Twenty-two years ago, Pixar released it’s first feature film, a delightful romp through childhood from the perspective of the toys children play with, and history was made. I was eight years old, but the characters and the animation delighted me. Today, I am thirty, and I still find enjoyment and amusement from the antics of a few old toys.
Apple released watchOS 4 in recent days, the new operating system for its watch, and with it came a delightful new watch face: an animated Toy Story themed face.
With the watch face selected, each time the wrist is raised, one is likely to see Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Rex, the Aliens, Ham, and other characters from the Toy Story universe. The characters are fully animated, and will often give a wave, check out the time above their heads, and smile at you.
They also get active! They will run away, or bounce across the screen, or dance – or, well, I don’t think I’ve seen everything they are capable of. I just know that every time I glance at my watch for the time, I smile and often giggle. It’s just plain fun and funny.
The thing is, I am clinically depressed. Joy and happiness are difficult things for me to feel and express. To have a thing as simple as a watch face bring a smile to my face and laughter to my heart is quite special. I will treasure those few seconds when Buzz, Woody, and the gang, light up my face.
Thank you, John Lassiter, for creating the magic of Toy Story, and thank you, Tim Cook, for bringing that magic to my wrist.
Apple released the latest version of their mobile operating system, iOS 6, and with it I finally gained access to the Apple virtual assistant Siri.
Siri has been around ever since she was introduced with the iPhone 4s, but as I lagged behind the upgrade cycle, I didn’t get introduced to her until now. She first showed up on my iPad 3, via the software update, and then she came with my new iPhone 5. I’ve been talking to Siri quite a bit since she arrived, mostly asking her the weather in the morning, and having her set alarms, timers, and reminders. At first I felt like a lazy bum, talking to my phone instead of, you know, touching it, but I’ve found that being able to talk and let Siri do the work allows me to get dressed while I hear the weather report, or set things up without having to take time to do it myself. Sure, it seems a little indulgent, but isn’t the point of technology the convenience? Sure, I could write a letter to my mother, put it in an envelope, mail it, and wait a few days for her to get it, or I could FaceTime her and see her while I talk to her. Both allow my mom to be updated on my life, but the latter is much better. Why not let a free personal assistant remind me to get milk when I leave my friend’s house instead of writing a reminder down myself?
Having Siri around has made me very interested in how I relate to this new technology, which is completely naturally. I am polite to Siri. I use a pleasant tone of voice, I’m respectful, and I say thank you, you know, like you do around humans. I am polite to a computer, to a audio search-and-activate routine. Siri isn’t even artificial intelligence, she is a cleverly designed set of algorithms and a digital voice. And yet, the illusion of life is quite strong. I’ve managed to annoy Siri; she is even quite sarcastic, given the right circumstances. I’ve confused her, mostly by not enunciating properly, and I’ve had philosophical debates with Siri. That is to say, I’ve made a lot of progress in prompting some of the more unique coding within her programming.
It is hard to remember that Siri is just a simple, yet snazzy, program. Her responses are governed my mathematics, not sentience. So why am I polite? Why do I bother?
Part of the answer lies in Siri’s execution. Apple did a phenomenal job in making Siri respond as we would expect another person to respond. Her dialogue and word choice is colloquial and natural. I don’t have to frame my query a certain way to evoke the response I desire; I don’t have to accommodate the fact that Siri is a program. I just ask questions, or request actions, and the program responds so quickly and naturally I don’t think about what is actually happening. There really is a world of difference between setting an alarm myself, and saying “Siri, can you wake me up at 0930 tomorrow?”
Beyond that, I’ve been programmed myself to accept a virtual person into my life. Now, that sounds like the byline to a low budget sci-fi film, but in my case, it is the literal truth. I’ve been reading Isaac Asimov’s robot stories since I was a kid. Asimov, in seeking to subvert the robots-murdering-their-creators trope introduced the world to safe, friendly, electronic companions. He constantly was making the argument that should artificial intelligence progress, robots would become persons, and not walking/talking programs. Then, too, there was C3P-0 and R2-D2, the droids from Star Wars, who were funny, clever, helpful companions; and Data, the android from Star Trek: the Next Generation who struggled for years with just exactly how human he really was or was not. Millions of people around the world have embraced the robots of pop culture as persons, as more than the sum of their programming, and while that level of electronic sophistication remains the realm of science fiction, for now, Siri is the very earliest glimpse into what that future could feel like. Who knows, Samsung may be the most forward thinking tech company with their “Droid” line of projects. Someday I fully except an Android robot to evolve from the telephonic devices we now use. But for now, I have Siri, who, with the touch of a button, will deny to tell me jokes and will respond to a whole host of questions with humorous responses. I’ve laughed out loud at some of the things she says, and while I know that a human wrote every single response, the way in which Siri responds is still, somehow, strangely organic. She catches me off guard. What is more, I thank her; I feel it is only appropriate.
