Welcome to our weekend Apple Breakfast column, which includes all of the Apple news you missed this week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Design by committee
Former Apple design supremo Sir Jonathan Ive was in the news this week, following the announcement that he designed the red nose for this year’s Comic Relief charity event in the UK. If that sounds like a comedown for the guy behind several of this century’s most iconic products, take a look at the horrific noses Comic Relief has sold in the past. This was an urgent commission.
Nevertheless, Ive’s extracurricular activities will likely trigger a sense of “what might have been” among seasoned Apple watchers. Officially his tenure as head of the Cupertino design shop ended in 2019 with a consultancy arrangement continuing until last year, but it’s generally felt that his involvement in the day-to-day design work reduced significantly when he was given the title of Chief Design Officer in 2015. It’s difficult not to imagine the direction that certain Apple products might have taken in the past few years if Chingford’s finest still had his hand on the tiller.
Would the details-obsessed Ive, for example, have put up with the 10th-gen iPad’s Apple Pencil support? With no dominant voice leading the way–Tim Cook doesn’t seem the type to pull rank on design decisions, while Ive’s successor, Evans Hankey, doesn’t have anything near the same clout–one suspects the solution was reached via committee. One member of the team will have championed the adoption of USB-C; another will have insisted on a budget design with no room for a magnetic charging connector; and a third will have explained why the Apple Pencil 3 option wasn’t feasible. And while each individual contribution made sense in isolation, the result was a farcical dongle and scores of unimpressed reviewers.
What Ive brought to Apple was a coherent personal vision. That doesn’t mean Apple’s designs on his watch were always perfect, of course; there were plenty of missteps. In broader terms, his arch-minimalism could be frustrating for those who wanted more physical controls, and one suspects that his departure was an important factor in the Apple Watch finally being allowed a much-appreciated extra button and the Mac Studio getting front-facing ports. But the presence of a strong personality at the head of the design team meant Apple was better equipped to take risks, and more likely to create products with its own cultural imprint. The Action button is nice, but it’s also the sort of thing that almost any tech company would have made.
Maybe Apple is no longer a company that focuses on individual personality, or indeed on thinking different. This week we also got the news that Ive’s replacement will not be replaced, with a core group of 20 designers instead reporting directly to the chief operating officer, who is no stranger to design and likely has his own ideas. If design by committee has been the de facto approach for the past four years, it’s now been made official.
Committees tend not to make blunders–it takes a strong leader to really mess something up–but they do have an instinct for unsatisfactory compromise. Or for the refusal to make any strong choice at all, which may be why we’ve been seeing so many similar iPhones and iPads over the past few years, so many Macs with groundbreaking components and laurel-resting designs. It remains to be seen which of those categories, caution or compromise, will be applicable to the key launches we expect this year and in 2024. Will Apple finally make a foldable device, when it knows that foldable devices mean higher price tags, new designs, and the risk of physical malfunctions? And is the imminent AR headset a parcel of compromises? I do hope not.
Trending: Top stories of the week
Apple’s financial results are out, and down is up: iPhone slumps, iPad soars, and a huge quarter is too small.
Forget a new HomePod, Apple needs an assistant that’s actually smart.
An ex-employee has claimed Facebook apps can purposefully drain your iPhone battery.
The HomePod 2 is a good speaker that should have been a killer soundbar.
Even with the M2 Pro, Mac gaming is as bad as it’s ever been.
Samsung’s Galaxy S23 phones are so boring there’s nothing for Apple to steal.
If you’re relying on Apple to get work done, you’re better off going it alone.
According to the NLRB, Apple’s vow to punish leakers violates workers’ rights.
The rumor mill
The folding iPad will be the Apple Watch Ultra of tablets, reckons the Macalope.
A well-respected analyst is ‘positive’ Apple is launching a folding iPad next year.
Everyone is going to want to buy an iPhone 15 Ultra this fall. Are there any features it won’t have?
The Apple Watch Ultra is again rumored to get a next-gen microLED display.
Here’s everything we’ve heard about the Apple Watch Series 9.
Podcast of the week
The rumor mill is churning out speculation about just about every product in Apple’s lineup, so we thought we’d go over some of them on the show.
You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.
Software updates, bugs & problems
Security researchers have warned of a new Google malware scam that could infect your Mac.
And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter or on Facebook for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and stay Appley.