look pretty as a priority. Function first… looks fall where they may. It’s functional beauty is the aesthetic, not it’s “looks”. A deeper understanding of the whole.

  • Glaurung-Quena

    About 15 years ago, I realized I was looking at my watch multiple times an hour even when I didn’t have anything scheduled. Heck, I was looking at my watch when socializing with friends, which sends totally the wrong message. I had fallen into a bad habit of overusing the technology because it was there. So I took it off my wrist and started keeping it in my pocket. Problem solved. And then a few years later I got my first cell phone and it had a clock of its own, so my watch migrated to a desk drawer, where it has stayed ever since.

    These days, when I see people talking about how they want a smartwatch, they most often explain it in terms of how they are taking their phone out of their pocket dozens of times an hour to look at notifications. Thinking back to me and my overuse of my wristwatch, maybe the problem is not that they are taking their phones out of their pockets too much, but that *they are getting too many notifications*.

    By default, phones buzz or beep or whatever for every email, every text message, every tweet, every facebook update. This might have been appropriate back in the days of Blackberries, but as social media proliferates and as the number of apps abusing push notifications increases (never mind social media apps, I cannot count the number of *games* I’ve tried that wanted to send me notifications. Christ on a pogo stick), it’s becoming more and more of a duh-fault.

    The solution is not a thing on your wrist where you can get ten zillion irrelevant notifications per day, but an easy way to filter notifications so that you are only beeped about the ones that are from people who are authorized to interrupt you (and everything else just silently goes into your notifications queue, or silently stays in their respective apps waiting for you to give them your attention). Set up those kinds of filters, tell all the apps that have the damn gall to think they are important enough to drain your battery and interrupt what you’re doing on the same level as a message from your spouse (eg, facebook and skype) that no, they may *not* do so, and suddenly the need to take the phone out of your pocket an annoying number of times per day disappears, along with the prime justification invented to date for the existence of a smartwatch.

    Which is a long way of saying that I really very much doubt that Apple is going to sell a wearable whose primary purpose is to be a notification centre, which means it will be completely *unlike* all of the stupidwatches that are currently on the market.

    I can’t see how Apple can possibly make a wearable with an acceptable battery life that mirrors your phone’s notifications to your wrist. If it does notifications, I’ll bet it does so only for people on your VIP list by default. And I would be quite unsurprised if it doesn’t do notifications at all. Naturally the pundits and nerds who *want* to be interrupted by their watch hundreds of times a day instead of being interrupted by their phone hundreds of times a day, will all respond “No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.”

    • Brian M. Monroe

      I agree. Just mirroring your typical users iPhone’s notifications on a wearable is not good design and I am sure that Apple will not do that. Apple is aware that not all notifications need to have the same level of priority so if there are going to be notifications they will be really select. We can see that Apple is already thinking this way as well with VIPs in AppleMail where the user gets to decide manually what select notifications are most important. This is different than the way Google is doing it with the labels on GMail. While GMail’s system is more automated the end user has less control on it I think that Apple’s VIP system is better and will end up being the preferred solution for notifications.

      You are spot on that most normal people are not like the nerds who write for Slashdot. They want social interaction and to be consistently interrupted all day long takes us away from the people we are around. Plus these same notifications are also a safety issue when we are driving our cars. As being focused on driving is the most important thing at that time managing notifications in that situation could be a matter of life or death. While you are driving do you need to know about every tweet or FaceBook like? They can wait and be viewed later when you safely reach your destination or are stopped at a rest stop. This is also one of the things that makes having Apple run their own notification server is that they can build in iCloud a way to queue them up and only send them to you when it makes sense.

      You are also correct about the battery life as well. Something that Apple thinks about 1st before they design the product. We can see that with the 10 hour battery life on the 1st iPads. They set a goal and I am sure that they where not going to launch the iPad until they could meat that 10 hour battery life. The genius of it is that Apple knew that Intel could not match that mark and was years off from coming close. So they baked in their competitive advantage in to silicon they where able to own the tablet market.

