How the Apple Dress Code Undermined the iPhone

The iPhone mic snags on any button-down collar, but not t shirts.

I can’t be the only one. The only lifelong Apple fan boy who wears shirts with collars on occasion. Am I?

I ask because if there were others, if maybe even one of us worked for Apple on the iPhone team, the iPhone headphones would be designed differently. It’s a fact – no two ways about it. That somehow this critical design flaw should never have survived the Apple design process, unless of course, they really all do wear t-shirts – exclusively.

Hey, I wear t shirts. Cool ones too. But now and again – and maybe more often than some, I wear similarly stylish button-down shirts with collars. And this is where the design flaw reveals itself.

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Hey Apple, The 90s Called and Wants It’s White iPhone Back

ABOVE: Apple's 16GB iPhone 3G - in White. Optional keychain ring and free pink eraser not pictured.

When Apple started using the color white as it’s industrial design foundation back in the late 90s – it evoked all the coolest parts of Star Wars’ Storm Troopers, 2001: A Space Odyssey – and bathroom fixtures all at once.  It was a powerful design conceit that differentiated the company assertively for a decade – and big-banged out trends that are still rippling their way down the lower design food-chain today.

Then, with the advent of multicolored aluminum iPods, Black MacBooks and silver iMacs, Airs and Mac Pros, it looked as though His whiteness was finally, at long gasping last, bowing out.  And none too soon.

The fact is, the whole white consumer technology thing has been done to death.  There is all manner of non-Apple, white and plastic-chrome “iWhatevers” on the market.  So ubiquitous is the white and “chromed” plastic look that anything done that way today usually has “made in taiwan” embossed on the side or comes from a gum ball machine.

And then Apple unveiled the iPhone 3G.

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Just the Big Screen Please

There is one thing I think mobile users have done well.  We generally turn off our ringers when we go to the movies.  Seriously, that’s an impressive thing when you think about it, and we should all feel pretty good about that.  Yes, most of that is based on pure peer pressure, admittedly.  There is nothing in average-day society that is more humiliating than the rush of realization as your pocket-muffled, yet vibrantly audible ringtone fills the theater.  And man, it only gets worse as you’re forced to perform the pocket-pull of shame, adding insult to injury, liberated from your pocket, the phone bursts to full volume, and all eyes have found you with the help of the ungodly bright screen that lit up when you opened the thing.

But that’s never happened to me.

And smart people, which is most of us in this case (right?), remember to turn off the ringer.  It does, however bring me to the point of this post.

My in-theater misanthropism has found a new mobile offender, and for once it is not audio related.  It’s those people who read sms messages during a movie.

You usually know who he is before the feature starts.  He glances at it while the lights are up and everyone is seating.  The possibility  already sinking in, you scrutinize him, his mannerisms, clothes, who he’s with, all in an effort to privately judge whether he’s one of those.  But hey – we all do that while the lights are up, right?  And then he does it during the trailers.  You’re behind him, but you stare at the back of his head anyway with your laser vision because you like the trailers, and even though your eyes have not completely adjusted to the dark room yet, that phone’s screen was bright enough to counter the sun ten minutes ago.  It’s just a trailer you remind yourself.  Maybe this is one of those feature-respectful false alarm people.  Fine.  And then you forget about it as the movie starts and whisks you away.

You’re distracted as he shifts his weight with purpose and immediately sense what’s about to happen – in fact you mentally dare him to.  And it’s startlingly bright.  I mean, it’s so bright that in that blackened room you see a Doppler Effect.  It doesn’t matter that he holds it low, in some feigned effort to be considerate – your pupils just constricted off.

I have learned that you can’t publicly ridicule screen abusers in a theater as you can “ring-holes.”  The lack of an original offending sound renders your otherwise audience-gratifying “Turn it off jackass!” unacceptable.

You can however, rest your foot on his chair back.  That provides options.