The Apple Store: Where Intelligent People Go to Die

What is it about Apple that causes otherwise intelligent people to throw away all trace of common sense? We all know that Apple has done very well for itself, turning around from a mere 4% market share in its computer division in the 90s to having a very viable and sustainable (and diverse!) product line.

Steve Jobs is no dummy. Somehow he managed to break the digital music divide between consumers and the music industry with iPods and the iTunes Music Store. Then he came at us with OS X, the operating system that marked the departure of the Mac OS trying to emulate Windows to stay afloat and go back to its own philosophy about how an operating system should work. Then he gave us Intel-powered Macs which was a smart decision way too far past it’s time.

Now we have iPhones and video iPods and touch screen iPods and iWork ’08 and iLife ’08 and the list goes on. Apple is a smart company. But with any company that releases hardware and software, they are plagued by bugs, oversights and flaws that sneak into Revision A of the product. We all know not to buy revision A stuff. No one waited in line for Windows since the days of Windows 95. We know there are bugs. We wait. Smartly.

However, Apple products incite a certain stupidity in people that encourages them… no, forces them… no, not even that – compels them to go to the Apple Store and buy the newest product on the day of launch or soon thereafter.

Most recently, the Applegasm has surrounded the iPod Touch and the new video iPod Nano. Not long before that, insane lines across this great nation extended out from Apple and AT&T Wireless stores everywhere in anticipation of the iPhone.

Inevitably, the wait for OS X Leopard (the next-gen OS X operating system) will be notable when it is released sometime next year.

Smart people ask why. Intelligent people don’t ask, they just buy.

Apple makes good products, but they are not flawless and almost inevitably are worth the wait. For instance, folks who had an Applegasm over the iPhone for $500 or $600 can now get the same phone 3 months later for $300-$400. People who bought it at full price can get a $100 rebate.

Early adopters of the Airport Extreme router (of which I do own) claimed incompatibility with the Xbox 360 wireless adapter.

First generation Macbook Pro owners (of which, again, I am one) cannot enable their wireless adapter to be 802.11n compatible. Waiting for the second generation fixed this problem.

Early adopters of the iPod nano found that their screens were defective and cracked. I can testify to this as I personally owned a first generation Nano who had its screen crack.

Folks purchasing the brand new iPod Nano may be surprised to know that the old method of connecting Apple A/V cables to the device to gain “TV Out” access (watching video from the iPod on your television) no longer works and that a new component that is not yet available is needed to use this functionality. This has been confirmed by Apple tech support.

The bottom line is that Apple products, as with any computer company, need some time to settle and work flawlessly. Yet so many people ignore this when it comes to Apple. I’ve been frustrated in recent days by observing the reactions of some folks on Twitter and across the new media landscape as they throw away their common sense and exchange it for Apple lust. My frustration is increased knowing that many of these same folks do not need their brand new Apple device as only months earlier they had similar Applegasms over the iPhone, the 80GB video iPod, etc.

I personally know kids who would love to have a simple 2nd generation iPod Nano but live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. Is the insane gluttonous debauchery really needed? I’d encourage folks to give their used device to one of these kids if you insist on wasting money on the new Apple device that you really don’t need.

Finally, a sobering thought: For the $400 needed to buy a new iPhone, $100 (approx) it costs to have an AT&T plan to use it, you could feed 5 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a year (per UNICEF). Think about it.

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

15 thoughts on “The Apple Store: Where Intelligent People Go to Die”

  1. I don’t buy every revision. I skipped several iPod versions (my latest is the one before the iPod video). I waited 2 years inbetween my PoweBook G4 and my MacBook Pro (Santa Rosa).

    I am, however, a little faster to upgrade software. I tend to beta test a lot. Will likely upgrade to Leopard soon after release.

    And I’m due for an iPod upgrade, so a 16GB iPod touch looks like the ticket for me. :-)

    And I’m dead inside, so I’m not too worried about how much food that toy could buy.

  2. I think the money used to buy a car could be spent to feed at least a dozen people in Africa. I don’t have a car, but I’m sure many of you guys do. I don’t even have a bike; I just use public transportation or my legs ;)

    Seems like a futile post to me because stuff like the iPhone are good for doing business, too. If the people that use it can make more money, then that’s more money that they might potentially give to charity, right?

    Anyways, my final argument would be that at least people buying the new iPods are stimulating the economy, creating jobs, and etc. I’d rather see Apple get the money than another, less innovative company. I won’t bother naming one since I don’t keep up to new innovations these days though.

  3. If shiny things make you happy, and you are willing to spend money on that, then I don’t see what’s wrong. I’ve always thought that even if something is a placebo, if it works for you, then it’s still worth the money!

  4. Apple dumped on me too. I bought the whole Apple thing and got me a shiny new Apple Studio display. The first and only really expensive piece of computer equipment I’ve ever bought. I thought I’d treat myself to a really great screen for once. What happens? Apple halves the price a few months after I buy it and the monitor stops working after 18 months. I won’t touch any of their crap ever again! I don’t care how trendy it might be.

