Design as Branding | Daring Fireball

Farhad Manjoo, in his column for The New York Times:

And while Apple has slowed its design cadence, its rivals have sped up. Last year Samsung remade its lineup of Galaxy smartphones in a new glass-and-metal design that looked practically identical to the iPhone. Then it went further. Over the course of a few months, Samsung put out several design refinements, culminating in the Note 7, a big phone that has been universally praised by critics. With its curved sides and edge-to-edge display, the Note 7 pulls off a neat trick: Though it is physically smaller than Apple’s big phone, it actually has a larger screen. So thanks to clever design, you get more from a smaller thing — exactly the sort of advance we once looked to Apple for.

An important caveat: Samsung’s software is still bloated, and its reputation for overall build quality took a hit when it announced last week that it would recall and replace the Note 7 because of a battery defect that caused spontaneous explosions. To the extent that making a device that doesn’t explode suggests design expertise, Apple is still ahead of Samsung.

To which John Gruber responds:

The Note 7’s larger display in a smaller form factor is, unquestionably, a design win. But I would call the fact that it’s been recalled (and banned from use on all flights) for exploding batteries more than just a “caveat”. And Manjoo’s claim that “Samsung’s software is still bloated” comes just a few paragraphs after he wrote, “Apple has squandered its once-commanding lead in hardware and software design.” Which is it?

Gruber gives Manjoo a lot more credit than I do. His two paragraphs here are completely laughable. Samsung grossly copied Apple design various times, now makes a phone that explodes, and they’re the ones he chooses to compare Apple to? And yes, using the word “caveat” is a major understatement when airlines are banning the phone.

This highlights the problem with critiques of Apple. Instead of critiquing things Apple isn’t actually doing well—their iPhone Upgrade Program, iCloud Space, Apple Music just to name a few—the focus is on creating arguments from thin air about how their best days are behind them. “The magic is gone” isn’t a valid argument, and yet tech critics are paid to write this ignorant word vomit. Obviously Mr. Manjoo, design is something you know nothing about, so either educate yourself or swallow.