How Apple Makes the Watch
May 12, 2015 6:23 PM   Subscribe

An industrial designer explains the manufacturing techniques used to make the Watch.
Apple is the world's foremost manufacturer of goods. At one time, this statement had to be caged and qualified with modifiers such as "consumer goods" or "electronic goods," but last quarter, Apple shipped a Boeing 787's weight worth of iPhones every 24 hours. When we add the rest of the product line to the mix, it becomes clear that Apple's supply chain is one of the largest scale production organizations in the world.
While Boeing is happy to provide tours of their Everett, WA facility, Apple continues to operate with Willy Wonka levels of secrecy. In the manufacturing world, we hear rumors of entire German CNC mill factories being built to supply Apple exclusively, or even occasionally hear that one of our supplier's process experts has been "disappeared" to move to Cupertino or Shenzhen. While we all are massively impressed with the scale of Apple's operations, there is constant intrigue as to exactly how they pull it all off with the level of fit, finish and precision obvious to anyone who has examined their hardware.
This walkthrough is a detailed narration of what we see in Apple's Watch Craftsmanship videos. Of course, we only get to see a mere fraction of the process; I've tried to provide plausible explanations for the likely steps taking place between the processes shown on film, but these are assumptions and are included only to provide a more satisfying and complete narration.
Fascinating look behind the scenes of state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. Hopefully interesting enough to avoid any pepsiblue taint.

[Via Core77]
posted by Bron (107 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Imagine if they held a war, and nobody came, because everybody was busy building pretty things instead of weapons.

I wonder if it could be argued that in the past twenty years more talent has been dedicated to non-military hardware than at any point of industrialized societies.
posted by nickggully at 6:44 PM on May 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


there is constant intrigue as to exactly how they pull it all off with the level of fit, finish and precision

The same way everyone else does. They're just one of the few that does it at a large scale. They can charge higher prices, so there is no magic involved.

Back in my engineering days a few long years ago the company I worked for supplied a few chips for the iphone 3 through 5 (and maybe the 6 now, who knows. Samsung had become the big deal internally by the time I left anyway). Apple's flow wasn't really any different than anyone else we sold stuff to, except even more NDAs than usual and we weren't supposed to use the word "apple" in our fucking office and instead had a code name for them. Just some silly corporate cult stuff.
posted by MillMan at 6:50 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Apple's flow wasn't really any different than anyone else we sold stuff to, except even more NDAs than usual and we weren't supposed to use the word "apple" in our fucking office and instead had a code name for them.

My employer (graphics vendor) has some employees who work on-site at the Apple Campus. I've been told that they occasionally need to work in a separate, secure room that's shielded from wifi and airgapped from the rest of the network. Apple is very serious about leaks.
posted by nathan_teske at 6:56 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh and no matter your opinion on Apple, you need to read this post as well as the entry on the MacPro. There's some insane engineering porn.
posted by nathan_teske at 6:57 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


That was really interesting - unexpectedly so!
posted by blahblahblah at 7:02 PM on May 12, 2015


There's some insane engineering porn.

Sure, which I do enjoy. The culty aspects are just worth throwing under the bus.
posted by MillMan at 7:06 PM on May 12, 2015


Bron: "there is constant intrigue as to exactly how they pull it all off with the level of fit, finish and precision obvious to anyone who has examined their hardware."

This is a notable point, which this iMore post elaborates on. Samsung phones might match or even exceed iPhones in certain respects, but the level of obsessive perfectionism required to achieve something entirely unnecessary like the perfect alignment of ports the article describes is pretty staggering when you think about it.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:10 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Apple's flow wasn't really any different than anyone else we sold stuff to, except even more NDAs than usual and we weren't supposed to use the word "apple" in our fucking office and instead had a code name for them. Just some silly corporate cult stuff.

