The new iPad is so far less than thrilling.
I’m not saying that as a geek (or fanboy), but as a customer.
The new iPad certainly isn’t cheap. The screen is of course gorgeous, but good designers know that perfection isn’t always what a customer is after. (Or as Peter Drucker famously put it… “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it sells him.”).
Apple has just released a device that makes them look good (or at the very least clever), but at the expense of everyone else (including the customer). Sure, the fonts are so crisp they could cut glass, but absolutely everything else on screen is fuzzy.
(Everything except Apple’s own site where for possibly the first time ever, they’ve acknowledged that the web is now multi-context, and have taken the time to swap some images. Pigs may however fly before Apple honours us with a small-screen and bandwidth optimised experience).
The past week has been full of frantic tweets, articles and GitHub commits aiming to “solve the retina image problem” that the new iPad has thrust upon us. (And matters are not much rosier on the native app side of the world.)
The optimist in me thinks this episode may finally compel the standards bodies to properly discuss a multi-context image tag. The pessimist in me sees the second coming of the Y2K bug, as we all scurry around to solve a problem that could have been avoided through pragmatism and good design.
In this case, the pragmatism would have been needed on Apple’s part.
Everyone already loves the iPad. They’ve already sold more tablets than anyone else, and competitors are still struggling to catch up.
Releasing a retina-display version hasn’t really improved the device (which is now also noticeably heavier and feels awkwardly out of balance). What it’s merely done is create hype that no one (including Apple) actually needed.
What I would have loved to see from them is an admission that releasing a retina display iPad was not in anyone’s best interest at the moment. They could have even (as they do so well…) spun a story around that fact; explaining that in matters of user experience the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
This quote by Maya Angelou sums it up very well for me (the customer…not the web designer):
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The iPad used to make me feel happy. The new iPad no longer does.
Update: This post is certainly generating some vibrant conversations on Twitter
What i’m first finding interesting is that it’s really quite hard to be a user, designer and developer at the same time. There is a clear value in innovating, but no technology operates in a vacuum, and once the technology is there, it’s often the social change we struggle with the most.
Many people have responded that Apple is simply innovating, and that in the end, we will all be better for it. And on the one hand, I don’t disagree. I just find it sad that with fast release cycles and the need to compete, this innovation often occurs at the expense of users (and of course other times it doesn’t…hopefully it all balances out).
Bryan also mentioned something interesting after chatting with a few folks on Twitter. If Apple really wanted to use this as an opportunity to innovate, they would have also included their version (or vision?) of how to gracefully solve the multi-context image problem (and maybe even the bandwidth detection problem) in the latest version of Safari and iOS. There’s nothing like a new bit of implemented ‘spec’ to jumpstart progress.