    • Will

      I personally think it will be a Nike+ competitor. Curious how they would market it to the everyday Joe

    • One of the criticisms I’ve read about Google Glass from people who’ve tried wearing it is that it was giving them too many irrelevant notifications. I’m not sure if it didn’t have a prioritization system, or if it wasn’t worth the time & effort to set it up, but the general result seems to be that these people just turned the notifications off. In the end the major usefulness of Google Glass for them was just as a camera strapped to one’s face.

      The Android Wear devices that have been demonstrated so far appear to generally just have the equivalent functionality of Google Glass, but strapped to your wrist and without a camera.

      Clearly one problem to be solved with wearables is that if they’re going to have notifications at all, they need to be highly prioritized and minimized down to only the most vital ones.

      For this reason, I could believe that a successful wearable might not have a screen at all. Instead it could have just one to three multicolor LEDs. Which LED or what color could tell you priority or sender (spouse or significant other; kids; work-related if you’re on-call) of a notification. It could have a speaker, though, and a tap on a button could give you audible information about that notification. In this way, the device could be much smaller, more attractive, and have vastly better battery life. It would also be easier to make such a device water resistant.

      The notifications functions on such a device would actually be more of an afterthought. Its major functions would instead lie more in the realms of identity, authentication, and payments (like Disney’s MagicBands at their theme parks and resorts) as well as bio sensors. Potentially it could also hold and play back music (like an iPod Shuffle) wirelessly to a Bluetooth headset, though this could significantly impact its battery life.

  • I.R.T.

    The remote control that came with the Sony Google TV inspired YHGTBFKM, which meant “you have got to be — kidding me.”

    • FalKirk

      Ha! A well deserved moniker.

  • Will

    I do hope Apple makes something different. But I don’t think so. Maybe I’m just pessimist.

    Also, Apple is not the king of design, Moto 360 is gorgeous and I’m buying it!

    • FalKirk

      I come down very hard on today’s wearables because I’m looking for a mass market product like the iPod or the iPhone or the iPad. However, that doesn’t mean that niche products aren’t extremely useful to their owners. It just means that we shouldn’t confuse or conflate them with main stream products.

      • Brian M. Monroe

        It is ok to come down hard on today’s wearables because the consumer space does not really do niche hardware. So it it does not sell well in the millions it will not last long term. Niche products are great in business as each business or at least business sector has different needs but many consumers are the same. Of course there are going to be different price points for different products in the same category but if it is a whole new product category like wearables is then either enough people will buy them to make a market or not and the vendors will have to go back to the drawing board to come up with new ideas on how they should be done.

    • “Moto 360 is gorgeous”

      You left off “…to me.” I think it looks like a bulky lit-up hockey puck strapped to your wrist.

      I agree with FalKirk: Niche products should not be confused or conflated with mainstream products.

      Heck, I carried around a Newton MessagePad (120, then 2000, and finally 2100) in my jacket pocket until 2007 (!). It was a fantastic tool for me, but I never once considered it a mainstream product. And while I would tell people how useful I found it, it wasn’t something I would recommend other people buy unless it was clear that they fell into the same niche as me.

      • Will

        Design is quantifiable so no “to me” necessary. But I know it’s not for everyone in terms of functionality. Like you and Falkirk say, that’s OK.

        • aardman

          Design is quantifiable?!!

          • Will

            Of course. Take two designs and a random subject group. Quantify the feedback. Get results.
            Of course, you find people with odd tastes, but an overall trend is clear and one design is objectively better designed than another.

          • aardman

            What you quantified there is not design but people’s opinions about it. And what you tried to infer is not which design is objectively better but which one is more preferred. Surely you can grasp that a particular design and a random subject group’s expressed opinion about said design are two different things?

            Might I add that trying to make a judgement about which design is ‘objectively better’ is at best a fool’s errand if you don’t first specify your criteria for ‘better’.

          • Will

            Well I would guess the criteria for better design is how well it performs it’s purpose.

