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The most important Apple design fails and screw-ups of all time

Apple is world-famous for its design success tales, from the iMac G3 to all the perfect iPhones. However issues don’t all the time go based on plan, even for probably the most design-savvy tech agency on the planet.

No, Apple has had its justifiable share of design howlers over time. Right here, we’ve rounded up eight of probably the most egregious design sins Apple has ever dedicated. It’s a superb reminder that nobody is above dropping a number of absolute clunkers — even Apple.

The butterfly keyboard

MacBook Keyboard

For a few years, Apple exalted the idea of “skinny and lightweight” above seemingly all else. Within the quest to strip again its designs to their purest essence, not even the keyboard may escape the steely gaze of Jony Ive and his fellow Apple designers.

The outcome was the butterfly keyboard, first debuted on 2015’s 12-inch MacBook. As an alternative of the standard scissor change mechanism beneath every key, this keyboard bore a brand new design that was a lot thinner and permitted far much less key journey than earlier than. Certain, it allowed the laptop computer to be virtually impossibly skinny, however it got here at the price of horrible reliability (and loads of lawsuits filed towards Apple).

Even the smallest crumb may jam up your keys and render them fickle and erratic. And with virtually no key journey, typing on the keyboard felt such as you have been tapping a strong, immovable floor, which made errors more and more widespread. Apple lastly ditched the butterfly keyboard in 2019 and hasn’t regarded again since.

Magic Mouse 2

The butterfly keyboard might need been deserted, however this subsequent design fail — the Magic Mouse 2 — remains to be with us. Purchase a Magic Mouse 2 right now and also you’ll see it’s an actual ache — fairly actually.

For one factor, its low-profile form could cause discomfort with extended use. I do know at the least one one who needed to change to a special mouse after it triggered them extreme wrist ache. Certain, its help for multitouch gestures is nice, however is that well worth the doable carpal tunnel syndrome?

That’s not the one drawback. Probably the most meme-worthy facet of the Magic Mouse 2 is the way in which it fees, as Apple bafflingly positioned the charging port on the underside of the system. Which means you possibly can’t use it and cost it on the identical time,  and as an alternative have to put it on its again like a rodent taking part in lifeless. That appears fairly applicable, actually.

The iMac G3’s ‘hockey puck’ mouse

An Apple USB Mouse, known as the "hockey puck" mouse, from the iMac G3. The mouse is sitting on a desk with its USB cable next to it.
Manufacturing facility on Wikipedia

The Magic Mouse 2 wasn’t the primary time Apple received a mouse badly fallacious. No, over 15 years earlier than the, Apple launched the iMac G3 and its design bomb of a mouse. Whereas the iMac G3 is rightly celebrated as one of many greatest Macs of all time, its mouse is just not remembered wherever close to as fondly. You definitely received’t discover it on any lists of the perfect mice, that’s for positive.

That’s as a result of it was utterly round (therefore the “hockey puck” nickname). In observe, that meant it was extraordinarily tough to orient appropriately with out taking your eyes off the display screen and looking out down. You’d both maintain it fallacious and never be capable of discover its single button, or need to interrupt your work to get it the suitable method round. It was disruptive and annoying — hardly the hallmarks of nice design.

The Contact Bar


When Apple launched the redesigned MacBook Professional in 2016, its Contact Bar characteristic was heralded with a lot fanfare by the corporate. This touch-sensitive strip would supply useful app-specific shortcuts everytime you wanted them and would even allow you to shortly kind emojis into any message. What’s to not love?

Properly, its shortcomings grew to become obvious over time. Though a number of apps had built-in help for the Contact Bar from the get-go, many didn’t, and uptake was sluggish. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than the Contact Bar felt prefer it was stagnating and unable to dwell as much as its potential.

What’s extra, it changed the MacBook Professional’s row of bodily operate keys, which have been popular with many customers. Apple ultimately reinstated a bodily Escape key in later iterations, however the absence of a correct operate row was keenly felt. Apple righted that fallacious when it dropped the Contact Bar in 2021.

1st-generation Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil
Malarie Gokey/Digital Traits

Don’t get me fallacious, I just like the Apple Pencil. It brings a terrific degree of additional performance to the iPad and feels well-thought-out and well-designed.

