Apple's Most Questionable Design Decisions in Recent Memory

The design of Apple's products has always emphasized the depth of thought. Jony Ive wrote the foreword to Designed by Apple in California, a photo book in which he explained how the company strives "to define objects that appear effortless" and "so simple, coherent and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative."

Every once in a while Apple gets it wrong, and a tech company's rationale for the way a product should be designed can translate into end-user irritation or even a customer's personal hell. Here we look back at a few questionable design decisions by Apple. Let us know if you think other Apple products didn't live up to their billing.

1. The second Magic Mouse.

The launch of the Magic Mouse 2 was heralded as an Apple innovation due to its touch-sensitive surface that can recognize gestures and clicks. The sleek curves and glossy top surface of Apple's mouse make it look like it's from Apple, until you charge it.

Apple put the charging port on the underside of the Magic Mouse 2, suggesting to many that it had sacrificed the user experience for design. The port on the front edge of the mouse would have allowed users to charge it while using it at the same time. But no.

Six years later, in April 2021, Apple announced the latest iMac, which has several neat functional design changes over its predecessors, like the Ethernet port in the charging brick. The Magic Mouse 2 is included with the new iMacs and even has several colors to match the all-in-one machines, but Apple still expects users to flip over their mouse and plug in a Lightning cable, which makes it not only unusable but also slightly pathetic-looking.

Apple's Magic Mouse 2 is the same price you'll pay today as it was when it first went on sale.

2. The Apple/Siri Remote is available.

It's hard to downplay the amount of venom that's been aimed at the original Siri Remote since Apple first included it with the Apple TV in 2015, and if you never got to use it, that might seem a bit harsh.

It had a clickable touchpad at the top that could be used to navigate tvOS, and two simple columns of buttons below for controlling media. It doubled as a game controller.

You might think it's all good. Most users agreed that it was an absolute clanger. The consensus was that Apple's Remote design was too small and thin, which meant when it wasn't making your hands look huge it had got lost down the back of the sofa or between the cushions.

There was a non-intuitive button layout, which could be gauged by the level of frustration that attended when they mistakenly pressed the Siri button to return to the menu. Few will remember the high sensitivity of the glass touchpad that sometimes made onscreen navigation a bit like watching Olympic curling.

How to charge your Apple TV remote? The cable should be plugged into the port. 2. Jony Ive said to turn the remote around and plug the cable into the port.

All of this assumed you hadn't been holding it backwards, which was the case for almost every user. One end of the remote was almost indistinguishable from the other in low light thanks to its uncompromising symmetry. The Remote only came in black and had no back lighting, as though Apple had set out to make locating it in the dark some kind of twilight challenge.

The new Apple TV 4K and a much-improved, all-new Siri Remote were unveiled in October of 2021.

3. The Apple Pencil is the 1st Gen.

The first-generation Apple Pencil was released in 2015, the same year as the Magic Mouse 2. If you think about it, it makes sense that Apple built a male Lightning port under the cap to allow it to be plugged into an iPad for power.

When the Apple Pencil runs out of power, there's an iPad right there to plug it into, and to be fair, it charges pretty fast, offering around 30 minutes of usage after being plugged in for only 15 seconds. It works in that way. That also looks weird.

If you accidentally wack the pencil on something when it's plugged in, it could cause serious damage to the device. It's not known how many iPad Lightning ports have been killed.

Unless you plug the Apple pencil into an apple device, you can't charge your iPad unless you use it in a landscape orientation, and it makes using it awkward. You can't charge the pencil and the tablet at the same time.

The first-generation Apple Pencil is still available for 99, but Apple has adopted magnetic charging for the second-generation version, which restores a sense of harmony to the iPad lineup.

4. There is a smart case for the AirPods.

There was a lot of online chatter about Apple's included Smart Case when it was announced that the high-end headphones were going to be $599.

The case is designed to help preserve the battery charge when not in use, according to Apple. It's useful when your headphones don't come with a proper off switch, but it's the odd look of the case that seems to evoke unusual associations in the mind.

