Apple’s Top 5 current design travesties - Macenstein

Apple’s Top 5 current design travesties

Sure we all love Apple, but it doesn’t mean we have to turn a blind eye when they occasionally make the odd design decision. Below is our list of the top 5 most glaringly bad design decisions the company has recently (and is still currently) incorporating into its hardware. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.

5) The iPhone’s speakerphone volume is (still) pitiful

In “reinventing the phone”, Apple chose to unnecessarily re-invent the “low volume speakerphone“. Even after the alleged volume increase brought about by the 1.1.1 firmware, the iPhone’s speakerphone volume is laughable. If this is a ploy to sell more headsets, I hope Apple reaches its goal soon, as I am going nuts trying to use the iPhone in the car. The low volume doesn’t quite seem to be hardware specific, as the volume when playing movies and music via the speaker is MUCH louder than the volume the speakerphone is capable of when placing calls. This may be something Apple can address with yet another firmware boost, but if not, the iPhone 2.0 needs some new serious new speakerphone hardware.

Advice: Increase the speaker phone volume to a level usable outside of a monastery

4) MacBook discoloration.

Sure, we all love the white plastic material the MacBooks are made of (or DID a couple years ago (hint hint Mr. Ives)) but one thing no MacBook owner loves is the dingy discoloration that forms around the palm rests. Sometimes it’s easy to forget when designing something that a person has to actually use it, and that odds are, that person has sweat glands. Even those of us not suffering from Hyper-Hydrosis find that after a relatively short period of time we’re forced to raid the wife’s medicine cabinet looking for nail polish remover, or searching online for a MacBook specific polishing solution.

Advice: The MacBook has been around long enough now (and so has this problem) that a better choice of materials is long past due.

3) AppleTV low end model still has a 40 GB hard drive?!?

These days a 250 GB of drive space can cost a consumer $100 (or less). A big company like Apple could obviously score an even better deal. It’s pretty sad when the smaller and cheaper base model iPod classic comes with twice the hard drive space as something specifically designed to serve as your digital media hub. This is just plain embarrassing. If the rumors of slow sales are true, I think Apple’s marketing department has a good place to start looking for their culprit.

Advice: Apple, either bump the low-end model to 80 GB or just discontinue the project.

2) MacBook cracking

OK, just like number 4 above, this is a well documented problem, and should have been acknowledged and addressed sooner. The cracking cases issue has spurred a couple theories, but whatever the cause, it happens too often to be anything other than a design flaw.

Advice: Apple, change the MacBook’s latching mechanism and lid bezels

1) Combo drive on the MacBook

Yes, this is not nearly as horrible as your computer physically falling apart like number 2, but it just screams “tacky”, something Apple fans pay extra to avoid. It is hard to find a PC for under $650 that can’t burn a DVD (or at least give you the option for an extra $25 or so). Apple’s stubbornness in sticking with the “good, better, best” sales scheme has forced it to create perceived value by holding their “Superdrive” for ransom, not allowing it to be even an option on their low-end MacBook. Apple was first to ditch the floppy, but is the last to ditch the CD-ROM? What happened to cutting edge? Their computers are marketed as being the ideal music, photo and movie editing platform, yet we’re forced to burn 6 CD’s instead of 1 DVD? (what ’till Greenpeace realizes this waste of resources!). Besides, Apple bundles iLife with new MacBooks, but iDVD is useless on the low end model. I smell rip-off.

Advice: Kill the combo drive, it’s enough already.

65 Responses to “Apple’s Top 5 current design travesties”
  1. Marc Fiszman says:

    The black SmudgeBook! Can’t go near that thing without marking it up. When I (briefly) owned one, I was almost afraid to touch it!

    Like the shiny rear face of the iPod touch, an idiotic choice of materials.

  2. Brendan says:

    I love Apple and own a MacBook (Luckily with none of the problems above, and I have the higher end model with Superdrive) but I do have to agree with what is said. Apple shouldn’t be making these flaws.

    Also, I’d like to point out that the Mighty Mouse, despite being more useful than not, could probably be improved (the 360 scroll ball).

    I am sure Apple will clean these problems up, they usually do what their fan base requests, even if it takes a little time.

  3. MikeMc says:

    What the heck are you on about? The mighty mouse is an excellent design. I love it.

  4. Shaun says:

    My pet peeve? “keying” otherwise standard plugs so that they physically only work with a certain product.

    My apple keyboard came with a usb extension lead .. that has a keyed ‘lug’ in it, so it’ll only work with the notched usb plug on the keyboard.