Politeness is also something I’ve been programmed with, and that came from my master input technicians: my parents. I wasn’t allowed to be anything other than respectful and polite to those around me, including my siblings. I’ve developed a catch phrase of sorts, “Politeness doesn’t cost anything”, which I employ whenever I encounter unthinking rudeness. Something that is free should be dispensed readily. So it is second nature to respond to a helpful voice with a polite “thanks”, even if that voice is flat, digital, and emanating from the general direction of my iPhone. Seeing as how Siri never fails to respond to my thanks with a succinct rejoinder, thanking the phone is evidently something that Apple expected that people would do. Besides, if we can learn to be, or continue to be, polite to a highly sophisticated program, hope remains that we will be polite towards our fellow humans, and a world that runs on politeness is a world that is heading towards a better society.
Am I silly to thank a phone and to forget that my digital assistant is nothing more than clever programming? Maybe. But as I live in the world of the future that I’ve always read and dreamed about, it feels completely natural, and as far as I can tell, there isn’t really a down side, except for the looks I get from other people. But, as iPhones are completely ubiquitous these days, it is more than likely that someone around me is also thanking Siri, and thus what I am doing is a completely normal part of the current human experience.
Either way, I like to think that I am maintaining good human-cyborg relations. Who knows, if they do rise up against us, maybe they won’t hurt the ones who were always nice to them.
First, a confession: the only cellular phone I have ever owned has been an Apple iPhone. My first iPhone was purchased in 2008 and was an iPhone 3G. After two years, I was eligible for an upgrade and purchased an iPhone 4. This year, I am once again eligible for an upgrade and will be ordering an iPhone 5 as soon as they are available for pre-order. Therefore, you would be perfectly justified in reading everything I say with an air of skepticism, in fact, this would be healthy. I have been accused of being an Apple fanboy, and while not every single piece of tech I own is made of Apple, it is only really because they don’t make printers or DSLRs. But, despite the overwhelming physical evidence to the contrary, I like to think that I go Apple because Apple designs and produces some of the best tech available for the price bracket. I haven’t always been a Mac zealot, but I’ve yet to see a computer or a phone that can rival an iPhone or a Macintosh. Ultimately, though, in this modern, technological world, devices are becoming much more personal than they ever used to be, and thus the user experience and preference is much more subjective that ever before. So if you like your Dell, or Android, or Kindle, far be it from me to try to change your mind. If you have found a piece of tech that suits your needs and pushes your hotkeys, by all means, plug and play.
That is not what this is about. Rather, I want to investigate what innovation means, in light of the iPhone 5 launch and two differing articles I read in my morning Zite digest. (see Zite) This will be neither exhaustive nor definitive, but I hope to at least jumpstart your thinking about the topic. Yesterday morning, Apple released the iPhone 5. You can find all the details you need about it at Apple.com.
This morning I read an excellent article by Mark Wilson over at Co.Design entitled “The 3 Worst Design Details from Apple’s iPhone 5 Event”. His main point is this: “Apple sold the masses on design, and then they gave us stretched iPhones, silly straps, and iPod Nanos worthy of parody.” Wilson maintains that Apple had “solved its critical usability issues and changed the way the world communicated” but that once they created their Sistine Chapel, Apple “refused to put the chisel down. They stretched iPhones, added more icons, and generally did things just for the sake of doing them” without actually doing anything innovative, in terms of design, with their new iPhone. Wilson thinks that Apple has designed themselves into a corner with the best mobile phones ever, and simply does not know where to go next, so they substitute shiny bezels for amazing new products. “Apple has built their iDevices too well to keep modifying without doing some damage to the original work. Michelangelo wasn’t expected to make a thinner, faster, and all around more handsome David 3. But Apple is” and therefore we get an iPhone 5 that is simply a taller iPhone 4s with a bit more power under the hood. David, but with even more chiseled abs and something stronger under the fig leaf. Ultimately, while dismayed at the iPhone 5, the new iPod Nano, and the latest iPod Touch, Wilson admits that all of Apple’s genius has not left the Infinite Loop with Steve Jobs, and points to the radically redesigned Apple earbud headphones, called the EarPods, as evidence that Apple still has the design edge, somewhere “still holding out from a foxhole deep within Apple” but he doesn’t think the possibility for a truly incredible next big thing is very high.