  • aardman

    I am quite the avid (though amateur) student of design but I will be the first to admit that if you let designers wax a little too poetic about their work, they start to get a little too precious with their utterances. All this talk about fashion vs style, less is more, disappearance, etc. All those words with such nebulous meanings. In the end, all the long winded aching commentary about what is good design boils down to three things: Does it look nice (to you)? Does it work well (for you)? After you’ve used it for a while, do you still feel the same way about it? If a designer has to talk sweet meaningless nothings into your ear to get you to like his work, then he’s a much better promoter than he is a designer. Oh god, I’m starting to crank out the precious utterances myself now.

    • FalKirk

      Your definition of design is almost the opposite of my understanding of what good design is about. Design is not about how it looks, it’s about how it works. Design makes a product useful to the end user, not the designer.

      On your last pronouncement, we’re very much in agreement. Design is long-lasting. That is one of the reasons why I don’t think Apple’s wearable offerings will cross the line and become fashion accessories. However, lots of really smart people have expressed the opposite opinion so we’ll have to wait and see what Apple actually does.

      • Will

        Design is about how it looks, UX is about how it works. By definition.

        Don’t take what Jobs said so literal, at the time he was just trying to showcase the importance of design in any product.

        • jfutral

          This is part of the problem. Design, like aesthetics, is not _just_ about how it looks, even by definition.


          • Will

            Semantics. Sure, someone has to design the functionality too. But colloquially the term refers to the visual part, not the architecture. If someone’s job says “designer”, they don’t design a relational database, even though your definition of design should include that.

            Any way, aardman has a point. I see too many text-only buttons that look good but are terrible as UX.

          • jfutral

            Well, when discussing the meanings of words, sure. That’s what “semantics” means. But it still doesn’t change the fact you got the definition of “design” wrong. Not to mention that this article and the ensuing discussion is precisely about how most people get the definition of design wrong, even if I buy your position of the colloquialness of the word.

            Just because a particular designer does not design a relational database does not mean 1) a relational database does not require design and does not require a designer and 2) that the term “designer” means they are only concerned with how something looks. There are many specialized fields of design.

            That does not mean there aren’t people who call themselves designers who think they only concern themselves with how something looks. But the good designers know what the word means.


          • Will

            Specifically talking about software, even professionals think design involves Photoshop. That’s why you always specify if you’re not talking about the usual meaning of the word: system design, database design.

            The word by itself means visual design.

            I don’t know what professionals you talk to, but they are not very professional if they get confused about what a designer does. Is it UX, database or system architecture design?

          • jfutral

            I talk and work with with a lot of professional designers, both in tech and in other fields. Design is integral to my profession. I don’t argue that the connotation of design is often confused as how it looks. This was exactly Jobs’ point. It isn’t _just_ how it looks. It is _also_ how it works. If the connotation isn’t wrong, it is at least incomplete.

            What is one of the first things a good web designer does when figuring out how to design a website? If it isn’t how the web site will work, what is the important content, and how navigation should flow he isn’t a good designer. If you’ve been around tech as long as I think you have, I don’t know how you can disagree. But I’ve been surprised before by people I consider smart. No reason to think this isn’t the same situation.

            For professionals, there is no reason to think design does not include Photoshop. There is also no reason to think it _only_ involves Photoshop.


          • Will

            A web designer does not figure out how a website works, that’s why you have a UX team and product team.

            Jobs and aardman are not talking about the same thing and you’re pulling at straws.

            Are you going to make relevant comment to the original topic or keep spinning this non-issue out of control?

          • jfutral

            I didn’t say Jobs and aardman were talking about the same thing. I even pointed out that aardman made a salient point with regard to Modern aesthetics. You have this odd habit of accusing someone of doing something they haven’t done. Not sure why.

            All the same, NOW you are arguing semantics, so you are correct. Moving on now. You obviously live in a world where words have different meanings. Good luck with that.


          • Will

            I’m doing great, thanks. Never had misconceptions and people introduce themselves as “designers” and “product designers” when making the difference. But tell me, what do you call just “how it looks”?