One of the first things we were shown during our first training session on our first day was the job posting for what can only be called a "Hang around public places and try to overhear secret Apple conversions" type job. People pay a lot of money to know who's making what hardware. How much hardware? Is it shipping on time? Are the yields good? etc. etc. Each little piece of information adds up into a larger picture.

Apple is very serious about leaks.

Yep, there's a reason why Samsung et. al. just issue a press release to announce new products, and we fill up Moscone Center for a week to announce ours.
posted by sideshow at 7:34 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just can't help but think how wasteful this over-engineering is on a device that will be rendered obsolete with the very next digital technology development cycle in 6 months to a year.
posted by jnnla at 7:35 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


How awesome would it be if Apple started making boats?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:40 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


How awesome would it be if Apple started making boats?

Now you're just toying with my imagination. And that's just mean.
posted by valkane at 7:42 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just can't help but think how wasteful this over-engineering is on a device that will be rendered obsolete with the very next digital technology development cycle in 6 months to a year.

I'm pretty sure Apple isn't going to throw away all the institutional knowledge they've gained on this project and just decide to figure it all out again for Watch 2.0

It's often said that Apple primary expertise is not in technology, but in supply chain management. I think they probably have a lot of interesting things to say about manufacturing too.
posted by danny the boy at 7:43 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Imagine if Apple started making spoons.
posted by gwint at 7:49 PM on May 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


Supply chain management? seriously? Compared to Detroit, Apple literally doesn't know shit about real Supply chain management. An endless string of NDAs and a sea of cheap foreign labor do not = supply chain management.
posted by Chrischris at 7:49 PM on May 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


The Watch?
posted by octothorpe at 7:54 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


when Apple is capable of making, say, a vehicle that can give me 10 years of relatively trouble free service, rather than some fancy fucking bleep-bloop, obsolete in 12 months wrist toy, then we will talk about manufacturing prowess.
posted by Chrischris at 7:56 PM on May 12, 2015 [35 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Apple isn't going to throw away all the institutional knowledge they've gained on this project and just decide to figure it all out again for Watch 2.0


I meant more in a sense that the videos present these watches as receiving a level of quality in materials and manufacturing usually reserved for heirloom-status objects. But these are not Swiss time-pieces exquisitely crafted to last for hundreds of years if well-kept. They are literally made with the express intent that they will become obsolete and replaced with newer models within two years of rolling off the assembly line - as are most digital products relying on computer technology. The elaborate sourcing and processing of the top-tier materials used to make something that is essentially disposable is what seems wasteful and gross to me. I suppose if they intend to reuse the materials through a buy-back program it's all good...but the whole thing feels as incongruent as a 24 karat gold casio watch.
posted by jnnla at 8:00 PM on May 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


when Apple is capable of making, say, a vehicle that can give me 10 years of relatively trouble free service

I've had MacBook Pros in service for FAR longer than any wintel piece of shit. Latest hand me down to a college student friend is a near six year old Mid 2009. Upgraded to its maximum of 8GB of RAM and an aftermarket SSD and it tears through OS X and any everyday task you throw at it.
posted by Talez at 8:05 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


They also say McDonald's is really in the supply-chain business. At any sufficiently large scale, it seems like, that must by necessity become a big part of it.
posted by box at 8:05 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Newtonian physics does not change every few years and therefore cars can be relatively stable platforms. Except they're not, because they're adopting all of the new goodies from the tech world (HUGE automotive presence at CES).

Look at you all, complaining about all this innovation. It's wonderous. In that I wonder what the heck this is.
posted by effugas at 8:06 PM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


As an engineer, that article is lovely stuff (though as an engineer, my interactions with Apple business wing have been so terrible that it robs me of the joy in these lovely machines).

But, yes, the waste is the most apparent thing for me. I'll be willing to bet you any amount you won't even be able to update the software on these things in five years.

Perhaps it's me, but I feel that in 100 years they'll be showing these sorts of documents as proof of how we were obsessed with consumption and waste.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:07 PM on May 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


They are literally made with the express intent that they will become obsolete and replaced with newer models within two years of rolling off the assembly line - as are most digital products relying on computer technology.

