Cycles of Design
Apple's success has not come from innovating products, but innovating interactions and accessibility. The iPod Touch and iPhone are perfect examples of this.
The key to Apple’s success isn’t their innovation nor the plethora of functionality in their products, but rather in that they have made design accessible. Prior to the release of the iPod, mp3 players were a lot more expensive and terribly inelegant, but they worked, so people put up with them. Apple took that concept and refined it until they developed their initial release of the iPod. Of course, it was still expensive, but the packaging and user interfaces were significantly improved. Other companies, such as Creative and SanDisk released media players with an extremely diverse spread of functions, far outstripping the capabilities of the iPod, yet they never really captured market share.
At one point, I was looking into buying a new mp3 player. At the time, I had been extremely frustrated with the internal battery scheme of Apple that required one to send in the device to have the battery replaced. However, nothing I saw came near to the ease and simplicity of the UI for the iPod. It was a telling moment. Despite the fact the other devices had significantly more capability, because the UI wasn’t easy to use, I knew I would never buy them. As a result, I still have my second generation iPod from 7 or 8 years ago. Yeah…
In the last few years, multitouch technology has become more and more prevalent, but it was still confined to research labs and overly expensive devices. However, the iPhone, followed closely by the iPod Touch, brought that technology into a space that consumers could purchase and interact with it. While the prices are still rather high ($200-$300 USD), it isn’t the nearly the cost of something like the Microsoft Surface (~$400k USD). The touch / iphone don’t provide the massive hard drives, the smallest form factor or the biggest screen, but it provides an experience that outstrips everything else. More than that, it inspires.
Few products have generated the kind of hype that the iPhone has. Its beautiful design and large multi-touch screen are irresistible. Although its interface is beautifully designed, some of us want to put a little something extra in it to suit our style, personality and profession and to further beautify this magical masterpiece.
Indeed, the iPhone and touch have generated significant hype. I still remember the excitement I felt when it was first released. At last multitouch technology was provided in a package palpable to the regular person. Like many others, I was very interested in the product, but instead of rushing out to buy one given the capabilities Apple built into the device, I wanted to see the community’s reaction. It has taken time, but the developer community has really taken to the device and produced excellent applications for it. In fact, there are so many applications available (over 10K), that it hard to sort through what is good and what isn’t! However, the significant is that the response from the community has been overwhelming and it has been positive. Of course, there were issues with Apple’s “approval” process resulting in useless apps (I Am Rich) being accepted while quality apps (podcaster) were rejected for purely selfish reasons (Apple wants podcasts to go through iTunes, not a third party app). Even with these issues, the products that have been released for the device have been excellent and there are a number of “Top Apps of 2008″ lists available now.
This brings me to the other aspect that Smashing’s post is looking at, the wallpaper. I always have a particular challenge in finding wallpapers for my computers given my aesthetic choices and a necessity to have things visible. I rather enjoy “design” wallpapers more than other sorts, but I find it rather difficult to get quality ones at the sizes I’m looking for. So, when I scanned the list of images that Smashing gathered, I was amazed at the sheer number of them that I really liked (see the gallery below). My favorite comment in relation to these wallpapers comes from Tylor j. Reimer:
Here’s some goodies for you all: TJR iPhone wallpapers. I’ve been making these for fun for a while and I figured I should post/share them. The funny part is I don’t even have an iPhone (yet).
Even for those who don’t have or aren’t “in” the community, there is something that inspires creation. I think that’s awesome. I really look forward to seeing where the community goes and what else is created. Perhaps I’ll try to get involved and leave my own mark!
Also be sure to check out Poolga for an extremely impressive collection of wallpapers.