Is Apple becoming a purveyor of bling?

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

Apple, a name – quite rightly – associated with high quality, beautifully crafted technology. From the iPhone to OS X, from the iPad to the much-aped MacBook AIR, their products are built on sound design principles giving them a clean, simple, yet powerful look and feel. Or so it used to be at least, for recent software developments smell very much of Apple losing it.

Bling: “The word refers to any unnecessary accumulation of [decoration,] which impresses the simple-minded.” (from Urban Dictionary.) Many no doubt will be outraged that I’d associate Apple with such a negative, crass concept. It’s not something I do lightly, as Apple computers have traditionally appealed to intelligent, creative people. Yet bling is exactly what Apple seem to be adding to their software and many of those fans of good Apple design are objecting to it. What with faux leather, shelves that look like they are made from plastic, wood-effect, laminated chipboard and now metal-effect buttons that pretend to reflect light as the device is tilted, Apple isn’t just going for bling, it’s opting for cheap looking imitations. The app that really highlights how much Apple seem to be losing their touch though is their new Podcast app.

I like listening to podcasts. Previously, Apple made this a painful process by requiring I run iTunes on my laptop, download the latest episodes, connect my phone and synch in order to get new episodes onto my phone. I bought the excellent Downcast app as the experience was so bad. Now though Apple have their own Podcast app and so I was interested to discover how it competed with Downcast. Does it offer background loading of subscribed podcasts? Well sort of, sometimes. It seems very unreliable. Does it offer any feedback on what needs downloading and what is being downloaded? Not as far as I can tell. Does it offer playlists? Um, no. The ability to enter a URL to a podcast not on iTunes? No. Restrict downloading to Wifi only? No. Easily change the settings for different podcasts? Well yes, but only once you have discovered (or asked someone else in my case) the obscure location this is hidden. Show notes? No. Links? No. Description of the show available before subscribing? No.

So Apple’s Podcast app is a very basic. That’s fair enough, it’s free after all. But beneath the lack of features and the clunky, unintuitive interface, there must be some Apple design magic at work surely? Well, no … but there is a truly incredible example of Apple bling. Hidden away behind the artwork for a podcast, when playing it, there lies an animation of a reel to reel tape player.

Apple's naff reel to reel tape player animation

It’s pretty I guess, but it’s also totally and utterly pointless. As Gismodo put it, “[it’s] skeuomorphism. Or … dumb, stupid unnecessary ornamental fake crap. Ism. Or gimmickism if you are into the whole brevity thing.” It really is an unnecessary accumulation of silly decoration, which can only hope to impresses the simple-minded. That is such a sad level for Apple to fall to. Apple’s growing obsession with skeuomorphism needs to end before their reputation completely descends to that of laughing stock level.

2 thoughts on “Is Apple becoming a purveyor of bling?

  1. That looks oddly familiar, didn’t windows for workgroups have a wav player that did the same thing? It was ridiculed for being naff then, and this looks the same.

    I agree Apple are fast becoming bling obsessed, but then again they are in the business of making money and if you have a loyal fan-base that will part with 1000% more cash than it takes to actually apply some bling then why not do it. Isn’t this what toys have done for years ie. new Barbie now comes with her own hat! (plot line stolen from the Simpsons)

  2. …absolutely agree with you on this fakery. Do you think Jonny Ives is aware of Apple putting this crap on his beautifully designed iPads/Pods/Phones? The teak decking on the ‘compass’is another (I’m in a grimy inner city – not on my Riva at St.Tropez!) – along with the Newsstand bookshelves…. Man this stuff is just soooo Microsoft! (Puking noises…..)

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