          • jfutral

            Other than “how it looks”? What it looks like, its appearance, its form, sometimes its structure, visual flow, attractive, unattractive, appealing, unappealing, a lot of things. As a designer, if I refer to something’s _visual_ design, and just as often the visual aesthetics, (see how we have to qualify what part of the design we are talking about since “design” does not mean _just_ how it looks?) I am always talking about its form in light of its function. I bet your professional designer friends do to.

            This is exactly what Jobs was saying. He was restating “form follows function”. I think he was directly addressing Apple’s detractors who blow off Apple products as simply “pretty” and accuse Apple of form over function. In his and Apple’s design philosophy design _is_ form follows function.


          • Will

            Semantics. I’ll keep referring to visual design as simply design, it feels selfexplanatory to me. Thanks for the explanations.

          • jfutral

            “The word by itself means visual design.”

            And no matter how much you repeat this it does not make it true.


          • Will

            Ok… moving on.

          • DesDizzy

            I think you will find that the word means “purpose/intention” there is no limitation in the word design to “visual” purpose/intention (at least not in English).

          • Mark Jones

            If you look up the word “design” in a dictionary, the definition is clearly much broader than “visual design.”

            In this article, we’re talking more specifically about a product design, where the product is a wearable, and most likely a wearable worn on a wrist. The product’s design encompasses many areas, including but not limited to visual design, hardware design, user interface design, software design.

          • Will

            Notice how you mentioned *product* design? As in you needed to specify what kind of design to make yourself clear? That’s because design by itself does not mean that.

            But whatever, semantics. What are your thought on the latest design trends?

          • jfutral

            “some drivel about ‘product’ design and latest design trends?”

            You are obviously out of your depth here. There are many fields of design. You don’t have to admit you were wrong. I know that is anathema to debating on the internet. There is fashion design, lighting design, web design, industrial design, mechanical design, etc. And the original topic of this article is about a _product_ design, a potential Apple wearable and how Apple’s design philosophy might affect it. So, yes, _product_ design.

            And your question does not negate the actual definition of the word “design”. Maybe you should try looking it up for yourself since you keep insisting on the authority of its definition.


          • Space Gorilla

            It seems that Will is thinking of a graphic designer when he uses the term designer, it may be that he truly does not understand that design exists beyond that discipline.

          • jfutral

            I still, deep down, want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he may be too ensconced in some company’s organizational structure, somehow inferring those departments fully reflect the meaning of the words used in their titles. I don’t think he is stupid. I think he is stubborn. Takes one to know one.


          • Space Gorilla

            “Product design is completely different than visual design. Completely different jobs and requirements.” – Will

            Well, in your next back and forth with Will, he said the above. Clearly he doesn’t understand what design actually is, or that great designers normally work across many fields of design. I am a designer, I make part of my living by doing graphic design (mostly web), but I also design other things, such as many real world objects, and I do some landscape design as well. Design is design. Form and function as one.

          • jfutral

            “or that great designers normally work across many fields of design”

            Or that design can be complex and have many parts. Some projects are so large that there are people who focus on Photoshop as part of the design _team_. But I bet they never do it in isolation from the product, but within it’s design context. Because, wait for it… design is not _just_ how it looks. There it is!


          • DesDizzy

            Not sure of the nomenclature in the US, but in Europe the two major stands of “Design” are graphic design and Industrial design.

          • Space Gorilla

            Yes, there are many fields of design. I think most of us here are talking about design as a process, how you apply form and function, how you merge them. What you’re designing isn’t relevant, the important point is that you’re designing.

          • Will

            Product design is completely different than visual design. Completely different jobs and requirements. I am clearly not “out of my depth” here.

            What exactly do you think someone does when they say they are a “student of design” like aardman?

          • jfutral

            I take aardman at his word that design is both how it looks and how it works. I’ve never said otherwise.

            You are clearly out of your depth.