The Smart Case quickly became a meme, which compared it to everything from lingerie to body parts. Most would agree that Apple has de-prioritised the practicalities of travel in its pursuit of legendary fashion. Nilay Patel is a writer.

I don't know what's going on with the AirPods Max case, which is a goofy one-piece contraption that's folded and glues over on itself to form a case. It looks like a purse when wrapped around the headphones, which is fun and clever, and not the point of a headphones case that needs to survive in a backpack. It doesn't seem very protective, feels like it will get dirty fast, and generally doesn't hold a candle to the nice hard cases that come with almost every other set of premium headphones.

You would think that a case that comes with a pair of premium headphones would provide protection when thrown into a backpack, but Apple's Smart Case is different. The metal of the headphones is prone to scratches due to the lack of coverage offered by the case material. Maybe that's the point.

5. The keyboard is called the butterfly.

Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro machines were updated in 2015 and 2016 with new butterfly keys with home switches that minimized thickness without losing that satisfying press under the fingers. It wasn't long before Apple's butterfly keyboard was called out as one of the company's worst design decisions.

All butterfly keyboards in MacBook Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Air models were introduced between 2016 and 2019. The mechanism was so delicate that it could break. It was worse because Apple's laptop construction meant that you had to take your MacBook to an Apple repair center to have the single key replaced.

The second-generation version of the keyboard was introduced in 2016 and suggested that the issues had been fixed. Apple was displeased that broken keys continued to be reported. Apple continued to beat its favorite dead horse by tweaking the butterfly mechanism in successive machines released. The complaints didn't go away.

In May of last year, a number of class action lawsuits were brought against Apple on behalf of users who had been affected by broken butterfly keys and were angry that Apple had refused to honor its warranty obligations and fix the keyboards for free.

Apple acknowledged the issues when it launched an "extended keyboard service program" for MacBooks with butterfly keys, and in May it expanded the program to cover all MacBook models with butterfly keyboards.

An editorial written on one of the faulty keyboards was published by the Wall Street Journal. The article embarrassed Apple.

We don't know how widespread the keyboard problems were, but we know Mac users breathed a collective sigh of relief when Apple unveiled the new "Magic" keyboard with a scissor switch mechanism.

6. Mac Pro was released in the year 2019.

"Can't innovate, my ass," remarked Apple's Phil Schiller during the announcement of the redesign of the Mac Pro. It was a moment of on-stage arrogance that would go down in Apple lore as well as Steve Jobs' "You're holding it wrong" in the face of the iPhone 4 antenna issues. The audience in attendance was not the focus of the snipe, but at armchair critics who claimed that Apple had largely abandoned its pro user base and was out of ideas.

The future of the pro desktop was a vision that Apple believed to be correct. Despite its relatively niche market, Apple was showing it had gone to great engineering lengths to innovate. It had innovated. The unified thermal core of the new Mac Pro gives it twice the performance of the previous generation, while taking up less than a quarter of the volume. Everything inside was cooled by one large fan at the top, which could spin more slowly than smaller fans and keep the Mac quiet.

The redesign of the Mac Pro was unveiled by Phil Schiller.

The machine could deliver seven Teraflops of computing power, thanks to the twinned Intel andAMD FirePro workstations. The black aluminum cylinder that housed it all was unmistakably Apple-esque in its ambitions, but there were notable concerns. Expansion had to be served from the external ports because everything was designed to improve thermal efficiency.

The lack of internal slots to upgrade graphics cards and add more memory was something most creative pros couldn't overlook. It was possible to buy a trashcan Mac Pro from Apple without an update in the six years since its release, even though Apple seemed unsure how to update its internals.

Since the last Mac Pro update, there has been a new Mac Pro: 1,351 days.

Apple was aware of the criticism of the Mac Pro redesign, and ended up doing something out of character. The company had lost its way and needed to be reassured by the Mac's pro base that it was still alive.

Apple executives apologized and admitted that the Mac Pro model had been a mistake at a meeting with reporters. Apple promised a new modular Mac Pro system, a new external display, and a new iMac Pro model to remedy the situation. The "trashcan" Mac Pro was laid to rest in 2019.