Do you think the solution to "disposable" objects is to make them even shittier? Or to make them more exquisite, and deserving of preservation?
posted by danny the boy at 8:08 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Imagine if Apple started making oranges.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:09 PM on May 12, 2015 [33 favorites]


Imagine if Apple started making oranges.

You win.
posted by cell divide at 8:10 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Supply chain management? seriously? Compared to Detroit, Apple literally doesn't know shit about real Supply chain management. An endless string of NDAs and a sea of cheap foreign labor do not = supply chain management.

Well, saying your opinion with extra emphasis doesn't make it any more true. Many people would disagree with your assessment. Tim Cook, specifically, is credited with really reinventing the way Apple manages its manufacturing processes.

I mean, you think American car manufacturers are... better at making products than Apple? That's your thesis?
posted by danny the boy at 8:14 PM on May 12, 2015 [24 favorites]


Compared to Detroit, Apple literally doesn't know shit about real Supply chain management.
That's a fun theory, but Apple has built and sold over a billion iPhones. A company can't do that if they're not absolute masters of operations, including supply chain management.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 8:15 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've had MacBook Pros in service for FAR longer than any wintel piece of shit. Latest hand me down to a college student friend is a near six year old Mid 2009.

The Dell Wintel piece of shit on which I do all my development at work was purchased in 2003. I am reluctant to change it out both because I have some legacy software on it that really won't work in emulation and I constantly use the Rocketport 16-port serial card for which Comtrol never made a really comparable replacement. I suppose I could use an Edgeport 8 but the connectors would be all different.

Since it isn't on the internet none of the usual threats apply and it's been quite stable and reliable.
posted by localroger at 8:19 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


> ... Or to make them more exquisite, and deserving of preservation?

Preserved things are dead. I like live things. Long lived things that undergo the beatings of time and use, and keep working and delivering. To my aesthetic sense the deformation of a tool to its continuous use can be incredibly beautiful.

I do enjoy seeing exquisite preserved things in museums, but I don't feel tempted to own them. It's probably just an unimportant difference in tastes.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:19 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Detroit's cars are lemons. Apple's watches are oranges.
posted by bhnyc at 8:20 PM on May 12, 2015


Yeah, I think people don't quite get the scale of Apple. Anyone can make a million phones. Really, just about anyone these days.

But making a billion - running out of any one tiny part kills the whole production line. And some parts are pretty complex - camera modules, DRAM, etc. You have a 1,000 line BOM and you can't run out any ANYTHING. And they never do.

In comparison, any one car model probably doesn't top half a million units a year. It's orders of magnitude different.
posted by GuyZero at 8:22 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


the deformation of a tool to its continuous use can be incredibly beautiful.

In the last iWatch thread I mentioned my EZ-430 Chronos. In addition to being cheap and having year-long battery life, that watch is still going after two years of having the everloving crap beaten out of it. I work in industry and go to some pretty rough places. The lens is scratched, the band is all scuffed up, and the little holder that keeps the band from flapping around past the buckle came off and I have a rubber band there now. And every morning it's there just working, without being put on a charger.
posted by localroger at 8:25 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was disappointed that they don't show the part where they imprison the tiny homunculus inside. Surely his role is worth expounding, he who reaches through the little windows in the back to feel my pulse, who intones the holy notification sounds, who steadfastly shuffles the arms of the Mickey Mouse effigy. O tiny keeper of the pulse, how soon we wrist-lords forget your sacrifices! Without the gift of your tireless labor, we suffer the indignity of reaching into our pockets to know who so inopportunely beseeches us. By relinquishing to this wrist-prison your humble future, you let us reach a few seconds further into our own. Yours is truly a noble calling.
posted by oulipian at 8:29 PM on May 12, 2015 [30 favorites]


