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What Apple Compromises By Prioritising Thinness

It's certainly thin, but at what price?
The new iPhone 6 is thin - whichever version you go for - and it's true of each and every iPhone that Apple has released, compared to their peers they have been amongst the thinnest devices available.

That hasn't always been a good thing though. As we're seeing with the noise around bendgate, Apple's decisions aren't driven by engineering so much as by a desire to have Apple products look just right. Form over function. Although to be fair to Apple it usually manages to get the balance just right, even if it's not always first time out.

A perfect example is the last Apple iPhone hardware blow-up: Antennagate. By moving the antennas to the edges of the device Apple were Apple to create a beautiful industrial design, squiared off edges and a incredibly thin package (by the standards of the day) for the iPhone 4. However the packaging proved to be somewhat complicated and the resulting attenuation issues caused iPhone users signal issues. These issues weren't fully resolved until Apple launched the 4S, a year later.

The arrival of the iPhone 5 brought the purple lens flare issue. In Apple's notes for the issue they specifically mention the flare being a result of the thinness of the iPhone's camera unit, causing internal reflections from 'off screen' light sources.

Then there is bendgate. On reviewing the various videos which show bent or bending phones it looks suspiciously like Apple have designed in a point of weakness around the volume control keys on the iPhone 6. The aluminium has so little depth at that point that when it becomes a fulcrum for sustained loads applied at the bottom of the iPhone (and the Plus in particular) the end result are small microbends - the warping that iPhone users have been reporting. Given that these loads are exactly those you'd get from sitting with the iPhone in your front trouser pocket Apple's design decision looks questionable, even at this early stage of the phone's life.

Finally, of course, we have the iPhone's bugbear: battery life. The biggest compromise that Apple makes every time out is with battery size. On a battery that is just 4mm thick, adding 1mm nets an increase in capacity and battery life of circa 25%. Given how marginal battery life has been for each version this seems like the worst imposition that Apple could be making on their users.

And of course the phone already has a 1mm thicker protrusion - the camera module - so maintaining a thicker, perfectly flat back would have ended the rocket iPhone

Already iPhone users are complaining about battery life on the regular 6. That phone is half a millimetre thinner than the 5S. No-one is going to be able to feel half a millimetre's difference in the hand, whatever nonsense you hear in reviews over the next few days. If anything the iPhone will feel thinner because of those rounded sides and their different touch points when compared with the outgoing 5S.

Like everything else, smartphone design is an exercise in making compromises. It just looks like Apple remains committed to making the same wrong choice with each new iPhone generation,


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