Ah, iPhones. There was once a time when the iPod reigned supreme over portable digital music, and the iPhone was the only ready-to-go choice for smartphones. When Apple’s products were engineered with innovation in mind, instead of pure appearance. When Apple products were genuinely worth the price – there were no 100$ Apple Pens, in two separate generations, that didn’t even work universally so you have to buy the right one for your iPad. Who does that??
Now, it seems like Apple is in a constant battle with use vs. aesthetic – it looks nicer to have a mouse with no cord, sure, but to keep users from using it and charging it at the same time (which ruins the cordless effect, obviously), they moved the charging port to the bottom, so users couldn’t leave the mouse plugged in to charge while they were using it. Apple. Come on.
Extreme dedication to their brand has also led to them jack up the price on things that other brands would never dream of (except maybe hype-based brands like Supreme). The Apple pencil mentioned above was subject to ridicule because it costed either 99$ or 129$ dollars at release depending on model, and a not-so-recently released Mac Pro still costs several thousand dollars as I write this, in the year 2020. It looks like a cheese grater. I’m not saying the specs aren’t great… but it does look like a cheese grater, because Apple doesn’t spring for matte black like other brands. Stainless steel is an essential part of their image, now. There will be no matte black.
Besides the design, engineers tend to frown upon Apple’s policy of making devices intentionally difficult-to-repair unless they work for Apple themselves. It’s all designed to give users the most Apple-defined experience possible, for better or for worse, and their software is usually cutting edge when it comes out. There are no glitchy messes, and Apple will not tolerate a third-party shop creating one. That’s their selling point: they’ve got the best cameras, the best UI, the best touchscreen response, and the best service for all of it! But… if another brand manages to sneak up from behind with all the features Apple’s been shucking off for the sake of sleekness…
Anyway, people came to expect Apple to make strange decisions with devices. They’d gotten slapped with a fine in Europe for planned obsolescence (https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-51706635) despite still making money with those proprietary repair shops, they’d driven away people when the newest phone was nearly a thousand dollars to purchase, and the pattern didn’t seem to be changing any time soon: they cut the aux cord in favor of lightning only, because it would allow them to slim the phone down even more.
3.5 MM Aux-less
The aux decision. For those of you who don’t know, an aux cord, jack or cable is the standard for a great many devices to import or export sound. It’s compact and cheap without sacrificing quality, which is why most user devices have an aux port (in addition to Bluetooth, not instead of). Apple’s decision meant that people were forced into a few boxes if they upgraded:
- Users buy (or have) BlueTooth headphones, which they also have to charge to use.
- The user just doesn’t listen to music with headphones on while their phone is charging.
- Users buy (or have) headphones compatible with the lightning plug-in port. These headphones may not be compatible with other systems. You cannot charge your phone and listen on headphones at the same time due to a lack of free ports. Again.
- An adaptor is included that lets them do what they used to be able to do by default, but they still can’t charge their phone at the same time without a different
You may notice that the solutions all involve either already owning or buying something to shore up the gap left by removing the aux. They charge more for every generation of phone, and then on top of that if you wanted to listen with headphones in, you had to spend more money to upgrade if you only had corded ones, either to buy the easily-broken adaptor or buy new cordless headphones.
That’s intentional. But the feature seems so tiny in comparison to all the upgrades that the worst outcomes were memes. And a mild trolling campaign. Apple obviously didn’t want to encourage trolls, but it should have acted as a hint that people weren’t ready to let go. After all, the jack is compatible with basically everything else except Apple, now. It looks like a questionable design choice at best, moneygrubbing at worst.
Before we get into the news cycle’s reporting, why doesn’t this work?
- The hardware is literally gone. The hole held the specialized port for audio input and output, the hole itself didn’t matter. Neither did the location, but the bottom of the phone is more convenient for cords anyway so almost every manufacturer puts it there.
- The software is also gone. Even if they’d kept the vestigial port where it was and just covered it with metal, you’d also have to go through the effort of downloading aux software.
