Once again Apple does the right thing–as a last resort
All the news, rumors, and tips you missed last week.
By David Price, Editor, MacworldSEP 18, 2023 3:30 am PDT
Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Mother Nature’s pun
I could be wrong, but I doubt many pundits had a “cringe comedy routine featuring Mother Nature” in their predictions and satirical previews ahead of last week’s Apple event. There’s nothing like a good skit to raise a few laughs and get the audience onside… and this was nothing like a good skit: Tim Cook is no actor, even the professional actors involved did themselves no favors, and (without wishing to invite comparisons with my own puny comedic efforts linked above) the dialogue had less spark than a rejected script from Mrs Brown’s Boys. But the sequence’s greatest crime was that it was so transparently self-congratulatory. Nothing is less amusing than listening to someone boast.
Of course, a few dad jokes are expected at Apple events, with Craig Federighi especially keen on the art form. (Budding comedians take note that Federighi is always the butt of his own humor, which makes it, if not always funny, at least charming.) The difference here was the sheer volume: 25 minutes into the keynote, with nothing of note yet announced, viewers were still watching Tim Cook and Octavia Spencer engage in excruciating banter. It felt enormously self-indulgent.
Now, to be clear, the environment is important. The green policies Apple alluded to in the Mother Nature skit and throughout the keynote are important too, both for the effects they will have directly and for the pressure they will place on other tech companies to follow suit. Indeed, the world would be instantly transformed for the better if tech keynotes were all like this, and if tech companies all prioritized the environmental impact of their products above incremental speed increases and the number of megapixels in their cameras. In all sincerity, this was a side of Apple I like to see.
Sadly, however, I’m not at all convinced that these things are a priority. I simply don’t believe that Apple would be focusing on its environmental policies if it had more substantive product upgrades to talk about.
After all, carbon emissions are not a new concern. Environmental damage caused by the mining of rare-earth elements is not a new concern. The leather industry is problematic for a whole bunch of reasons and these were all widely understood the last time Apple held a press event. Yet this was the first time Apple–which used to have a shocking environmental record, by the way–devoted any serious keynote time to the impact of the iPhone and Apple Watch on our planet. Why? Because, frankly, the iPhone 15 and Apple Watch Series 9 are worthy but dull updates to those product lines and there wasn’t anything better to talk about. And that’s a weirdly convenience-based way to think about corporate responsibilities in the face of ecological disaster.
I had much the same feeling (“Why are you acting so pious about doing something at and for your own convenience?”) later in the event, when Apple, disingenuously but wholly predictably, talked enthusiastically about the benefits of USB-C. Yes, that’ll be the connection standard it fought for years to avoid putting in its phones, and repeatedly said would be a terrible idea. Nice one for giving the iPhone a non-proprietary port, Apple, but don’t think we’re fooled for a second. You only did this because the EU twisted your arm.
There’s an old political saying that’s somehow both wholesome and cynical: “When in doubt, do the right thing.” Apple’s version of this policy, I’m sorry to say, appears to be: “When you have absolutely no choice but to do the right thing, pretend it was your idea all along.” Maybe that’s inevitable when you’re talking about a vast and highly profitable corporation. Maybe the best we can hope for is “doing the right thing” becoming profitable and convenient for corporations, since otherwise none of them will ever do it. But once we’re that far down the cynicism rabbit hole, I’m not really in the mood for laughter.
And with that, we’re done for this week’s Apple Breakfast. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.