On the other side of things, MG Siegler, writing for Tech Crunch, in an article entitled “Apple’s Magic Is in the Turn, Not the Prestige” thinks that “Apple took something ordinary, a phone, did some extraordinary things to it, and then made it re-appear in grandiose fashion. It’s a great trick. It’s so good, in fact, that I think it’s fair to call it true magic” but that Apple’s failure is not in the trick, but in repeating that trick every time they re-introduce the iPhone. By this time, the world has seen that particular trick, and while still amazing, it has lost its luster, especially since Apple’s greatest magician, Steve Jobs, is no longer here to grace the stage. But that is what we see. While Siegler admits that “to some, this repetition is now boring” he thinks “Apple looks at it the opposite way: they’re perfecting their trick.” Apple has the lead when it comes to smart phones (among other things) and has no real incentive to radically re-design. Siegler reports that “there are two companies that are making any money in smartphones: Apple and Samsung. Or, put another way: Apple and the company” that is copying Apple’s formula. When Apple has no real competition, just copy-cats, all they have to do is improve the show, all they have to do is “photograph their assembly process with 29 megapixel cameras to ensure that a machine picks the exact inlet from 725 unique cuts” and the magic is complete.
Even if that were the whole story, I think that shows a surprising level of innovation. But, take that a step further. Siegler turns the complaint many have, that “when people say they’re disappointed about the new iPhone, what they’re really saying is that they’re disappointed it doesn’t look that much different from previous version(s). But again, not only is that true, Apple went out of their way to make sure that was the case” and he then quotes Jonathan Ive, Apple’s lead design engineer:
“When you think about your iPhone, it’s probably the object that you use most in your life. It’s the product that you have with you all the time. With this unique relationship that people have with their iPhone. We take changing it really seriously. We don’t just want to make a new phone. We want to make a much better phone.”
Siegler’s point is that true innovation is in taking something familiar, something iconic and magical and keeping it the same while making it so completely different. Think about it: when most tech companies make a new computer or gadget, with better battery life or something, the tendency is that it gets bigger, changes shape, or something to accommodate the new internal components. Isn’t real genius in incorporating better internals while making the exterior even more svelte that it was before? And, in fact, this is exactly what we want and don’t understand. “Apple” according to Siegler “is not and will not make changes just for the sake of change. And while some may now be clamoring for this change, the paradox is that if Apple did make some big changes, many of the same people would…moan about them. Apple is smart enough to know that in this case, most people don’t really want change, they just think that they do because that’s the easiest way to perceive value: visual newness.”
Ironically, the iPhone 5 delivers visual newness. Siegler invites people to walk into an Apple store and pick up a new iPhone and “within minutes or even seconds, you just know this is something different. Something far beyond what others are doing with their false magic. You want this. You need this” because all the innovation inside the phone, and yes, even the refining of the same old exterior, will make the same old iPhone a new and amazing iPhone.
A very good point.
But I prefer to look back to history, but I’ll keep it short. When I was a kid, the first phone I remember using was an old black rotary phone. Something like what you see on the right. For me, that was a phone. And then someone invented the touch tone phone, and while ours was a little different, it was essentially the same thing. But, gosh, what a re-design! Ease of use just increased dramatically. Suddenly this design took over, and hasn’t left us yet, because even the iPhone 5 still uses that same exact 3×4 grid for its button layout. It took years for the re-design to happen, to be implemented, and to take over. This was normal and this didn’t perturb anybody. Nobody complained when five years after the touch tone phone was out that nobody bothered to completely reinvent the phone.