There are about 30,000 parts in your average automobile. How many in an iPhone? How many different models of iPhone are released every year? If your iPhone malfunctions, is there a non-trivial chance that said malfunction could injure or kill you?
While I don't dispute that Apple is a great design company who makes fantastic products, when it comes to pure manufacturing acumen, they Don't even come close to matching the degree of rigor and sophistication necessary to manufacture even the most basic automobile.
posted by Chrischris at 8:32 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hope someone makes a Tempest port for the Apple Watch.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:32 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


C'mon guys, this is Apple Exceptionalism 101. God Himself could have no better supply chain. Apple's supply chain is the supply chain than which no greater supply chain can be conceived.

Apple is the quintessence of the United States. No matter how good they are, no matter how many superlatives the company achieves, for those kneeling at the altar it's never enough: Apple must be the peerless Best At Everything, always.
posted by XMLicious at 8:36 PM on May 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


Apple won't make a car, they'll use some auto manufacturer's excess capacity to do it for them.

That being said, cars are trying really hard to become iPads with some extra bits involved. Until peak oil, anyway (assuming we haven't already blown through that and it's all downhill from here). My 10-year-old iPod is certainly more reliable than some cars my parents have owned, that's for sure. On the other hand, it doesn't have to keep my body intact at a 30mph crash, either.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:37 PM on May 12, 2015


I mean, look, when God tried to make an Apple, His supply chain took several billion years to deliver and He accidentally introduced original sin into the world in the process.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:38 PM on May 12, 2015 [34 favorites]


Are you saying Steve Jobs died for our sins? Or his?
posted by valkane at 8:42 PM on May 12, 2015


A jumbo jet's worth of mobile phones (approx. 1,500,000 iPhones) every 24 hours (half a billion iPhones a year) might have been impressive during the industrial revolution, but now all it smacks of is the desperation of swarms of scavenger ants cutting away the last scraps of organic matter from a skeleton in the desert, moments before the wet season arrives and their entire colony is drowned. A 787-worth of iPhones is a stack of iPhones 10 kilometers high.

3650km worth of iPhones every year. That is mental. Average two dick pics per phone. Average global dick length 6 inches. 152,400km of dick every year, straight outta Cupertino. This is the legacy Apple has wrought (or I guess, is in the process of wroughting): fucking the earth into oblivion with one hundred and fifty two thousand kilometers of dick.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:42 PM on May 12, 2015 [19 favorites]


Eventually, Apple will make smartglasses and sell even more jumbo cargo jets full of them. People will have forgotten about the stigma of Google Glass by then because we are narcissistic and stupid.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 8:48 PM on May 12, 2015


This is the legacy Apple has wrought (or I guess, is in the process of wroughting): fucking the earth into oblivion with one hundred and fifty two thousand kilometers of dick.

You know you just posted that whole rant using a computer of some sort, right? And an entire internet worth of infrastructure was involved in bringing that rant from your keyboard to my screen?
posted by zachlipton at 8:55 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Anyway, there's really no Apple exceptionalism in the article, more just an enthusiasm for precision manufacturing. It's the same happy tone they take on How It's Made at a juicebox factory or something.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 8:58 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here's a great piece via uber-Apple fanboy Jon Gruber (long may he reign):

On the Long-Term Viability of Apple’s Customer-First Strategy

Name me three other companies that puts the customer first. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Also, via Gruber, Tony Fadell talks watches. Works well with the craftsmanship leanings of this FPP.

You know you just posted that whole rant using a computer of some sort, right? And an entire internet worth of infrastructure was involved in bringing that rant from your keyboard to my screen?