          • Will

            You obviously get designers’ and developers’ jobs confused quite often.

          • FalKirk

            “colloquially the term refers to the visual part, not the architecture” – Will

            Colloquially, yes. But I’m referring to a designer’s definition, not the public’s definition.

          • Will

            My point is you refer to something else when arguing with aardman. You’re discussing different things and there’s no point in contradicting him.

          • FalKirk

            By the way, people often dismiss things as “semantics” but semantics is the study of what words mean. To a person like me who respects the power or words, few things are more important.

            “All of us encounter, at least once in our life, some individual who utters words that make us think forever.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

            “Words must surely be counted among the most powerful drugs man ever invented.” ~ Leo Rosten

            “Never underestimate the power of words.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

          • Will

            I dismiss things when I say semantics because an argument moves away from the original topic, an interesting discussion in my view, to a meaningless semantic argument.
            A very well known fallacy, used frequently in politics http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivocation

          • Kizedek

            It’s not just semantics. Your issue is with the most common use of the title “designer”, as someone who is only concerned with appearance or just puts the finishing touches on something.

            It is not semantics to hone in on definitions and terms in an effort to aid understanding. Semantics is an issue when one party is content to let connotations, colloquialisms and misconceptions to do all the talking, or hides behind them. That party accuses the one seeking clarity of semantics.

            Jony Ive has “designers” under him. They don’t “design” the relational database in your example. But Jony Ive is very much present and works hand-in-glove with “the guy who does”. Jony’s experience and discipline very much informs, if not directs, the efforts of “the guy who does” before work on the database even begins. How else do you get the Click Wheel, which still remains unmatched by competitors to this day, a dozen years later?

          • Will

            Jony Ive’s job is so atypical from a regular designer, I don’t even know where to start. Also, you do realise there are people whose job is to figure out the architecture. Hint: they are not the designers.

          • Kizedek

            “I see too many text-only buttons that look good but are terrible as UX.”

            I think this is a case in point regarding a fundamental misunderstanding of Design. Call it “semantics”, if you will, but I think any issue with the text-only buttons is probably exactly the opposite of what you describe:

            Text buttons (in concept) are great as UX, because a simple word (such as “save”) bears none of the ambiguity that the use of an outmoded icon such as the representation of a floppy disc, which no-one under the age of 15 recognises, might present.

            On, the other hand, the button may look terrible, as a button, if no-one knows it’s a button due to lack of outline or other visual indicator.

            In this case, the issue is not down to UX, but Appearance. Both of which are under the purview of Design and its implementation because form and function are linked. The UX concept is not “terrible”, it is sound. In this case, the form of the text button is not living up to its function as a button.

          • Will

            Oh finally someone talks about the original topic!

            Interesting approach, I would find text only buttons confusing, because you cannot differentiate from labels.

            “outmoded icon” — why can’t you use a modern icon?

            “age of 15 recognises” — they might not know a floppy disk, but the meaning of save is still there.

            “The UX concept is not “terrible”, it is sound. In this case, the form of the text button is not living up to its function as a button.” — I don’t follow, UX means user experience, which is a combination of design and function, the overall feeling when using a product.

            How is it that a button can fail to fulfil its function of a button but be great UX? I’m genuinely curious what you think UX is.

          • DesDizzy

            A quant in my office once laughed at me when I asked for some help with a spreadsheet. You haven’t designed that have you, he said.

            Design is how it looks AND how it works.

      • aardman

        You might have misunderstood me. The three questions are from the point of view of the end user. And my point is don’t let anyone else except you, the end user of the product, define what you like. Sure, listen, read, educate yourself on aesthetics and design, but in the end don’t say “I like this because Dieter Rams or Coco Chanel or whoever said in breathless, cryptic prose that it’s beautifully designed.”

        I think. too, that different people hold different definitions of the word ‘design’. For example, you have adopted Steve Jobs’ redefinition that design is about ‘how it works’, while I stay with the older definition that says design is ‘how it looks and works.”

