The Blind Pursuit Of Thinness

Vlad Savov, The Verge:

This would all be quite innocuous if thinness was just an extra layer of custard smothered atop your technology cake, but it all too often comes at a price. Small batteries and compromised cameras are the first victims of the desire for a thinner phone. Or, if the camera doesn’t stink, it’s because it actually protrudes out from the phone’s body, as you’ll find in Samsung’s 6.7mm Galaxy Alpha and Apple’s new iPhones, both hovering at just around 7mm. I’ll let you in on a carefully guarded secret: there’s no real difference between 7mm and 10mm, let alone between 6.7mm and 6.9mm. If only Samsung and Apple could have let their belts out a little, we could now be looking at devices with more cohesive, bulge-free designs and potentially more generous batteries to boot. And let’s face it, an iPhone 6 Plus that was a little thicker on aluminum might not have had to deal with the present controversy about how bendy it is.

I have said this a couple of times before regarding the camera lens bulge on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and I will say it again: Apple made the wrong design choice. The iPhone 5s was thin enough. I understand the iPhone 6 Plus might need to be a bit thinner since the it has a considerably larger mass than the iPhone 5s, but not so thin as to require the camera lens to bulge out.

There is no front and back symmetry. The verbiage on Apple.com and product showcase videos hail the seamless integration between display and the chassis. It seems there was a lot of work that went into that. But what happened to the back? This design choice reminds me of cars with decent fronts but with ugly backs. A particular generation of the Toyota Camry comes to mind: decent front, absolute ugliness in the back. Whoever made the decision to make the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus thinner to the point of having the camera lens bulge out of their seamless unibody needs to rethink priorities. Thin is good, but thin causing lenses to bulge out is not. The camera lens bulge on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is bad design.

A thicker chassis would have made the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus more rigid. If thin was the most important priority, Apple should have developed a stronger less-maleable aluminum alloy to compensate for the thinner design.

With a thicker body, an all-day battery could have been. Can you imagine toward the end of the day not having to worry about charging your iPhone? Can you imagine not having those moments when you are wondering if your iPhone will last through an after work dinner gathering? How about those moments when you are thinking whether or not you should ask the waitress where the nearest power outlet is? Today, in 2014, there are many more important things to people who depend on their smartphones all day long than it being a few tenths of a millimeter thinner. Battery life is one of them.

Let me spell it out for you Apple design people: we do not want or need an iPhone to be thinner. We do not need it to be lighter either. We do not want the camera lens to bulge out. We do not want our iPhones to bend when we accidentally sit with the iPhone in our pant pockets. Here are some things we do want:

  • No protrusions, front and back. Period.
  • All-day battery life. Most of us leave our homes before eight in the morning and come home after six. Not all of us sit all day at a desk with access to a power outlet. We check our emails all day. We check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter dozens of times a day. We browse the net. We send a bunch of text messages, IMs, take photos, and videos. We check our stocks. We play games. We do lots of things on our phones. All-day battery means a battery that lasts from the moment we leave our homes to when we are ready to go to sleep.
  • No bending. Our phones go with us almost everywhere we go. Is it hard to realize we want our phones to be durable?
  • Waterproof. Not water resistant. Do you Apple people not know we take our iPhones and iPads to the bathroom? There is a lot of water there. Do you not know we go to cafes? There is a lot of coffee there. You should know a lot of people in coastal cities buy your stuff. We take our iPhones and iPads to beaches and lakes. If you do not know how to waterproof your devices go ask Sony.
  • We do not need or want a visual reminder of where the antennas are.

Work on these things. You guys have two years to make the iPhone 7 better than the iPhone 6. And just in case, for good measure: you do not need to make it thinner.