Well said. I was gonna mention the horse that I talked about in the last iCar thread, but he eats a lot, and I had to deforest a lot of land to feed him, and even though he didn't balk at fording that river, he did sneeze on me, later.
posted by valkane at 8:58 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's a big Twinkie dick.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:01 PM on May 12, 2015


This is a bit fetisy. I would like to learn the super-secret process by which they make Lightning cables' insulation fray so quickly.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:12 PM on May 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


Heh, I have a Thinkpad 560x that I still use from time to time. I got it used in maybe 2001? It is so old I don't remember. Apple makes some nice things, but it really chaps my ass when people act like they are unique in that regard. On the phone front I have a fleet of decade old and more Nokia feature phones that still work great, although most need new batteries.

Unfortunately, I also have a fleet of Nokia Symbian phones that are rapidly becoming useless thanks to the platform no longer being supported and the apps therefore ceasing to work as the services they connect to change in incompatible ways.

Point being that Apple is neither the first nor the only manufacturer that makes (or made) solidly built things. FSM knows they certainly aren't the cheapest of that set, either. That's not a knock on them, by the way, just the commonly expressed attitude that they are the only ones who manage it and that the price premium is therefore not a premium at all or is somehow otherwise always justified.
posted by wierdo at 9:14 PM on May 12, 2015


Anyway, there's really no Apple exceptionalism in the article

Just the first sentence. And the last sentence. And the eight sentences in between that use some variation of the word "perfect", and most of the other words in the article come to think about it.

But y'know, this is Apple we're talking about; saying that they're the foremost manufacturer amongst all manufacturers of all goods everywhere or that it's not a supply chain, it's a ritual, is so understated that it's practically dissing them.
posted by XMLicious at 9:17 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


when Apple is capable of making, say, a vehicle that can give me 10 years of relatively trouble free service, rather than some fancy fucking bleep-bloop, obsolete in 12 months wrist toy, then we will talk about manufacturing prowess.

There are car makers who already offer vehicles that will give you 10 years of trouble-free ownership; they rhyme with Boyota and Donda. This is a already solved problem.

The truth is that the nuts and bolts that make a car are really boring.

For shits and giggles I just spent a 3 day weekend overhauling the front end on my car. Because of the eccentric nature of my vehicle it paid to do it all at once, so I swapped out all the ball joints, the power steering pump and hoses, tie rod assemblies, struts, motor mounts, lower control arm and sway bar bushings. I replaced just about all the front end steering and suspension system, while touching a lot of the other safety and drivetrain stuff under the hood.

Where did I acquire the elite wrench skills needed perform this automative front-end surgery on my made-in-Germany zoom zoom fun machine? I learned all this working on my first vehicle, a 1980 Jeep CJ-7 deathtrap. The big-picture concepts involved with designing a car haven't much in the past 70 years or so. You really can't say the same for the apple watch.
posted by peeedro at 9:22 PM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was just going through junk in the closet and I found two digital cameras from maybe 2005 -2007. Not DLSR or top end cameras, just good consumer ones. What an incredible little device that was! And you probably could barely give them away now, since phones have cameras, and people would probably laugh at you for breaking out your "ancient" technology in public.
posted by thelonius at 9:24 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


But y'know, this is Apple we're talking about; saying that they're the foremost manufacturer amongst all manufacturers of all goods everywhere or that it's not a supply chain, it's a ritual, is so understated that it's practically dissing them.

I think maybe you're missing the point. It ain't about any of that.... no offense, none intended. It's about what the core philosophy is at Apple. I thought maybe it would die with Steve, but I don't think so..... and I'm really happy about that.

It's about what they're calling disruptive, these days. Steve Jobs was a disrupter in a long line of them, hey, oil lamps? What's the problem with oil lamps? Edison looked at that and fixed it. Or changed it. Or whatever you want to call it. Fixed.

This is Apple's mission. To look at shit that's already there and make it better. Upthread, the point was, they can't do cars. Well, I'm sure some phone guys were saying the same thing back before the iphone. I know some guys were saying that about mp3 players.

Hey, now there are smartwatches. Lets do a good one. According to all reviews, it's the best on the market. How does that hurt the consumer? Does it drive other companies to step up? Let's ask Samsung.

