Apple and the common sense factor

We all know that Apple rose from the dead because Steve Jobs had a unique mix of talents.

He had vision, he understood human behavior, he loved design and he was a gifted conductor of a complex orchestra.

My experience with him makes me want to add one more trait to that mix. That is—he relentlessly acted on common sense.

Trust me, this is more rare than it sounds. Working with other iconic companies, I too often saw common sense take a back seat to cost, timetables and opinions. The result was always something less than our original vision.

When I look at today’s Apple, I still see the company I love. I still see products that are beautifully thought-out. I still see the love of design.

But common sense? I worry.

In the Steve Jobs Theater event this week, I found much to rejoice in. But I also saw three things that struck my common-sense nerve.

The X Factor

When I heard the iPhone X prior to the event, I wondered if it was meant to be pronounced X or 10.

Precedent (OSX and Final Cut Pro X) said it would be 10. But common sense said “Wouldn’t that be confusing?” Can we really have two 8’s, a 10, and an SE?

And so, post-event, common sense isn’t pleased.

Months ago, I suggested that this would be Apple’s big chance to right the naming ship after all the S silliness of the past. It would have been an extraordinary act of common sense to unite the entire 2017 iPhone family under a single umbrella.

Adjusting that logic to accommodate the X, the names could have been—

iPhone 8 Mini
iPhone 8
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone 8X

These names would have been descriptive of the products, set the stage for naming every iPhone family to come, and eliminated the SE and X confusion.

Oh, to have Steve Jobs smack a few people around and get it straight in a single meeting.

The Siri Remote

Back when the first iMac was introduced, there was a firestorm of criticism over the horrible “hockey-puck” mouse —all of it deserved.

I’m not sure how Steve Jobs ever approved that mouse (perhaps his most visible design blunder), but at least he got the message. He was so proud of its replacement that he had us create a commercial for the mouse alone.

Common sense says the current Siri Remote would be replaced at the first opportunity. And the unveiling of the Apple TV 4K was an excellent opportunity.

Instead, Apple “let it ride” in the Remote department. Not exactly the behavior of a company that puts the highest priority on the customer experience.

Face ID [I’ve been schooled on this one and I take it back! Thanks, commenters.]

Face ID looked amazing, and it’s not hard to imagine this technology being key to a more secure future.

But there was one little “huh?” moment. I’m talking about the two-step process of getting into the iPhone X. You show it your face, then you swipe up to see the home screen.

That’s one more step more than it takes with Touch ID.

I’d understand if it was necessary. But common sense says that the phone would respond to your Face ID by opening the home screen.

It’s too obvious, so I assume there is some kind of engineering obstacle here. Clues, anyone?

Not a “what Steve would have done” issue

In his last days, Steve told Apple to act on its values, and not guess what he would do.

So this has nothing to do with what Steve would have done. It’s only about doing the right thing.

Product naming is rarely as easy as it looks. Re-designing faulty products is even harder. But, as Apple has amply proven in the past, difficult does not mean impossible.

Sometimes a project requires gargantuan effort. Other times it’s just a matter of common sense.