        Of course design includes how a product looks. The first impression any product makes is usually by how it looks. A lot of sales are made and broken by looks. And despite their marketing-oriented pronouncements, it’s pretty evident Apple includes looks in its definition of design because they sure make pretty good looking products. Well, if cornered, Steve Jobs would have probably clarified that ‘how it looks’ is an integral part of ‘how it works’. And I can agree with that because one can always argue (in breathless, cryptic prose) that ‘how it works’ encompasses more than mere utilitarian functionality.

        • FalKirk

          “You might have misunderstood me” – yardman

          Yes, I think I mistook your meaning. My apologies for the any slight, but my thanks for allowing me to use your thoughts to polish and hone my own thoughts.

        • jfutral

          “The three questions are from the point of view of the end user. And my point is don’t let anyone else except you, the end user of the product, define what you like.”

          This is a salient point to Modern design and aesthetics. Appealing once again to art (mostly because since this is my field, it is easiest) Modern artists don’t just desire the end user, they require it. They feel their work is incomplete without the viewer. The viewer finishes the work. That is why most Modern artists, when asked what t a work means will invariably turn the question around and ask “What does it mean to you?” In their eyes, the realists artists were about lecturing. To them art is a two way conversation.

          This is why I think usability is more important to Apple than feature count and why the end user is of most importance.


          Edit to add. One of my favourite quotes about art, “There is no wrong reason to like a work of art.”

          • jfutral

            “Modern artists, when asked what a work means will invariably turn the question around and ask ‘What does it mean to you?'”

            Or in Apple parlance, “What will your verse be?”


          • berult

            Seize upon time-stamped locales, idiomatic constraints ablaze, buttress forthwith, as molten mettle seeps up the draughtsman’s humility, the tranquil evanescence of present-tense infinity.

            For, resign oneself…one must.

            To design, and then…torn asunder by ‘what if’s and ‘what not’s, ‘ipso facto’s of the artistic gallows…sign off on the weighty grandeur, the oppressive granularity of contextual creation…

            A striking design coalesces divergent contexts into an event in finity. berult.

        • jfutral

          “I think. too, that different people hold different definitions of the word ‘design’. For example, you have adopted Steve Jobs’ redefinition that design is about ‘how it works’, while I stay with the older definition that says design is ‘how it looks and works.”

          Just to clarify what Jobs actually said “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”

          It isn’t that how it looks and feels isn’t part of design. It is not the only part of design. I don’t know a designer worth their salt who doesn’t agree.


      • klahanas

        I always thought design’s outcome was “how it’s made”. From every angle…

        • Kizedek

          “Design” can be a noun or a verb. I think you are using it as a verb when you speak of “design’s outcome”. In that case, yes, the “how it’s made” usually comes after a process of “planning” (ie design-as-a-verb); after the final product is “made” it embodies the “design process” and is thus the “outcome” of the Design Process.

          However, at Apple, the whole Design Process starts with the conception of a product and is very hands-on in the case of Ive: so “design-as-a-verb” and “making” are pretty much synonymous at Apple. When that’s all settled, the mass manufacturing occurs. The outcome, the final product in the consumer’s hands, is good “design-as-a-noun”.

          In fact, due to Apple’s process, the final product can’t really fail to be “good design”. The fairly unique thing about Apple is how “Design” is given such importance; it’s not a cosmetic addition at a late stage in the product development process. The materials, function, weight, feel, etc. are considered from inception, and the “how it’s made” is an integral part of the Design Process from start to finish.

          • klahanas

            Design (the verb) has a one to one correspondence to Design (the noun). No?

          • Kizedek

            Yes, in that you can’t have one without the other. However, few people make “how it’s made” a necessary part of Design (the verb). Instead, they assume it is the “outcome”.

            Taste, like beauty itself, has a subjective element. Some of it is in the eye of the beholder.

            However, if you lack taste, or have poor taste, or have a poor sense of the aesthetic, or you are careless, then your design process is going to suffer no matter what, and the outcome will be poor. It might be fashionable, but it will lack style.

