Reasonable Perspective

Nerds seem to think it’s become a status symbol of intelligence to whine about how unexciting Apple’s events have become. It’s everywhere, all over Facebook and Twitter and every tech blog imaginable. It’s probably all over the comments on those blogs too, but I don’t have the stomach to scroll that far down. It always feels like I’m scrolling into the bad part of town.

Everyone who expects Apple to keep up their excitement, their secrecy, and especially their momentum, will eventually be disappointed. Many already were by the announcement of the iPhone 4S, even though it’s a great mobile computer in its own right. Is there some reason we can’t judge the design of the damn thing on its own merits, instead of comparing this year’s hype to last year’s hype and making that the basis for our opinion?

Is there a reason, besides our lack of thoughtfulness and appreciation, that we suck at appreciating just how much power we’re packing in our pockets, compared to the featureless lumps devoid of character that we were all carrying ten years ago? All the money in the world back then couldn’t buy the superpowers that we now take for granted every day.

The software gets better. The processors get better. The batteries get better. The cameras get way better. And a wait-and-see attitude toward NFC (and every other fad-technology that attempts to interface with the “real world,” yes I’m looking at you QR codes, you miserable failures) is justified.

Most of the low-hanging fruit has been plucked at this point. So, what is there really left to design, that doesn’t amount to diminishing returns?

Maybe the only answer to that is “whatever exciting and secretive thing will cannibalize the smartphone as we know it.” Let’s follow up in a few years on how that all worked out.

We might get minor revisions to the iPhone for a few more years, even if there’s something truly mind-blowing in the works. That pattern is written all over their product history, if you know where to look.

The most well known example is the Apple II, the lifespan of which was extended to fund the development of the far-superior Macintosh. They didn’t stop selling minor revisions to that product just because something better was coming. That’s not the way this business works. There’s always something better coming. That’s not the basis for business decisions, nor purchasing decisions.

The iPhone is a tool. I’m not really convinced that excitement or secrecy are important factors in the tools I use to make and organize things. How much my tool of choice changes year over year is less important than what problems I’m trying to solve with it, or what art I’m trying to make with it, or what event I’m trying to put together with it.

When there are better features, or better tools, I’ll make the most of them. But I’m not even using the tools I’ve got to make the best work I could be making, so why should I get distracted by the lack of excitement about someone else’s work, when I can’t even demand as much exciting work from myself as I’d like?