“You’ll get used to it”

OCTOBER 31ST, 2016 — POST 301

My brother, after a few years on Android with the Nexus 6P and 5X, Moto X and Moto G (he enjoys smashing phones), is now back on the iPhone. I got a Hangouts message telling me to send him an iMessage so he could have my U.S. number. The next half an hour or so saw me bearing witness to his rediscovery of iOS with iOS 10, asking what apps he should get, how to do the stickers I was incessantly spamming him with, as well as talking about the incomparable feel of the cool aluminium of a new Apple device.

It’s not just curiosity that had him picking up an iPhone. A recent hire for Apple’s support team, it’s now essential he’s seen to be keeping abreast of the very changes he was asking me about. But there was one issue he had, one change since he last was on an iPhone that was causing some friction:

“Press home to unlock is so shit”

As if by reflex, my response came:

“You’ll get used to it”

These 5 words have become somewhat of an escape rope for Apple — or rather Apple apologists — of late. It’s born out of a trust for the company, a trust that has been earned with compelling, class-leading products year over year. But pressing home to unlock is just one indication that a company trusted for intuitive and delightful product design might be losing (or with the new MacBook Pro already lost) its shine.

David Pierce of Wired wrote in his hands-on of the new shallower MacBook Pro keyboard that “there’s no doubt your fingers are going to have to get used to a little less clack“ (do you even mech, bro?). We’re expected to get used to life without a headphone jack (on an iPhone, but apparently on a MacBook it’s still cool?). And knowing if a notification is meant to be swiped or tapped (notification shade or lock screen respectively), is something a user just has to learn. All these things are just things we have to get used to.

There is obviously some expected amount of learning with any new device or any new operating system. When we ask more of a new product, we’ll have to learn how to wield its new power. We almost can’t help leaning toward the machine like a phototropic plant can’t help but lean toward the sun. But should the expectation of learning a new system be an excuse for bad design?

Do I just “have to get used to” charging a Magic Mouse on its back thus rendering it unusable for the duration of charging just because Apple fucked up? Do I need to wear an elastic band around my wrist and snap myself every time I go to touch the screen of the new MacBook Pro because the Touch Bar gives me the illusion that the device can operate entirely by touch? I have gotten used to lying my phone face-down on a desk because I can’t stand the wobble from the protruding camera bump on the back. So, yeah, I guess these are all on me, right?

This is the part where I tell you the conceit of this piece was a lie. I didn’t tell my brother he’ll “get used to it”. It was absolutely my first thought, but I stopped myself for the very reasons detailed here. If we’re genuine about our interest in and care for technology as so many who’ve read this far undoubtedly are, we can’t fall inside the echo chamber. I know I rely on Apple devices, that I can’t conceivably convert religions to a Windows/Android existence in the near future (I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Ulysses, Highland, Weekend Read, Editorial, Karabiner, Terminal — these and others all keep me here). But I can’t tow the party line.

Apple are making mistakes. And the most egregious part of these mistakes is that they’re not monumental enough to disrupt product sales. Most can just be gotten used to, even if they ought not be. As hard as some might be (the inconsistency of notification actions is still a daily pain point for me), there is one that hurts to come to terms with:

Apple products just aren’t as good anymore. Get used to it.

I’d like to remind you that I will be taking a month-long break from daily pieces like this — the idea-a-day format — to be replaced by the publishing of my efforts toward the completion of a science fiction novel as part of National Novel Writing Month. I think we were all getting bored of this anyway, right?

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Thanks, I really appreciate it.