Apple's power is its attention to detail, down to the power cable

"Let me tell you about my favorite power cable."

power cable primary
Credit: Christopher Phin

You guys are going to be totally with me, aren’t you, when I tell you I have a favorite power cable. And you’re gonna stay with me for the next 600 words while I tell you about it, yes? Strap in.

We all have at last one drawer, one cubby hole, one dusty cardboard box in the corner which is filled with sundry cables, and the reason for this is because we know that as soon as we dispose of just one of them we will need it again after a gap of hours, days or weeks, the specific duration of which is governed by a complex and capricious equation whose key variable is how easy it is to replace said cable in a hurry.

But my favorite power cable, the one you see at the top of the page, never has to slum it, tumbled in with the rest of the normal power cables. Not for it the ignominy of being wrestled unceremoniously out of a knotted tangle of dull, unremarkable, interchangeable compatriots and jammed unthinkingly into an appliance. No, no; it is bestowed upon the deserving. What device, I ask myself, is worthy of this cable? It is reverentially transferred, redeployed from one special Mac to a newer one, and why? Because it’s just nice.

I can’t actually remember how it first came into my life—with my G4 Cube when I was at art school, maybe?—but I’ve had it for years, and it’s carefully followed me through various house moves.

And look, yes, I’m being a bit silly and overblown, but it really is just a nice cable, and I think it’s okay to care about that.

power cable 01 Christopher Phin

The material sheathing the cable itself is a really lovely translucent grey of indeterminate cast, showing the neutral (blue), live (brown) and—since I live in the UK—the earth wires (green and yellow striped) at its core. It feels great too, somehow exactly reflecting in its soft, pliable tactility its frosted, matte appearance.

power cable 02 Christopher Phin

It looks good right the way to the end, too, with a nicely textured plug featuring a debossed Apple logo, and a ring to make it easy to tug from the computer. The solid translucent plastic glows pleasingly too as light passes through it, like some kind of futuristic gem.

power cable 03 Christopher Phin

Things do, I’ll allow, get a little less considered at the other end; that white insert looks like it’s probably an off-the-shelf component, and it does spoil the look a little.

There is a point to all this besides “Chris has a favorite power cable” (and the concomitant “Let’s not invite Chris to any parties”), and it’s this. Nobody buys a computer because it has a nice power cable—not even I would, and we’ve established I have strong feelings about the niceness of power cables. And yet by even making its own dumb power cable rather than buying a few containers’ worth from a Taiwanese OEM, Apple is once again demonstrating that it just cares that little bit more about its products than most companies, whether they’re making consumer technology or anything else. Open up a new computer and the only thing duller than the power cable is the obligatory slip of paper listing regulatory notices, and yet here is Apple saying: it might be boring, but we nevertheless care. Or perhaps even: because it’s boring, we care.

No, nobody buys a computer because it has a nice power cable, but plenty of those who buy computers that happen to have nice power cables will notice them, and while few will go to the lengths I have to cherish or even much care about them, they will at some level internalize the lesson that Apple is a company which takes the time and effort to shape every little part of the experience, however insignificant. Yeah, sure, it doesn’t always get it right, but I remain an Apple customer in large part because I think it genuinely wants to above all else. More power to it.

Now—reaches for a third beer—let me tell you about my favorite 4-to–6-pin FireWire cable…

power cable 04 Christopher Phin

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