Apple’s post-Jony Ive hardware designs: Function over form

Less than ten months have passed since the renowned Jony Ive stepped down as Apple’s Chief Design Officer to start a new company – LoveFrom – that will reportedly work with both Apple and other clients.

Jony Ive design. Image: iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max
Apple’s current flagship iPhone 11 Pro Max is slightly thicker than its predecessor

Eric Jhonsa for TheStreet:

Already, there are several signs that Apple is rethinking its design philosophy some following Ive’s departure. But based on what has happened so far, that might be far from entirely a bad thing.

First, last September, Apple rolled out new flagship iPhones that (although looking much like their predecessors in many respects) were moderately thicker and heavier than its 2018 flagships, on account of packing larger batteries… not exactly a massive difference, but after pushing year after year in the Ive era to make new iPhones as thin and light as was reasonably possible, it did represent a change of pace — a calculated decision to prioritize function (i.e., battery life) over form. And this calculated decision brought with it a major benefit: The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max deliver much better battery life than their predecessors, with Apple claiming 4-hour and 5-hour increases, respectively, under normal use.

MacBook keyboards are another area where Apple has recently been breaking with an Ive-era focus on thinness. Last November, Apple launched a 16-inch MacBook Pro that abandoned the ultra-thin and occasionally-criticized “butterfly” keyboard design that MacBooks had been shipping with since 2015 in favor of a more conventional “scissor switch” design (Apple calls its proprietary scissor switch keyboards Magic Keyboards). And last month, Apple launched a revamped MacBook Air featuring a Magic Keyboard. Reviewers have almost unanimously given a thumbs-up to the new keyboards.

MacDailyNews Take: Don’t get the wrong idea from the headline. The gorgeous form (much of it inspired by Jony Ive himself, of course) is still very much there, the products are just a bit more functional now that the ill-conceived obsession with thin has been corrected. Don’t forget that the recent iPad Pros and the upcoming iPhones are said to be based on the incomparable iPhone 4 design, for which Jony Ive was responsible.

Annnd, as always, we told ya so:

• The law of diminishing returns can also be applied to industrial design. Apple’s eternal quest for thinness eventually runs into issues such as bulging camera assemblies, battery capacity, strength (breakability), etc. – is Apple’s quest for thinness now bordering on the quixotic? So, is it “you can never be too thin” or is it “thin enough is thin enough?”MacDailyNews, December 21, 2015

• Hey, Jony: Enough with the thin. Everything is thin enough. Sometimes too thin. Thinner isn’t the answer to everything, nor is thinness intrinsic to good design. We’d gladly take a bit more robustness and battery life over more unnecessary thinness, thanks.MacDailyNews, June 25, 2018

• We’ve had to endure years of inferior keyboards in order to shave off half a millimeter about which no one not named Jony gave a rat’s ass.MacDailyNews, April 2, 2019

• Those who panic over the exit of Jony Ive need not do so. Again, given Jony’s state of mind and his autonomous position with Apple, his departure is a net positive for the company.MacDailyNews, July 7, 2019

• Obviously, Jony Ive helped turn Apple into what it is today. Yes, by the end of his time at Apple, he got a little weird and seemed more than a little bored/distracted, but his myriad contributions to Apple over many years cannot be overstated!MacDailyNews, November 21, 2019


  1. Now how about making the laptops easily opened and upgradeable like my Early 2011 13″ MacBook Pro, which is still going strong with all the RAM and SSDs I’ve been able to install myself.

    1. The only reasons I haven’t replaced my 2012 13″ MBP is because of the soldered-on RAM and storage, the ridiculously low default storage capacity (still 128GB for the latest 13″ MBP) and the unreasonable prices to upgrade them at time of purchase.

      1. I still use both versions mentioned in the comments – the early-2011 and the mid-2012 13″ – both maxed out with RAM and the original HDDs upgraded to various SSDs numerous times over the years. My 2012 is my main computer and I use the 2011 for a separate writing workstation with Ulysses.

        Both still work well even though they’re nine and five years old respectively and were purchased as refurbs. Designed and built back when Macs were made to last.

        I can even run the last great OS – Snow Leopard – on the 2011 and still have it loaded on a spare SSD for when I want to hook up my vintage DJ gear.

        I’d like to get a new one but the horror stories of hardware and software issues keep holding me back.

  2. And that new Mac. Bring back “The Mac” (mid-size – not mini, not pro, no integrated display – user-expandable, non-soldered RAM, room for adding an optional optical drive versus additional hard drive(s), with PCI card slots, room for dedicated graphics, etc.). 2-3 USB-C and a headphone port on the front, and ideally, even an SD card reader, 2 USB-3 and at least 4 USB-C and 2 Thunderbolt ports on the rear. About 1/2 to 2/3 the size of the Mac Pro. Base price 2-3K, reasonably upgradeable to about 10K, slotting it perfectly between the mini, the iMac, and the Pro.

    1. Just give me all the GPU, CPU, RAM, I/O, HD, FusiionHD, and SSD options available on the iMac, but without the screen. And allow the user to replace or upgrade said options with nothing more than a Phillips head screwdriver.

      You could do this on the old cheesegrater Macs.

    2. Like all the ideas, but the base price is too high. iMacs start at $1100. Any increase in cost to provide expansion bays and slots should be more than offset by the lack of a screen, and no need for component miniaturization to pack things in tightly.

      The Mac mini starts at $900. A “standard” Mac should start at $1000, max… maybe even less, if the default drive is an HDD rather instead of the Mac Mini’s PCIe SSD.

      1. Your price is unrealistic. How could you make it more than a mini without charging more than a mini? The materials alone justify at least twice the price, and with margins, you’re easily up to the mid-$2000 range. And the mini is there for people who need a computer for basic consumer things – email, pictures, internet surfing, etc. The proposed Mac would be for mid-level use – prosumers, small businesses, photographers and music production, gaming (becoming even more important with a market in the billions), basic business use, etc. – things not needing the maximum horsepower and not able to financially justify a Mac Pro (which is a terrible value at $6K but a tremendous one starting at about $10-15K). But mostly, look at the price point to determine the market. The mini is $1000. The Mac Pro is $6000. Apple should max out the non-iMac slot, starting at about 2-3K, with only a little overlap to a maxed out mini, and it should fully upgrade to about $10-15K.

        The expected lifespan of a decent display far exceeds that of even the best computer, and yet Apple has forced millions to be thrown away or recycled, just because their iMac guts have died or become obsolete. It is long past time for the return of the upgradeable, or even replaceable non-display Mac. The world is ready for it.

  3. Without the pursuit of thinness, we would never have gotten the iconic MacBook Air or the best-selling iPhone 6. I find the iPhone 11 too heavy – battery life is great, but comes at a prize. And the watch is still too thick!
    Pursuing perfection was never wrong – what comes after Ive’s designs have been regresssed to mediocrity?

  4. Never mind the almost insignificant problems with the hardware, which is generally superb (just don’t think about keyboards), but it’s Ive’s disasterous attempt at software interface design that is a real problem. And unlike the hardware it is ugly, an esthetic disaster. When are they going to replace that with a properly functional design ?

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