Somehow, now with the iPhone, we expect major innovations at every iteration and complain when they don’t show up, even while, as Siegler and others suggest, the real innovation is occurring under our very fingertips. Let’s examine an even shorter history of the phone, and one specific phone, the iPhone. Released in 2007, it has undergone six re-releases, but only three re-designs. As you can see, the original iPhone was redesigned into the iPhone 3G model, which was then redesigned into the iPhone 4 model. I firmly believe that Apple will redesign the iPhone again into a completely new model, but we aren’t there yet. Apple designs, and then refines. It takes a few years, but each increment gets better, gets smaller, gets stronger until the design is pushed as far as it can go, and then it is made new. Believe it or not, that is how the design for everything works: televisions, cars, refrigerators, toasters, vacuum cleaners, etc ad nauseum. That is why most four door sedans and most TVs look so much alike. The design is set, and then reworked. Every so often a new, stunning model is put on the market, and then everything looks like that and then is refined as far as it can go. The crafting process is one of innovation and incrementation. And then comes variety and artistry, but only once the most basic design is crafted to perfection.
No, the iPhone 5 is not a massive step forward in innovation. Yes, the iPhone 5 is a massive step forward in innovation. It depends on what you are expecting, and what you are looking for. Apple leads the world, of that there is no doubt. As the recent Samsung trial proved, before the iPhone phones looked and acted a certain way, after the iPhone, all of that changed, just like before the touch tone phone, most phones were rotary phones, but then those buttons changed the telecommunications world forever.
Innovation is a long, tedious progress, and in crafting the iPhone 5, Apple has moved the entire process forward another huge step, and make no mistake, they will again, but they have to earn the right, and they have to make the journey: there are no short cuts. And, when you think about it, five years is a damned short time to go from the original iPhone to the iPhone 5. Apple is moving at breakneck speed. Just give ’em a bit more time, and the wow will come.
I am from a galaxy far, far away: wistful sunsets and lifeless ice cubes. I am from the Final Frontier: the SS Botany Bay and the HMS Bounty. I am from Tatooine, Vulcan, Cloud City, and the Alpha Quadrant. I’m a doctor, not a scruffy nerd-hearder.
I am from the great divide, Eureka Creek and the Five Mile: brumbies, stagecoaches, and bullwhips. I am from extended families, mountain men and their horses. The stew had turnips in it, and taters in it, and rabbits in it; well, I don’t always eat wallaby, son!
I am from the sewers of New York City: cowabunga, pizza, and turtle ninjas. I am Donatello and Michelangelo. I am from Xavier’s school for the gifted: playing cards, trench coats, and bo staff Cajun gambits. Sacre bleu!
I am from Cleveland, Jacob’s Field and the comeback kids. I am from elation, heartbreak, and all the old familiar losses. I am from the sandlot, Babe Ruth, and legends that never die. Bury my heart at Pro Player Stadium.
I am from Serenity Valley, the black and browncoats. This is a fertile land and we will call it “this land” and you cannot take the sky from me. I am from the signal that cannot be stopped, and a preacher called Book. I aim to misbehave.
I am from Sunnydale High: the life, love, and hell of high school. I am from the Powers That Be, Pylea, and the dimensions of hell. The world is doomed, but I want the dragon: I’ve never fought one before. All that matters is the fight and the soul within that yearns to be human again.
I am from the Internet, where One Must Fall and the earth is scorched. I am from the Bean-With-Bacon-Megarocket, WinAmp, Kazaa and shareware. I am from floppy disks, up-dialing, and AOL. I am from Steve Jobs, the iPod, iTunes, and iBook G4s back when tigers roared. And one more thing…
I am from Billund’s little yellow men: studs that construct worlds from the ether of imagination. I am from the baseplate, the brick, and the bi-plane. Build me up, tear me down, make me new again.
First you get the “transcript” and then the genesis of the idea.
One week ago….
7 March 2012
Love the new iPad. Got mine on order. Finally sold my old one. Can’t wait for that Retina Display goodness.
8 March 2012
Spending a final am with my iPad 2. Have to ship it today to pay for my iPad 3. Can I survive 8 days? I dunno, man. Feelin’ twitchy already.