    And the cable between my macbook’s power adaptor, and the wall, is similarily keyed so that I can’t use it with the (otherwise entirely physically and electrically compatible) iPod power brick.


  5. tom says:

    Single button trackpad on laptops…

  6. MarvD says:

    Don’t know about iPhone speaker volume but I do know my MacBook is maddeningly quiet. To watch a movie, even in favorable conditions, I have to use AudioHijack (the equalizer in VLC doesn’t work with DivX files). Forget trying to play some ambient music. I know external speakers are cheap and portable and whatever but if I want to see a movie in bed they’re a pain in the ass. Literally.

  7. CMILLS says:

    I’ll continue with the iPhone complaints: My hair often gets pulled while on phone calls (stuck in the volume button I guess). Whatever the case, it hurts. Because I can’t hear the ringer while driving in the car, I often use vibrate mode and sit the phone on my lap. The phone is so damn slippery on clothing. Every turn and the phone falls in between the seat and armrest.

  8. betsy says:

    Maybe its not apple’s design that causes discoloration and cracks…Maybe its people who dont take care of their computer. I have had my Macbook for over a year…no cracks…no discoloration….perfect condition. I use it everyday and take it everywhere I go.

    So lets start taking care of our computers before making these articles!

  9. matt says:

    My complaints (I’ve used macs since 1988):

    crap video card options for MacPro – overpriced, outdated, old, crappy, shitty cards unless you want to spend thousands.
    Mighty Mouse shitty 2nd button – reallly annoying when playing Portal on Bootcamp. I’ve only realised that I have to lift my 1st finger from reading this article.
    Combidrive on the MacBook – couldn’t believe it when I received mine and couldn’t burn a DVD – in 2007?. Wankers.
    That new apple keyboard is horrible, like really horrible.
    iPod nano – what an ugly little fooker.
    Steve Jobs’ trainers, get a pair of decent ones or wear some bloody shoes, you tramp. He looks like a Geography teacher.
    MacPro Ram – rather than put another fan in you custom engineer heatsinks on the ram so you can charge about 800% more.
    All the proprietary crap they’re making; custom cables and the like – I don’t want to revisit Sun Systems from the 80s.

  10. eric says:

    Ditto Ryan M,

    the Mighty Mouse needs to die.
    i rate it slightly above the puck.

    (has apple ever had a good mouse?)

  11. Thad says:

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned the keyboard layout yet. Apple had the chance to switch to a Windows/Linux/Rest of the world keyboard layout when they went to OS X. But instead they kept the stupid old layout for the Ctrl, Option and Command keys. So now I have a Logitech keyboard at work with no OS X control panel and the option and command keys are swapped. Then I have a Microsoft keyboard at home that works the same as my MacBook’s keyboard. Thankfully Microsoft has a control panel app that will let you swap the option and command keys so you can mimic Logitech’s reverse layout. It’s still not convenient when you have to use the MacBooks built in keyboard.

    Then there is the issue with Home and End keys. Why couldn’t they make them work like every other operating system? Sure you can modify the keys to mimic behavior of other OS’s, but 1/2 the OS X apps have already compensated on their own. If you hack the key codes then compensated apps break. Also if you hack the keys and then run XP or Linux in a virtual machine, they don’t work properly for the guest OS’s.

    What a disaster. If Apple had thought this through and really wanted to draw more people from other OS’s, then they should have tried to standardize a few more things when they switched from OS 9 to OS X.

  12. Mark Nutter says:

    The macbook cracking issue has been solved by Apple for a while now. I brought my cracked macbook into Apple last spring and they replaced the faceplate for free, mentioning that the material had been reworked and was now more durable.

  13. biz says:

    In order to clean ANY macbook / ibook (white) all you need is…


    It works amazingly.

  14. Kevin says:

    The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser doesn’t work on the Macbook discoloration issue. It’s a problem with the plastic itself, not the dirty hands of users as so many fanboys try to claim. It’s a known flaw – acknowledged by Apple – and covered under warranty for replacement.

    Apple’s streak of poor quality control lately is becoming worrisome:
    – Graphic issues on Apple’s latest MacBooks
    – Apple releases iMac updates, but lockups continue – freezing iMac Issue Due to Hardware?
    – Wireless slowly dies after Leopard upgrade, users report
    – Leopard’s firewall a ‘mess,’ breaks Skype, says researcher – firewall is simple, but also ineffective and incompatible with some applications
    – Mac Data Loss Vulnerabilities Discovered
    and that’s just in the past 2 weeks!

  15. This post cracked me up…Great article. I digged it for you on


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