And Google glass? yeah, it was bad. Hopefully, Apple will do it right. They'll do it for the owner of the product, and not for the owner of Apple stock. That's the difference.

And there's a reason Forstall didn't get the top slot, and Tim Cook did. And we, the customers win.
posted by valkane at 9:36 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Talez: "I've had MacBook Pros in service for FAR longer than any wintel piece of shit. Latest hand me down to a college student friend is a near six year old Mid 2009. Upgraded to its maximum of 8GB of RAM and an aftermarket SSD and it tears through OS X and any everyday task you throw at it."

Say, 8 GB of RAM, that's pretty nice.
posted by boo_radley at 9:45 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Samsung phones might match or even exceed iPhones in certain respects

I recently saw a documentary called Seymour: An Introduction, about a concert pianist who left the life of professional music to become a piano teacher. What struck me is how much pure craft he puts into his Art, how much care and creativity and thought that people of immense talent like him put into the work.

People like Mr. Bernstein will spend unending time practicing fragments of a piece, exploring the technical intricacies in solving the puzzle of music, to try to express something new and beautiful. I imagine that most designers at Apple try to operate on much the same level, where consideration and exploration of every detail matters. To designers who work at Samsung, though, it seems pretty clear that the details don't matter — that the craft doesn't really matter.

To people who put in the effort, Mr. Bernstein notes that the artist is free to play without artifice. To people without craft, all that's left is dishonesty. It's so striking to see people even try to copy the accent of Apple's lead designer to lend their effort the veneer of credible design. No shame at all.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:52 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've had MacBook Pros in service for FAR longer than any wintel piece of shit. Latest hand me down to a college student friend is a near six year old Mid 2009. Upgraded to its maximum of 8GB of RAM and an aftermarket SSD and it tears through OS X and any everyday task you throw at it.

You're comparing apples and oranges. Sure there are plenty of cheaply made and short-lived PCs, but they're not after the same market as MacBook Pros, almost to the point of being a different kind of device. High-end laptops and workstations meet or exceed the MBP specs. There's still a market for used ThinkPads from eight years ago, because their externals are pleasant to use (famously good keyboards, trackpoints, optional high-res screens) and their internals can be easily upgraded (the hard drive slides out from the side after removing one screw, and some models let you replace the whole CD drive with another hard drive or a battery just as easily). And while the new MacBook has its RAM soldered in and is basically impossible to open anyway, the new ThinkPads will still be upgradable years from now. (I'm using ThinkPads as an example because I'm familiar with them, but workstations by Dell and HP look similarly durable and high-performance.)
posted by Rangi at 10:02 PM on May 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


I love seeing how things are made, but "peerless" doesn't mean perfect. For all the engineering and manufacturing genius that went into it, my girlfriend's iPhone sure runs out of battery pretty quickly.
posted by teponaztli at 10:09 PM on May 12, 2015


Anyone who purchased an item from Apple via their web-site will appreciate just how slick the delivery part of their supply chain is. It is consistently accurate, up-to-date and easy to understand. Absolutely awesome.
posted by vac2003 at 10:10 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile on rogerebert.com: "Can the consumer-industrial complex create art?"
posted by polymodus at 10:13 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I bought a "high end for its day" Sony PC and LCD monitor in 2003 that still works, principally because it was all native Intel (PC) and Sony (monitor) hardware and has a decent power supply that has held up. Come to think of it, nearly all of the Dell monitors we bought in 2003 at my workplace have held up, while other models bought several years later from off-brands like Sceptre burned out quickly.

