Thursday, December 6, 2012

iAm Beautiful: Does Form over Function... Function?

They’re thin. They’re beautiful. A passing glance is not enough. You do a double-take. Your jaw drops. And just like that, you’re hooked.

Despite being just 1.8cm thin, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display features an ultra-high resolution display and the most powerful processors to date while maintaining excellent battery life.

The striking aesthetics of Apple’s products are designed (no pun intended) to make you want them if only for their appealing looks. But aside from being able to market their products as the thinnest, lightest and arguably most visually appealing, does it makes sense for Apple put so much time, effort, and thought into using crystalized diamonds to cut the highly polished chamfered edges of the iPhone 5 and iPad mini? Or employing fans with asymmetrically-positioned blades in the MacBook Pros? Or even using advanced friction stir welding to make the welded seams in the iMacs virtually imperceptible?


The cooling fans with asymmetrically-positioned blades in the MacBook Pro with Retina Display are testaments to just how much attention Apple pays to the smallest and most easily overlooked details of a product. By spacing the fan blades asymmetrically, the cooling fans run much quieter. 

Apple is often criticized for prioritizing form over function, but this is precisely what enables the Cupertino-based company’s many innovations (or “thinnovations” as Apple boasts in their MacBook Air marketing). They’ve shown that engineering products around design is what truly pushes the boundaries of what’s possible. When they set out to develop an ultraportable computer, they left behind legacy technologies such as hard drives and CD drives. They left only the absolute essentials and pushed the limits of engineering with the slim form factor they were going for. However, their innovations don’t just benefit the direct consumers of Apple products; rather, they push the entire industry forward.

The iconic MacBook Air epitomizes Apple's obsession with design and thinness.

After the MacBook Air was introduced, PC manufacturers scrambled to put out their own ultraportables. Crafting ultraportables was, of course, a drastic change from the “function over form” design thinking embodied by other PC manufacturers who were used to creating thick, bulky, and generally dull-looking products that had every port and feature imaginable, whether or not a majority of users would even use them. The same happened in 2010 with the introduction of the iPad, a product many initially scoffed at but that now sells more units than all notebooks sold by all PC manufacturers combined. Currently tablets are offered by several other manufacturers at much lower price points and with distinct features that set them apart from each other. Either way, it’s a win for consumers who have power with so many choices.

The Samsung Series 9 is one of several PCs available that compete directly with - and show significant design influence from - Apple's MacBook Air.

By obsessing over thinness, lightness, and minuteness, consumers can now enjoy lightweight products that are not so burdensome in a backpack and that last longer due to more advanced and space-efficient battery technologies. Ultra-thin displays with ultra-high resolutions such as those currently found in the iPhone 5 will soon make their way to other consumer products. Even if they can’t afford an iPad or a MacBook Pro, consumers can enjoy products that compete directly with comparable Apple products, and for a fraction of the cost. Apple’s constant desire to make their products thinner, lighter and smaller eventually trickles down to benefit the entire consumer market.

The iPhone 5 (top) measures just 7.6mm thin, while the Samsung Galaxy S III (bottom) comes in at 8.6mm. Modern smartphones are able to fit a lot more features and capabilities than phones from just a few years ago - and they are able to do so in very thin frames.

So whether you love or hate Apple or their products, the next time you use your cell phone, tablet, or computer, take some time to notice the small tidbits of Apple inspiration.

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