- Even assuming the port was still there under the metal, drilling into it would almost certainly break it. The fit is designed to be perfect, so if you got the right-sized drill bit to get the aux cord flush, you’d be hitting the port as well and damaging it.
The “redrilling an aux cord” meme quickly hit the news, where it died back down. After all, once the trick is well known, people stop falling for it. Most troll campaigns last significantly longer – System32 took years to die out. Right now, if you search up some form of the phrase “iPhone drill out aux port”, you get DIY repair tutorials for aux jacks that have snapped off in the port, and a whole host of articles about the iPhone 7 phenomenon, claiming people are doing it willy-nilly. They weren’t, or at least they weren’t doing it in volume. You’ll probably notice most sites use one of maybe five or ten pictures.
Most people have enough good judgement to understand that once hardware is removed, it’s removed. The few people that followed through and drilled into their phone had both the tools immediately available and a lapse in judgement. The multitudes of goofy images and wrong instructions might not have fooled someone with decent enough common sense, but this time it wasn’t a solitary image floating around on the web, it was a video. The channel that made the video is a tech parody channel, and they did a little too good of a job. Still, most people with some understanding of smartphones knew that it didn’t make sense to drill a hole into the case and simply laughed at the video and moved on.
But for others… this is a very well-made video. It’s so well-edited that it’s actually unclear to me where the guy switched out the now-broken phone for the functioning one. It’s not super obvious it’s a parody without prior exposure to it. The perfect parody.
Avoiding it in The Future
Don’t try to modify the hardware of a device without experience. That much should be clear from any number of memes that surface every new launch date. And in general, don’t take advice the moment you hear it when it comes to 700$ machines – do a little research first and determine whether or not it actually makes sense based on that, unless you’re talking to an expert. A lot of people could have been spared some trouble if they’d asked Apple customer support about the jack, for instance.
Tides – A Sidenote on Memes
It’s both a blessing and a curse that troll campaigns can hit the news with few or no ‘real’ incidents. On one hand, people who struggle to identify troll campaigns now have clear advice not to follow the instructions. On the other, a similar internet blow-up featuring posts about snacking on Tide Pods were used to mock memes instead of handling poisonings. The majority of poisoning cases were the elderly and very young children, but news sites and blogs reported those poisoning cases as a result of the ‘forbidden snack’ meme instead of the other way around.
They did look like candy before Tide redesigned them. Kids were getting into the container, and if it smells nice and looks nice, there’s a solid chance a toddler will put it in their mouth. That’s how it should have been reported. The same goes with elderly adults suffering from dementia or other impairments: it smells nice, it looks nice, and they don’t always have the capacity to fully understand the outside of the container.
The rare case of an unimpaired adult consuming a Tide Pod was done as part of the joke, not because of it. The joke is in taping it instead of genuinely trying to eat the pod. Whether or not they injured themselves for a joke is a different matter than claiming Tide Pods were a ‘challenge’. They weren’t a challenge, not the same way the cinnamon challenge was a ‘challenge’.
There were very few people intending to actually, y’know, consume the pod, the joke was in the implication that they were eating it. Unlike the cinnamon challenge, where the joke was that they were actually consuming the cinnamon. And by framing it as teenagers on social media instead of groups prone to accidental poisoning, news outlets were able to get clicks. They also avoid threatening their audiences with the idea that they might have fallen for a joke as well: it’s selling a divide between groups.
The same goes for redrilling the aux. News sites get more clicks when they’re inflammatory, and especially when they can find a story to mock a subset of people. Only people who bought the iPhone 7 were missing the aux port. Only iPhone 7 users could have fallen for it. Not Samsung users, not iPhone 6 and below users – only iPhone 7 users could have had this problem. This leads watchers to believe that they wouldn’t have fallen for it. And they might not have! But they were only immune from it because they didn’t own the problem device.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tqH-Un9SFU (note: this is a video – it is also the parody. Do not follow the instructions within the video.)