Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Dvorak’s Vistake

My favourite thing about the release of a well-received Apple product is that there’s a great new product on the market — ideally, they’ve set a new benchmark. My second favourite thing is all the piss-poor takes from the usual suspects, like John C. Dvorak writing in PC Magazine:

The first round of iPhone X reviews are out, and a number of them came from a strange place: amateur YouTubers.

As of November 1, when this piece was published, Apple’s new PR strategy had already been picked apart and scrutinized in excellent pieces from Christina Bonnington and Matt Alexander, among many others. It’s already played out. What can Dvorak possibly contribute? Well, after several paragraphs about how YouTube is new and hip with the youth, he arrives at:

Perhaps Cupertino senses that iPhone X may end up like Microsoft Vista: unfairly criticized.

Windows Vista was too long in the making, removed a litany of features, was too slow on most hardware, was a bloated mix of new ideas and legacy code, and didn’t have nearly enough of the innovative features that were announced years before it was launched. There are forged paintings with a greater attention to historical accuracy than Dvorak demonstrates by calling criticisms of Vista “unfair”.

Chief on my list of complaints is the death of what my son calls The Magic Circle.

Get your crystals and divining rods ready.

The Magic Circle has been around since Steve Jobs introduced the original iPod. On the iPhone, it took the form of the home button, but rounded edges and circles are a favorite design element for Apple; from selecting favorite artists and genres inside Apple Music to that massive spaceship campus.

This is just silly. The primary design and user interaction element of the iPhone was its touch screen. Yes, the home button was important, but the screen was clearly more important for the way that the device is actually used. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself whether you’d rather have an iPhone without a home button, or an iPhone without a multitouch display. There’s a good reason why Apple went with the former option.

The iPhone X is full of rounded edges; it just has one fewer circle on its face.

But it does not exist on the iPhone X. Not even a boot-up screen with ever-expanding circles. So if the iPhone X fails, can we blame the missing Magic Circle? Well, maybe not. A more likely culprit will be that $1,000 price tag.

If I wanted to stretch, I’d point out that the Face ID setup screens use circles extensively, as does its animation. But Dvorak changes tack in the second and third sentences here — apparently, circles are no longer all that important to the iPhone’s success or potential failure. It’s the price, dammit. But, while it is certainly higher than many smartphones, Apple doesn’t seem to think that it will be a problem. They’re forecasting an $84–87 billion October–December quarter, compared to $78 billion for the same period in 2016. Financial results aren’t inherently indicative of a product’s quality, but Apple isn’t forecasting a failure. This isn’t Apple’s Vista.