The ipod’s 2-button mouse, and the solution to “Antenna-Gate”.

By Posted in - Apple & Experience Design & Observation on August 10th, 2010

We are now in the middle of an Apple fiasco that has blown up so huge that it is being called Apple’s “Vista.” And if that’s not funny enough, it was Ballmer who said it! (Sure, and your broken arm is like my cancer…”).

And although I don’t feel that this issue is going to take the iPhone down, and is not even close to the failure of a company’s much hyped, core business product (Vista), this story is still a big deal. Apple is first and foremost a hardware company, and this is a very serious “broken” hardware problem. But it does have a simple fix. I have seen people use band-aids, “hold it different”, or use any case. Though this is not a permanent solution, and I would definitely be pissed to get a new phone that regularly lost signal and had such a major usage flaw.

But it’s easy to assume why Steve Jobs was so slow to acknowledge the flaw and so reluctant to give out the bumper case. Apple doesn’t want a case on its phone, it’s a freaking fashion item! It’s the rolex of personal computation. It’s a 4 carrot diamond ring. It’s computer bling. So no way is Steve Jobs happy having to cover his beautiful product with a case. And assuredly so, this problem will get fixed. And we know Apple will NOT settle for mistakes like these in the future. (Just ask ex Sr VP Mark Peppermaster.)

But notice that Ballmer isn’t calling this Microsoft’s “Kin”

Oh yeah, that would just be a joke. The iphone4 is BEAUTIFUL, it has sold hundreds of millions times over, it offers the biggest and best app marketplace on the planet, and its combination of hardware and software (Apple’s Iron Curtain control) provides an incredible experience for those who have one. 

But the majestic nature of this amazing new product, the biggest change since the first iPhone release, is all being lost in the frenzy of negative news coverage surrounding “antenna-gate”… Apple’s blood is in the water, and the sharks are feeding wildly. Fitting since it’s Shark Week.

There is a solution that would not only turn the tables on the negative coverage of Apple (the negative side of the hundreds of millions in free PR with every new product announcement and release), but it would also address a major opportunity in the iphone (and ipod family) world, in as revolutionary a way as the 2-button mouse.

What apple should do? Give a major discount on their high quality headphones to those affected by antenna-gate (reward they early adopters), and give a discount on their normal cost for the rest of us.
Apple Earbuds
Since its earliest beginnings in 2001, the iPod has shipped with its trademark white earbuds. And even though the iPod was just the beginning of Apple’s revolution of all digital media consumption, it still has a “puck mouse” issue that it has never addressed. It’s Earbuds. They aren’t good! They aren’t really comfortable and they put out a pretty mediocre sound.
Hockey Puck Mouse
But the earbuds are an important part of the ipod experience. Experience design is about every aspect of the music experience, from immediate purchase (anytime anywhere on your phone) to full satisfaction enjoying the music (or tv or movie or game). And Apple has that… almost. The experience is interrupted by the mediocre quality of the white earbuds which is a letdown for the iPod experience. Plus, when someone replaces the white earbuds for a pair of comfortable, killer sounding “Beats” the Apple brand is lost. When anyone sees those white headphones, they know immediately it’s an Apple. (BLING BLING) Apple has such an amazing history for success precisely because of this level of detail in their design. (Same with the puck mouse. It had the look and color of the computer, but it was just a mediocre mouse.) The sound quality and comfort of the headphones are such an important part of the music experience for all iPod consumers: Artists, Producers, A&R, and most importantly fans and Apple should work to fill that gap.

Solution… Call your top of the line headphones “iBeats” or “iBuds” or something and give it to the iphone4 antenna-gate problem phone’s for cheap! Sell the earbuds to those affected (you have already admitted to the mistake with the free bumper case) for something like $19.99 and to the whole world for $59.99 (cut 20 bucks off the price now) and make a killing, fill an experiential hole that would put the iPod family of products even further ahead, and turn the publicity train around.

I wouldn’t expect this to happen, the bumper case seems to have quieted the waters for now as the feeding frenzy ends, and this might just throw more chum into the water, but Apple could really use good headphones, and why not reward those customers who were willing to dive in for another iPhone upgrade from the start? Heck, to really make an impact, and really solve this issue, Apple should start including the nice headphones with all iPhone/iPod/iPad purchases. But then again Apple used to include a charging dock with all iPods but now sells it separate to make extra $$ so I really don’t expect much.

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