In each method besides one, that’s. You see, the first-generation Apple Pencil got here with a Lightning connector at its prime finish. To cost the system, you needed to plug it into the iPad’s Lightning port, making your pill appear to be some type of weird tech stingray.

Worse, this perplexing association put the Apple Pencil at an enormous danger of snapping if it was knocked whereas charging, as a daunting quantity of strain can be channeled by its Lightning connector. It might need been a superb system, however its peculiar — and dangerous — charging technique was an inescapable design fail. Happily, Apple fastened it within the second-generation mannequin.

The ‘trash can’ Mac Professional

A 2013 Mac Pro is shown emerging out of a shadowy black background.

When Apple’s advertising and marketing chief Phil Schiller unveiled the brand new Mac Professional in 2013, he uttered probably the most notorious strains in launch occasion historical past: “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass.” The irony is that the design he revealed truly prevented Apple from innovating additional down the highway.

You see, the 2013 Mac Professional (recognized informally because the “trash can” Mac Professional) was a reasonably intelligent system, with all its elements designed round a cylindrical cooling chamber. It was a marvel of engineering and extremely proprietary. However the issue with proprietary designs is that they’re very tough to improve sooner or later.

Apple admitted as a lot in 2017, when an uncharacteristically candid Schiller mentioned the Mac Professional was “constrained thermally,” which “restricted our skill to improve it.” Consequently, the 2019 Mac Professional was much more modular. The 2013 mannequin, in the meantime, is a superb instance of how a design that wows within the brief time period can result in complications in the long run.

AirPods Max Sensible Case

Apple's AirPods Max headphones inside a blue Smart Case.

The AirPods Max Sensible Case is likely to be probably the most sarcastically named product Apple has ever launched. That’s as a result of it’s barely a case in any respect, and undoubtedly not a sensible alternative. Wrap up your AirPods Max contained in the Sensible Case and also you’ll see solely about half the headphones are literally lined. It appears far more like a vogue accent than a case.

Whereas it’s type of intelligent in that it resembles a purse, that’s undoubtedly not what most individuals need from a headphone case as a result of it gives subsequent to no safety in any respect. If you happen to have been hoping to maintain your AirPods Max secure from bumps and bruises, you’re out of luck.

Much more annoyingly, utilizing the Sensible Case is the one method the headphones can enter low-power mode. Ditch the case and you have to wait a few hours for them to close down, and all of the whereas they’re draining the battery.

Fashion? Test. Substance? Not a lot.

iPhone Sensible Battery Case

Two Apple iPhones, each inside a Smart Battery Case. One is a white case and the other is a black case.

What’s it with Apple gadgets which have “Sensible” of their title? Subsequent up is the iPhone’s Sensible Battery Case, which immediately grew to become one thing of a meme because of its weird design.

Whereas Apple’s rivals opted for extra cumbersome charging instances, Apple went for a stripped-back look, leaving the battery oddly protruding from the again of your telephone. Sadly, this design made it appear to be the case had swallowed the battery, and that it was able to burst out at any second.

The bulbous design even prompted Tim Prepare dinner to step out and defend the case, and that’s by no means a superb signal. Happily for him, Apple later ditched the Sensible Battery Case in favor of the MagSafe Battery Pack, which is barely extra elegant (though actually, it’s not that tough).

The Newton MessagePad

Apple Newton next to an iPhone
Blake Patterson/Flickr

The iPad has been an enormous success for Apple, but it wouldn’t exist have been it not for the Newton MessagePad. This handheld private digital assistant (PDA) launched in 1993, however was plagued with issues virtually from the start.

The MessagePad — and maybe the world — merely wasn’t prepared when it launched. Its handwriting-recognition software program was so inaccurate that it was even mocked on The Simpsons, but the system was nonetheless pushed out forward of time, maybe as a result of it was the pet undertaking of Apple’s then-CEO John Sculley.

Finally, the MessagePad was a terrific concept designed poorly. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple within the late Nineteen Nineties, he axed the corporate’s whole Newton division. But, with extra mature expertise and some design tweaks (together with dropping the stylus), the MessagePad concept lived on within the type of the iPad.

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