With PCs you definitely do have to find diamonds in the rough, and sometimes you don't know what the diamonds are until the product has been discontinued. The "high end but marked down under $1000 due to store bankruptcy" Sony laptop that I bought in 2009 ended up having a disappointing eternal fan noise (within 2 months of replacing it) issue. Boo. I am a fan of my 2011 i7 MBP with 8GB RAM and a 500 GB SSD for sure, but I don't know if I would've bought it with my own money (thanks, employer). Re-reading this whole paragraph, there's a good chance I would buy the MBP if I knew for sure it was "peerless" and there wasn't a good reliable "most likely not to suck due to some defect in a year" PC for around $300 less. Funny how that mindset works, that's what used equipment is for I s'pose.
posted by aydeejones at 10:13 PM on May 12, 2015


Speaking of used Apple hardware, in the iPad 2 era I blew about $700 on two tablets (LG and the marked-down HP Touchsmart) and definitely would say that my wife and I are much happier with the $200 used iPad 2 I bought a year or two later. The eBay seller ended up posting the iPad 3 for the same price a month or so later, and it didn't really bother me and the iPad 2 is still solid and being used right now.

Back to the watch topic, I am ambivalent, but would consider picking one up for $200-300 if it solved some problem in my life that I consider a problem, and I don't mean that sarcastically -- I will have to see what it can do for me in my abundant (sike) free time.
posted by aydeejones at 10:17 PM on May 12, 2015


Apple makes some cool things. Nothing wrong with that. It's their biggest self-proclaimed fans that make the whole thing so insufferable. You know, like with Jesus.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:32 PM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


valkane: So you're saying that Apple's philosophy and mission are the best, and Apple is the most disruptive, and their future car will be the best, and their future smart-goggles product will be the best, and their royal succession is the best?

You're right, I've clearly missed something: I don't know what I could possibly have been thinking when I claimed that Apple devotees are viscerally compelled to anoint Apple as the most superlative in every field, or why I would say that an article which begins by pronouncing Apple "the world's foremost manufacturer of goods" and goes on to channel Smoove B is an example of this.
posted by XMLicious at 10:41 PM on May 12, 2015


Bah, this is the Smoove B piece I meant to link to. Ridiculously hyperbolic gaudy language, anyway, you get the idea.
posted by XMLicious at 10:48 PM on May 12, 2015


One of the first things we were shown during our first training session on our first day was the job posting for what can only be called a "Hang around public places and try to overhear secret Apple conversions" type job.

No doubt our sekrit code name for Apple would have slowed down the would-be spy by about 60 seconds.
posted by MillMan at 10:57 PM on May 12, 2015


How awesome would it be if Apple started making boats?

I'm more excited by cars. It would be like a w123 mercedes, as far as the fit/finish/quality goes. I bet an apple car would last a million miles.

I've had MacBook Pros in service for FAR longer than any wintel piece of shit.

I sure as hell have the digital equivalent of a million miles on my 2007 imac. I've done everything from game to edit high def video and music production stuff that ran it awfully hard and warm, and not a single component has screwed up. The fans aren't even tired. 8 years, and it's fine.

I know people still using the original macbooks 8 or 9 years later as well. And i see lots of white 06/07 imacs floating around.

I'm not saying they're like heirloom quality or anything, but they're sort of like hondas. I see a lot more 90s or early 2000s hondas than any other car that age driving around anymore. People just keep them for longer.
posted by emptythought at 11:21 PM on May 12, 2015


oulipian, I don't know from homonculi, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a tiny pteranodon inside each Apple gadget who occasionally broke the fourth wall to announce "Eh, it's a living!"
posted by infinitewindow at 11:37 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Heh, I have a Thinkpad 560x that I still use from time to time. I got it used in maybe 2001? It is so old I don't remember. Apple makes some nice things, but it really chaps my ass when people act like they are unique in that regard.

The problem is that no one else makes nice things anymore. Even the nicest thinkpad now is kind of a hunk of junk. Dell precisions have been slowly sliding in to overpriced plastic junk, hp can't make anything that doesn't fall apart and isn't head-up-ass engineered even when it's the nicest elitebooks.

