Apple’s controversial design another in an emerging pattern

October 30, 2019 — by Viraaj Reddi

At Apple’s annual September keynote, CEO Tim Cook announced the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, promising they would “push the boundaries of what a smartphone can do.” The new phone is apparently “packed with great new capabilities in an incredible new design.”

However, Apple’s idea of an “incredible new design” constitutes copying the design of 2018 iPhones with one significant change: attaching a fidget-spinner-shaped camera assortment in place of the traditional single and double lens. Any new features, whether related to the camera or otherwise, were buried under a barrage of memes created by people trying to figure out exactly what Apple was thinking. 

Their ambitions with the new design are bizarre and unclear. Are they trying to help people reminisce over the middle school days of fidget spinners? Perhaps the boba-styled cameras are intended to promote drinking the Taiwanese tea. Or, are they helping people keep up on their biology with a constant reminder of cytokinesis diagrams? No one really knows.

It could be an elaborate marketing ploy meant to catapult the company further into everyday discussion. Consistent memes could provide the company with free publicity, especially for younger generations that look at memes on a daily basis. 

Three years ago, Apple removed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, which led to its own controversies. With the iPhone X, they upped a notch, resigning people to a cut-off screen. 

Now, they’re continuing the process of adding controversial features to their phones by adding Gong Cha boba to the iPhone 11. They could go on with this pattern forever; next year with the iPhone 12, they could replace the camera setup with a full-fledged portable stove. 

But who knows? Apple may legitimately think their new designs are appealing, and the memes and free publicity are simply unintended side effects. It could be conspiratorial to believe Apple would intentionally make their phone so contentious just for attention. 

Apple doesn’t need to conceive random, laughable features to stand out among the strong competition such as Samsung, as they’ve been doing for the last few years. They simply have to continue their track record of quality designs and smooth, useful features.

And who knows? Part of that could be throwing it back and integrating former features such as, perhaps, the headphone jack? Please? 

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.

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