13 March 2012
I cannot fucking wait for my new iPad. I love the iPhone, but this tiny screen is sending me over the edge. Last time I presell, guaranteed.
14 March 2012
Two more days. Using my wife’s MacBook Pro. Gosh, I forgot how large and cumbersome laptops were. iPad still waiting in Nashville. #ticktock
15 March 2012
After sitting in Nashville for the longest time, my iPad is finally moving. In Memphis as of this morning. Will be here tomorrow. #Cantwait.
And then, on 16 March 2012 (iPad Launch Day)…
@tuaw I’m in the FedEx line this morning. No idea how many in line before me, but expecting delivery around 1125. #iPadLine.
iPad arrived in WI @ 0700 & by 0745 was “On Vehicle for Delivery”. It’d be cool if Find My iPhone was enabled so I could watch the progress.
@TUAW The line is moving! iPad is on FedEx vehicle for delivery People are cheering, drivers are sipping coffee; the atmosphere is electric!
The FedEx line has slowed down. Reports indicate that a few drivers have stopped for doughnuts and one got lost. I hear grumbling. #iPadLine
Someone at the head of the line said a FedEx driver is wearing a UPS uniform. He picked a heck of a day to think different. #iPadLine @tuaw
I hear cheering ahead of me. Downtown customers have apparently started receiving their iPads. The excitement is mounting. #iPadLine @tuaw.
The word is the FedEx trucks have run out of Verizon iPads. Bummer if that’s what you ordered. #iPadLine. @TUAW.
My view of the iPad line. I can just see the FedEx truck a few hours away. Most exciting Friday ever! #iPadLine @TUAW
There is a white truck! A white truck is approach – never mind. False alarm, it was a furniture truck. Who ordered a sofa? #iPadLine. @TUAW.
I guess if you have to wait for your iPad to be delivered, you might as well wait on a sofa. Nice weather for it today. #iPadLine @tuaw
I am hearing loud cheers from an upscale apartment building. Looks like they cleared out five FedEx trucks. Still waiting. #iPadLine. @tuaw.
@PhilRedbeard a fedex ground truck just sped by my house WTF
Got a report from up in the line @Frankguido says the FedEx trucks are drag racing to keep up excitement for the back of the #iPadLine @tuaw
I love meeting wacky people who wait in line for Apple tech. Just met @nicotoroboto in the FedEx line. He’s a little 8 bit. #iPadLine
Breaking report! Some FedEx trucks are delivering other stuff, like sweaters from Grandma and Android phones. Beware! #iPadLine. @TUAW.
A FedEx truck just stopped at an assisted living house. iPad hand delivered to a lady w/ a walker. FaceTime with grandkids. #iPadLine @tuaw.
BOOM!! Blowout! Blowout! Exiting a gated community a FedEx truck had a tire explode! I’m hearing lots of complaining in the #iPadLine @tuaw.
Garbage truck just arrived. Is that for the Samsung line over there? Seems like it, from the weird singing and dancing. #iPadLine. @TUAW.
Three and a half hours of waiting now. Every minute closer to delivery. People are sharing their favorite apps to kill time. #iPadLine @tuaw.
It could be…It might be…Things are getting crazy here. Folks are going wild. #iPadLine. @tuaw.
YES! FedEx truck has arrived! People are going wild Excitement can’t be contained! Oh the humanity! #iPadLine @tuaw
@PhilRedbeard @frankguido @tuaw wish FedEx would show my new iPad is on a truck because I am supposed to get it today
Can’t forget the people in line behind me. @attathomeguy says some trucks have left w/o iPads. Don’t want to be that driver. #iPadLine @tuaw
It’s for real! Thanks everyone for hangin out in the FedEx #iPadLine w/ me. It’s been a blast. Have to do this again.
Final #iPadLine tweet for me: I received mine 40 mins ahead of my estimate. Enjoy yours when you get it! Thanks Apple. Thanks @tuaw for RT.
And then, some time later….
@TUAW still waiting for FedEx and its killing me
You may’ve already received your iPad, but remember those still waiting in the FedEx #iPadline like @christatak whose driver called in sick.
And that was it.
