Breaking rank with other companies to make things smoother can certainly set your product apart, but is there a point where something becomes too sleek to use?
Most models of the Tesla car have handles that physically retract into the doors when not in use. Inside the car, the handles operate by a button press, not by a pull. You are not mechanically opening the car door, you are instructing the car door to open, and that’s an important difference. Both sets of handles require that the car has power. Otherwise, they won’t function. Famously, one man struggled to get out of his car after it caught fire because the handles inside don’t operate like the handles of any other car, and a special ‘release latch’ that’s hidden behind the doorgrab is necessary to open the car when it doesn’t have power. He couldn’t find that latch because it’s hidden (for added sleekness), and as a result, he had to crawl through the window. Of course, Twitter commenters pointed out the latch, but if you can’t visually identify the thing that’s going to open your flaming car in a few seconds, is it really a ‘good’ design? Sure, that’s great if the car dies and the button doesn’t work and you have time to figure it out – it doesn’t work so well in an emergency.
The handles are also more prone to freezing over in cold climates, which is very annoying. Plenty of car doors freeze shut, and this is far from a Tesla-only problem, but it turns an already annoying problem into an even more annoying one because the handle has to be freed from its pocket in the door before you can even begin to try opening it.
Apple and It’s Missing Jack
Apple recently removed the aux jack from its devices. Did it need to? Maybe – the jack takes up quite a bit of space inside the phone thanks to it’s placement, and removing it would enable Apple to put some more cool stuff inside the phone. But then the phones got bigger, and the storage chips got smaller even as they held more digital storage space. Does this mean Apple will put the jack back in, seeing as it no longer needs to conserve space as much as it did when it was trying to make phones that broke technological walls? The phones are flipping huge now, there is space for the jack.
Removing the aux jack also made it so that any non-Bluetooth headphones the consumers had wouldn’t work without an adaptor. An adaptor that Apple just so happens to sell. An adaptor that has the same problems that all of the cords made by Apple do. This means that a number of accessories are now effectively Bluetooth-only, which is annoying at best and kind of malicious at worst. When carriers pushed the new phone, users had to upgrade everything if they wanted to go to the next model. Apple happens to sell a lot of those accessories, and while Apple may be pricey, the name does still carry weight – it means a defective product could be returned to a physical store or exchanged immediately without waiting for Amazon to retrieve it.
The phone is sleeker. It has less ports. It’s closer to being truly waterproof than it ever has been before. It looks cooler than ever. But the minimalist principles in the design of the phone are directly costing consumers both real money and ease of use. Apple knows this – Apple likes it that way. Eventually, there may come a time when Apple removes the C-USB port and expects you to use cordless charging, with its proprietary charging pad.
Windows wants you to use Bing. Windows wants to add functionality to your taskbar. Windows has combined the built-in taskbar search feature with the open web in an effort to do both of these things. Unfortunately, it turns out this configuration combines the worst of both. Have you ever had a relative who doesn’t use computers much? For a long time, you could rest assured that a search on the Windows taskbar wouldn’t somehow end with that relative downloading a browser extension they didn’t need or clicking on an ad they mistook for a file on their computer.
When Windows made it possible to search for both ‘on-web’ and ‘on-computer’ pages in the same search bar, they also created a massive headache and added additional clicks to the search. Trying to search for a file named something like ‘car report’ could bring up search results for sites like Carfax. Suddenly, you’re not in your files digging around for a report that was already made, you’re on the web. That’s annoying, but you can just go back and try again. If you’re really desperate, you can open up the file picker and search there. It doesn’t work for everything on the computer (it doesn’t want you to be able to find and delete functions like Sys32 or Task Manager, so it won’t show you their file locations, and file picker isn’t equipped to open it for you like the taskbar search is even if you do find them) but it’s better than the mess you just got into with the search bar.
But wait – go back to that relative from before. For that relative, this was a linear path that makes sense, and the website must have what they were looking for because it popped up in their search. Every iteration of Windows before this one has worked by only showing the relevant files on the device, so they don’t know that they aren’t meant to be on the Carfax website. If they don’t stop to call in help, they may end up filling out a form on that site they didn’t need to, or giving up information they might not have wanted to. Imagine how much that could suck if it wasn’t the car report – taxes, Social Security, health insurance, any number of things that might be saved on a computer, could simply be confused with an ad on their accidental Bing search.
It should say something about how poorly this worked out that there are dozens of pages on forums and blogs detailing how to disable it so this exact thing won’t happen – or happen again. Windows 11 at least gives you the opportunity to turn it off, and you have to go out of your way to get to web results in regular taskbar search once it is. A search function where everything can show up in the same place is not always better.