  5. I generally love Apple products, but I’ve been alarmed at what seems to me to be a slow slide of quality assurance at the manufacturing level – I used to laugh at PC admins fretting about DOA machines because Apple has such great manufacturing. But I recently realized that of the last 7 Apple products I or a family member have bought in the last year, 4 had a defect serious enough that it had to be returned/repaired by Apple (2 imacs with bad components, an iPhone that slowly slid into not working a week after purchase and a mac book pro with a battery that suddenly could not be detected by the machine, which apparently also means the machine won’t draw power from it).

    I would argue that it’s not that products need time to “settle” but rather that they need to be fully developed before they are released.

    And as a side note: I hate the physical Apple Store. Yeah, it’s beautiful… but why do I have to bend over to look at almost anything on a shelf? It’s not that I’m against bending over sometimes, but at the Apple Store where I live the design takes precedence over the customer having an easy time shopping.

    Function following form is wrong thinking, and this has been known for a long time. In my opinion it’s a cancer that’s slowly eating away at Apple, and they need to excise it before they become a shallow consumer electronics company.

  6. Aaron, I couldn’t agree with you more. Having worked for Apple Retail, watching thousands of people experience the madness of AppleGasm’s, I can tell you that I’ve personally witnessed and experienced much of what you so eloquently write about. I too have find myself the victim of first revision product limitations and price reductions (iPhone anyone?).

    In Apple’s defense and in defense of the customers that lust after each new Apple release, I would simply ask this, “why don’t people have the same lust for Sony electronics or Microsoft or Dell computer products?” I offer this humble, and admittedly incomplete explanation. The products and services created by the aforementioned brands lack imagination and commitment to the user experience. People are CRAZY about Apple products because they suffer from a huge consumerist vacuum for good product design. In a consumer society, where people are in fact compelled to spend and consume, we are starving for good, easy to use products. Apple is leading the innovation, while Sony, Microsoft and Dell are following and creating cheap knock-offs of what Apple invents. I don’t have the space here to list the examples, but they are numerous. Brown Zune, anyone? haha!

    So to wrap up. Aaron, I think you’re on to something, but it’s not Apple, it’s US. We’re the one’s that are crazy. We’re the one’s that can’t accept the simple fact that money grows on plastic, not on Trees.

    Anyway, I have to go now because I’m fiending for the new Nano, which I definitely don’t need!

  7. Aaron,

    Thanks! I thought I noticed that many more folks have started complaining about needing to upgrade OS X and all sorts of plug-ins with their Apple products. Now I am more confused about where to head for my next purchase but, HEY, at least I now know as a PC-user, that my MAC comrades are in the same boat.

    What I’d like to know is why Apple seems to have chosen the Microsoft motto of, ‘If you release it flawed, they will still come buy it.’

    And on the social *justice* tip: pretty much everything in one’s personal electronics dept. CAN and should be recycled or donated to make someone’s life better — whether it’s for kids to learn how to take things apart and put them back together or to download music and not care about a cracked screen. Besides the fact that throwing a computer or iPod is NOT the enviromentally friendly way to go.

    Now my last question — when is a good time to consider buying a Macbook Pro?

  8. Guilt sets in….And…what do you mean when Leopard comes out NEXT YEAR??? I thought it was arriving sometime this month – October??? Say it isn’t so!

  9. I was firmly in the NeXT camp during the 90s, so I guess I didn’t have too much choice but to go Mac after OS X was released.
    I will say this, those that have sat down and used a Mac at my house have unanimously voiced how much better they thought it was than a windows PC. What I like about it is a more sophisticated gui than you get with windows or xwindows, and BSD unix under the hood. In fact, the unix layer of OS X is way better than it ever was on NeXT. NeXT was also a BSD variant, but proprietary enough that getting unix source to build was a real pain.

    I could care less about upgraditis, that’s one of the virtues of having a Mac. I used my PowerMac G4 for 3 years before I stepped up to a PowerMac G5, which I am using right now. I never owned a PC longer than 18 months.

    I’ll upgrade to an Intel Mac when I’m forced to because of application support.

  10. I have been using Apple products since 1997. They are by far the best products on the market to enjoy a rich and pleasant experience in the tech realm. Granted, any “New” technology will have it’s shortcomings on the first debut, but such is the way of innovation.

    I broke free of “windows-bondage” a long time ago, and am now willingly addicted to things that just work! Apple blows away all other competition in the areas of Design, Ease-of-use, Efficiency, Simplicity, and Innovative products.

    I bought Leopard when it first came out and it worked perfectly straight out of the box, unlike other systems ie. XP, Vista…etc.

    I will continue to support Apple by purchasing their products, because quite frankly there’s NONE better to support!

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