AppleThe winning formula has always been the focus on design and the magic of simplicity. The launch of the iMac G3 in 1998 marked the beginning of a design revolution, which was later continued with the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Whether it’s the iPod’s click wheel to navigate the user interface to the iPhone’s multi-touch display, Apple’s approach to product design was different and unique. But there have been times when Apple has been questioned for its strange design choices. With Cupertino receiving a lot of criticism for the 10th-generation iPad that requires a dongle to charge the Apple Pencil, we look at five cases where Apple has sparked design debates with its products.
Magic Mouse 2 (2015)
Announced in 2015, the Magic Mouse 2 was hailed by critics and fans as a “beautiful mess.” While the mouse looks sleek and has multi-touch controls, the way you charge the device is a bit odd. You really have to flip the mouse over to charge it, which renders it useless during startup. Apple could have added the port on the front of the Magic Mouse 2; instead, the charging port sits in the base of the device. It’s a mystery to see Apple still support and ship the Magic Mouse 2 with the iMac M1.
“Can’t innovate anymore, my a**,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, as he introduced the new Mac Pro at the 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference. At the time, Schiller’s comment was seen as a bold return to the top of the desktop market. The $4000 Mac Pro, which looked like a “trash can”, had a bizarre and beautiful design, a device only Apple’s star designer Jony Ive could have imagined. But the machine had little internal extensibility, which annoyed professional users and Mac enthusiasts, a design flaw that even Apple later acknowledged. It was a classic case of form over function.
Apple Siri Remote (2015)
Everyone seemed to hate the first-generation Apple TV Siri remote. Jony Ive’s design was beautiful but practically useless. The sleek-looking remote consisted only of a trackpad and about six buttons, including one that summons Apple’s voice assistant, Siri. The trackpad certainly felt futuristic and brought touchscreen functionality in games to TV, but the simplicity and minimalism of the Siri remote frustrated users. Navigating TV menus was difficult and less precise. In addition, the Siri remote was so delicate that it was difficult to grip. Years later, in 2021, Apple finally fixed the Siri remote design and introduced a new click wheel design reminiscent of the early iPods to navigate, when it started selling the updated Apple TV.
I’ve used that for years.
This one, on the other hand (pun intended), propelled me to a trackball… pic.twitter.com/braz1ja7d3
— Barry Wainwright (@bnwainwright) November 22, 2019
iMac’s ‘hockey puck’ mouse (1998)
The Apple hockey puck mouse was a design disaster. The mouse, which came with the original iMac in 1998, was different in appearance with a round disk-like shape and transparent interior to match the translucent design of the iMac G3. This was the very first mouse to ever use USB as the standard for connectivity. Ergonomically, however, the mouse was uncomfortable to use due to its round design and it would be difficult to hold with two fingers. The mouse lasted for two years and Cupertino eventually replaced the hockey puck mouse with the Apple Pro mouse which had a more traditional design. Although the hockey puck mouse was short-lived, the device is now highly priced among vintage Apple collectors.
Power Mac G4 Cube (2000)
The design of Jony Ive’s Power Mac G4 Cube was striking. The machine was suspended in an acrylic glass housing to give the impression that it was floating. The 8-inch cube-shaped computer was a visual stunner with a G4 processor, vertical slot-loading optical drive, hard drive, RAM, video card, and an array of ports, all packed into that tiny space. It was a futuristic computer without fans and used passive cooling through a large vent at the top. But the G4 Cube was riddled with surface problems that led to the product’s failure. From complaints of overheating and cracking to defective parts and lack of upgrade options, the G4 Cube, initially praised for its advanced design, quickly became the butt of jokes for its disappointing performance. Seeing the negative reception, Apple had to lower the price of the G4 Cube from $1799 to $1499, eventually halting production a year after launch. Despite critical flaws and commercial failure, the G4 Cube has earned its place in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and is once again a prized collector’s item.