I remember when I bought my first Mac. Lucky enough in having won a scholarship (through the hugely generous family of Helen Gregory), and with parents that offered to match whatever else I put in myself, I worked extra hours like crazy to amass a suitably decent sum of cash.
The problem was then how to spend it. Back then, Mac clones were commonplace and Apple itself looked shaky. Friends desperately tried to talk me down from buying a Mac, seemingly recommending every PC in existence as an alternative.
They had plenty of time to do so. Armed with a half-dozen Mac magazines, I pored over adverts and reviews, trying to figure out the best system for me, then a budding digital-oriented artist, blissfully unaware I’d later have to figure out some kind of career in order to earn money.
In the end, I plumped for the then new and cutting-edge PowerMac 8600/250AV. It was powerful and had video input, enabling me to store 320-by-160-pixel footage at a staggering 12 frames per second. Usefully, it also had a 1 GB Jaz drive, which I’d discover on the run-in to my degree show was possibly the least reliable storage system in creation.
The thing is, I could at the time have bought any one of a dozen machines that would have sufficed. Some would argue the level of choice was great; but I’d say the ‘choice’ was in reality confusion, with so much overlap between products that there was never any clear-cut system that made far more sense than any other. There was no need for so many options. Subsequently, I got more into technology and Apple, but also elegance within design, and was thrilled on hearing Steve Jobs talk about the four-quadrant product grid: one desktop and portable each for pros and consumers.
In today’s smartphone market, most companies are the Apple of old. They issue dozens of products, arguing that choice is great. But choice impacts focus, efficiency and support for companies. For consumers, it gives rise to the confusion I mentioned earlier, and the potential for buyer’s doubt. Tell someone about a great product and they’ll want it. Tell them about ten great products, all very similar, and they might buy nothing, in fear of making the wrong decision.
This is my concern when it comes to rumours regarding a huge iPhone. Reportedly, large phones are still relatively low sellers, and Apple’s taller screen for the iPhone 5 seemed an elegant way to increase screen area without making the device itself huge. Now the suggestion is Apple could make a huge version anyway.
I don’t see how this fits with a modern Apple, and it worryingly reminds me of the Apple of old. Perhaps it thinks it needs for commercial reasons to cast a wider net, but rather than someone wanting the latest iPhone and having to choose merely which capacity is best for them (a tough enough decision), adding another new model to the line-up forces another difficult decision. Placing it somewhat between the iPhone and iPad mini (the iPad mini sitting between the iPad and iPhone) seems borderline ludicrous.
Naturally, some people will nonetheless be find making such a decision, but others won’t; and many will during ownership of their device constantly wonder if they got it right, or whether they’d have been better off with an alternative—not a very Apple scenario, but one that perhaps we will all need to deal with over the coming years.