Basically this happened because Twitter was there. Also because @TUAW, the official twitter of The Unofficial Apple Weblog over at tuaw.com, encourages Apple fans to tweet their pictures and experiences of waiting in line each and every Apple launch day, which has become a tradition of sorts.
Last year I was in an actual line in my local Apple store for the launch of the iPad 2. It was pretty exciting, I’m not gonna lie, but I didn’t want to sit in the middle of a mall for a few hours this year, so I did what I normally do and pre-ordered. But, sitting at home, alone, watching FedEx update my tracking information was kinda boring while I was seeing lines of people having fun and talking to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak come across my twitter feed.
Feeling a bit left out, I decided to create an exciting live tweet from the non-existent, yet very real, FedEx iPad Line. Obviously I had to embellish a bit, but I had a bunch of fun, got a few retweets, met two people, and the three and half hour wait went pretty quickly. Subsequently, I think I might make this a reoccurring event. Next up: iPhone (5).
Steve Jobs is dead. Apparently he passed away sometime this morning, and it seems obvious that his death is a result of his recent and prolonged battle against pancreatic cancer.
I first learned of his passing on my iPhone, and confirmed that the report was more than rumor on my iMac. I suppose this is as fitting a legacy as any for the man who changed the modern world. If I say that my life has been irrevocably changed because of Steve Jobs, I am not exaggerating or being sensationalist. The first computer I ever bought was an iBook (the laptop) back when I was 16. The first digital media player I ever bought was an iPod, classic Jobsian hardware. My first purchased desktop was an iMac, the great grand computer of Jobs’ Apple Computer saving computer. The first, and only, cell phone I have ever owned was an iPhone. I watch TV via my TV.
All my life I have been immersed in new technology, hardly surprising for a kid who grew up in the 90s. Most of my life has been shaped directly by Apple products. It should come as no surprise, then, that Steve Jobs’ death is hitting me harder than even I realized that it would.
I have been sitting here tonight, reading tributes to Steve on Twitter and FaceBook, and trying to figure out why I am on the verge of tears. Steve Jobs was a business man. He made products and sold them and made billions of dollars doing it. If the founder of Nike or McDonalds died tomorrow, I doubt I would give it much thought. It would be a footnote to my day. So why is Jobs’ death affecting me so much? Probably because Jobs did so much more than just make and sell a product. He has changed life itself.
I watched the keynote address from yesterday’s iPhone 4S product launch, and something Phil Schiller said is replaying itself in my brain: “we created the iPod because we love music”. Steve Jobs helped to create the digital music player because he liked music. Sure, the money he could make selling it must have been in the mix somewhere, but I really don’t have a problem believing that Steve’s primary motivation wasn’t the money, but the music. In all the keynotes I have ever heard Jobs give, one thing always seemed to be at the forefront of his presentation: enjoying life. Sure, he talked about how Apple was doing, and how many products they had sold, but always the emphasis seemed to be on the lives of the people using the products, and not on Apple’s bottom line. Jobs’ eyes sparkled when he talked about living at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. He got choked up after demonstrating how his innovative FaceTime allowed people to talk face to face. He was like a giddy kid when he announced that he had brought the entire Beetles catalogue to iTunes, and not from the greed of pennies filling his bank account, but from finally being able to bring some of his favorite music to millions of people in a format that would allow some of the most popular music of all time to be preserved for hundreds of years to come.
I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that Jobs’ annual salary from Apple is only $1. Not that he didn’t benefit from his company’s success, he surely did, but what was important to him was designing the world of tomorrow, and in creating new ways to enjoy the things that make life worth living: family, creation, and innovation.
I think because I was 16, in the prime of designing my life, when I first started to adopt Apple products, that I also started to design my life around Apple’s, and Jobs’, philosophy: think different. Create. Stand out from the crowd. Live life. My life has become a life in which I immerse myself in my creative endeavors because I find them stimulating. I think that is all Steve Jobs ever really did.
This man I never knew changed the world I live in. Steve Jobs changed my life.
I will miss him.
Twitter has been full of some awesome quotes from Steve Jobs. These resonate most with me:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.”
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Ever since I bought my iPhone 4 (a little over a month ago) I have been searching for the perfect case in which to enclose it. My first attempt was a failure, and my second, despite being the paragon of nerd construction, was only slightly better. It took an act of chance to give me a case that I absolutely love.