            I am saying that the outcome of a good design proceswhich bears in mind “how it’s made” and “how it works” from the start) is always good design (the noun), whatever anyone’s personal taste might be.

          • DesDizzy

            Excellent summary.

  • jfutral

    “Good design doesn’t make a device better than it is. It doesn’t even make a device better. Good design fulfills a device’s destiny. It makes it what is and what it was always meant to be.”

    That is the essence of form follows function. As Gropius put it “It was not based on external stylistic features, but rather on the effort to design things simply and truthfully in accordance with their intrinsic laws.” Gropius, after seeing what the Russians and Dutch were doing with design even changed the mission of the Bauhaus school from uniting and craft, to “to unite art and technology”. (Where have we heard something like that before?)

    For a long time as a young art student (both informally and formally) I remember reading and hearing people talk about “Here the artist is expressing this” or “Symbolizing that” or “Hidden in the background we find this” and all sorts of stuff I didn’t (yet) see. I thought, what a bunch of hooey. They were just trying to paint something, they weren’t trying to say something or do something other than make a painting people would want to look at.

    While that may be true of many artists, the more you learn about art and artists you discover that those who made significant contributions to art—turned whole worlds upside down, changed the direction and initiated movements in art—all thought very long and deeply about these things.

    I’ve gotten to the point that I can only laugh at the people who accuse Apple of “form over function”, or only creating “pretty baubles”. These things aren’t just casual thoughts, or interesting conversation (or not). These thoughts are the underpinnings and undercurrents of what drives them not just to create what and how they create, but why they create.

    Of course thinking like this does not guarantee any measure of success. But it is a lot like hand drafting and lettering. Draftsmen who are really good at lettering likely don’t need to draw the guidelines to letter well. But they would never letter without them.

    Great article and great perspective to analyze a potential product from Apple. I can’t think of anyone else who has done this. I am not sure there are many in tech (insiders or enthusiasts) who will catch what you have written and will likely pass it off as meaningless philosophizing. Well done.


    • FalKirk

      Design is, in my opinion very subtle; its truths hidden in paradox. I’ve only recently discovered design, but I find unraveling its lessons endlessly fascinating.

      • jfutral

        The cool thing, it is a never ending journey! Or, at least it can be, exhaustion not withstanding.


  • DesDizzy

    Nice article and I can’t fault your conclusions. However, two observations. The first, who is this John Maeda? I also doubt that he or his design school have produced a world class designer, never mind a score of them such as St. Martins. (Central St. Martins School of Art % Design London) I’ve seen him on Bloomberg and he seems clueless about Apple and its achievements in design. Secondly, Dieter Rams may have been one of Ive’s inspirations, but I think Jonny Ive has now far surpassed any of Dieter’s design skills and impact.

    • FalKirk

      John Madea is an internationally known, world class designer. He wrote “Laws Of Simplicity” and recently resigned from his post as head of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). That’s off the top of my head. Here’s the link to his Wikipedia entry.


      • DesDizzy

        Sorry Wiki doesn’t do it for me. As I said I have seen him on Bloomberg and his comment on Apple are clueless. I have known a large number of designers in my time and obscurity would better describe him than international renown.

  • Mayson

    My guesses for Apple wearable:

    1) epaper or no display – won’t need charging every night.

    2) voice operated – perhaps via Bluetooth to iPhone

    3) very granular notification capability.

    4) perhaps a speaker and one or two sensors

    5) an option to show the time. :-

    • hocestquisumus

      No display? Really? What would the thing do, send a notification to the iPhone that the iPhone has just sent a notification to it?

      Nobody actually uses all the voice stuff. Now, Siri and Cortana are nice pub tricks but nothing else.

  • hocestquisumus

    So, nobody has seen anything, Apple hasn’t said a word as usual, there were no true innovations since the iPad – and yet here we have many, many words praising Apple for… what it might do. Maybe. It will invent the smartwatch in the fall. I wonder, will the useful gadget on my wrist be uninvented by then?