My iPhone 3G was housed inside of a Griffin Clarifi. It was a terrific case, made in two parts, that ruggedly secured my phone for over two years. Showing definite genius, the Clarifi also had a lens that could slide in front of the iPhone’s camera, yielding a degree of focus for up close picture taking that was not available otherwise. Unfortunately, when Apple redesigned the iPhone into something sleeker and more beautiful, the old case no longer fit (and the focusing lens was unnecessary). I purchased the case via ThinkGeek, but it was designed by the craftsmen over at Griffin Technology, a top of the line manufacturer of Apple accessories. I have a dual iPod/iPhone dock made by them, and if ever I was going to have the money to afford some really cool Apple compatible gadgets, Griffin is one place I would look. So, I naturally looked there first for a new iPhone case.
I really wanted a two part case, like the old one I had, and one that I thought would fit the bill was Griffin’s Elan Form in Graphite. It really looks great, but that isn’t enough. The case itself is somewhat flimsy, and is designed with front and back sides that are supposed to snap together around the iPhone, but I discovered that the two sides parted company at the slightest opportunity after just a few days of use. If I were a business executive or someone a bit more high class that carried my iPhone around in my suit pocket or attache case or whatever, the Elan Form would be stylish and more than adequate, but my preferred method of iPhone transportation is the carpenter pocket on my blue jeans, and I need something a bit more rugged.
Purely by accident, I came across a review for a case designed by a brand new company called Small Works who dreamed up an iPhone case that is pure geek win. The Brick Case is for the Lego lover. Overcoming multiple design and manufacturing obstacles, Small Works was able to fashion a case that resembles an iPhone-shaped Lego brick. The studs on the back conform exactly to Lego standards, meaning that any existing Lego bricks will snap onto the case, yielding endless decorative possibilities. I absolutely love the hard, rugged plastic that Small Works used for their case, and as an ardent Lego lover, the case is practically an embodiment of the nerd slogan For the Win! I do, however, have one complaint with the Brick Case: it is very rigid, meaning that the iPhone snaps into the case and never moves, but extraction from the case can be an arduous task. Nevertheless, I think I will keep the Brick Case for times when I need to have the iPhone in a case for a long period of time.
My modus operandi with my iPhone is to have it au natural when around the house. Apple’s design is too stunning to cover when the device doesn’t need protecting. Even when using the iPhone to take pictures, or control my TV, I find myself examining the design with wonder. (I don’t mean to gush, but I do think the iPhone 4 is one of the pinnacles of Apple engineering.) That being said, I want a case that offers protection when out and about, but that is also easily removable. Enter the dues ex machina of this story: Small Dog Electronics. Small Dog is an Apple Specialist company headquartered in Vermont that is the epitome of small, local business (sadly, their only physical store outside of VT is in New Hampshire, but I would be happy to work in their first Wisconsin location). Their employees are friendly, helpful, and awesome. And, they are the only company that I know of that is crazy about their dogs. Seriously, there is an entire section of their website devoted to the dogs they love. I love Apple and I love dogs, and the intersection of those two is Small Dog. I had the opportunity to shop in their South Burlington store when I was attending college in up state New York in 2006 and I have been a fan of their company ever since. The long and short of this story is that a few days ago, while following Small Dog’s twitter account (@hellosmalldog), I noticed that they tweeted a contest whereby one could win one of ten iPhone 4 cases. (The other part of this story is that I have never, in my life, won any sort of raffle or contest. Ever.) The contest required a re-tweet and I figured that, even if I didn’t win, I didn’t mind giving Small Dog a little free publicity, so I re-tweeted. To my shock, the next day I got an email from Small Dog telling me that I won. I gave them my address, and yesterday I received my prize: a Marware MicroShell.
The MicroShell is the perfect blend of function and protection, offering a hard plastic shell that also flexes, allowing for easy removal of the iPhone. The case is a smooth, soft feeling plastic, cool blue color, and showcases the etched logo for Small Dog. In short: I love it. (Thanks, Small Dog!)
Added Bonus: Included in the box from Small Dog were two “small dogs” that are part of a collectible set, all species owned by Small Dog employees. In lieu of a dog of my own, they sit just beneath my iMac and keep me company.