    Let’s just call it anticipatory obedience. You know, in before the flood. I wonder why journalists still do that (the usually juicy flamewar and ensuing clicks aside). Apple gives no incentives to its biggest gushers because it’s so arrogant it expects this kind of behaviour. And you guys are so happy to oblige.

    • FalKirk

      Your critiques say far more about you than it does about the article.

      No one praised Apple. I simply examined the design principles of Dieter Rams and speculated on what Apple or another company might do if they followed those principles. No one even knows IF Apple will create a wearable this Fall. And its more than clear that no one knows WHAT Apple will create if they do sell a wearable this Fall.

      Still, it’s useful to compare what they’ve done in the past to what they might do in the future. And if they do something completely different, that means that I’ve got it all wrong and need to re-evaluate my thoughts on Apple and/or design or, it means that Apple has lost their way. Only time will tell.

      • hocestquisumus

        See, what I mean is: that Sony remote you’re blasting is certainly VERY ugly. But it’s NOT hard to understand. You’re conjuring that up and the visuals support your unsaid praise of Apple minimalism on the surface. However, it’s a standard remote with an alphanumeric keyboard. The standard remote for my receiver is harder to understand because it uses cryptic signs and it’s completely illogical when it comes to doing more than turn the volume up or down. Looks better, however. But somehow you’re implying that Apple would do it better. Sure, there would be less buttons. Which is about as useful as killing one of two mouse buttons in the name of minimalism when you have to enter search terms, as in the short lived Google TV.

        Oh wait.

        You’re showing the worst LOOKING products that never, ever gained a substantial audience to draw comparisons to a product that hasn’t even been released yet. See… the other example. Somebody using a tablet like a phone isn’t manipulative at all. No, sir. Who actually does this in the real world?! Probably fewer people than use Siri as anything but a pub novelty. But then, I live in a tourism hotspot. There are plenty of people (ab)using their iPads as cameras. Looks stupid as heck and they won’t be happy with the photos. Where’s Apple’s godlike design there? They should have foreseen it. It makes their product look bad, their customers look bad and their memories even worse. Even though there’s a sea of Apple logos, there is a negative connotation. Putting a back camera on the iPad was a design blunder.

        • FalKirk

          “that Sony remote you’re blasting is certainly VERY ugly. But it’s NOT hard to understand”

          Dude. That Sony remote is used as the standard for bad user interface. If you don’t think it’s bad, there’s not talking to you.

  • chano1

    Dreadful article. Edit out the endless quotations (chosen for a manipulative purpose), and what remains? Circular, self-serving, conjecture. Try making the case using your own, original, arguments. That could take us somewhere interesting John.

    • FalKirk

      “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.” ~ Voltaire

      “Don’t be afraid to borrow if someone else has said it well.” ~ Jim Rohn

      “We should not only use the brains we have, but all that we can borrow.” ~ Woodrow Wilson

  • “What we got was a computer in our pocket.”

    Perhaps at the start, but iPhone isn’t a computer. To leverage a later idea, iPhone let us do what computers let us do, but in a much better way. I’m on my iPad and iPhone almost exclusively. When I go back to my Mac (or – sacre bleu! – a PC) I’m struck at how clunky so much of the interface is. For example, I want to read mail; on iPhone the app opens instantly; on Mac you’d think it was loading the library of congress, click, whir, wheeze, etc.

    On a related vector, I don’t think web sites should tailor to mobile. They should present an excellent interface. The problem thus far seems to be that no one considered at all the mobile experience. Then they tried to accommodate without revisiting first principles.

    (I’m laughing now, because the commenting system us so fraught. It couldn’t handle something so for awhile I was unable to read what I was typing since the screen was constantly scrolling into/off-of the text entry box. Now, it is behaving but there in an overlay (“one new comment below”) overlapping. I spent a number of years doing software testing, it seems many haven’t.

  • mhikl

    I keep coming back to ruminate on this particular post of yours, Kirk. One of your finest.

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