The cheapest macbook air is a nicer machine than the nicest thinkpad now. The input devices are nicer, even, since lenovo doesn't even make nice keyboards anymore and no one else can work out a proper trackpad with no buttons.

They didn't used to be unique, but they also used to cost a lot more to get in the door than they do now. You also used to have to pay a bit extra to get the full on quality.

They got better at making really high quality stuff for under a thousand dollars while everyone else got bad at making it at all at any price. Lenovo and the other brands also got into a deep hole of selling actual garbage stuff under the brand names and guise of their quality stuff.


It's like watching the success of japanese auto companies against american companies falling flat on their faces, but more. Like that, dell and lenovo might start making real quality machines at similar price points that are feature and spec competitive... but it's gonna take a while.

Go spec out something that matches even the basic 15in retina macbook pro. They're all deficient in some way, and all have crappier chassis and input devices and usually crappier screens.

I'm not trying to be an apple exceptionalist here. I loved thinkpads, and i had some dell workstation laptops that lasted years through obscene abuse... but every single line of that stuff has been slowly dumbed down and made thinner and plasticier, even if it added some metal here and there.
posted by emptythought at 12:01 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Holy Christ. I have an iPhone 5 and think the customer service was fantastic.


Y'all need to join the apple cult though. Get a grip. There's more to life than your iDevices.

And stop giving that shill Gruber or whatever his name is your attention. The man is clearly pocketing Apple money for his BS.
posted by Yowser at 12:10 AM on May 13, 2015


I also own an iPod shuffle. And still use the iPhone 5 constantly(won't upgrade until their GPUs aren't seriously underpowered for that Gaussian blur effect). Get. A. Grip.
posted by Yowser at 12:16 AM on May 13, 2015


When I worked for McDonald's they told me it was not a company, it was an army.
posted by colie at 12:25 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


. I bet an apple car would last a million miles.

Well, theoretically. But actually, you'll have to replace it after 10,000 miles, because it's not compatible with the latest version of iGas. And, well, you can only get iGas at the AppleStation (one per city, $30.00/gallon).

But hey, you'll want to get the new iCar anyway. It's really beautiful and sleek and precision machined. Instead of all those awkward pedals and dials, you have a single, elegant ring controller. Sure, half the time it mistakes "hard brake" for "hard right turn", but it's so SIMPLE!

And best of all? None of that tedious changing of oil filters or belts or tires. Just throw the car away away and get a new one!
posted by happyroach at 1:16 AM on May 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


but Apple has built and sold over a billion iPhones.

I'm pretty sure it's Foxxcon who's actually built those phones. But Apple does get credit for selling them.
posted by MikeKD at 1:47 AM on May 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


we weren't supposed to use the word "apple" in our fucking office and instead had a code name for them

was it fapple
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:35 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Apple makes a watch!?!
posted by chavenet at 2:43 AM on May 13, 2015




Seriously. You guys do know that Apple contract manufacturers everything right? Once a device is designed and spec'd the production and fulfillment is being run by a third party. And those third parties are very low profitability businesses located mostly in the third world who probably own much of the commoditized supply chain, and apple basically forces the custom component guys to bear the burden of inventory so the supply chain runs smoothly.

Compared to pretty much any industrial company comtract manufactured electronics are not some triumph of supply chain manufacturing. They actually kind of suck at it, the thing is you guys just look at Aapl. If you included the guys making components in shenzen and the fabs in Taiwan the returns aren't remarkable.

When you see Apples results its basically looking at BMW's design studio if it earned a per car royalty + a sample of its best dealers.I mean Apple is extremely good at what they do. I dont really see the need to praise them for things they dont do.
posted by JPD at 3:21 AM on May 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Making Chinese contract manufacturers produce perfect iPhones is actually a pretty amazing feat. It's not their natural tendency.
posted by ryanrs at 3:24 AM on May 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I mean actually it kind of is if you are willing to pay for it.
posted by JPD at 4:10 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ahahaha. No, you actually need your own people looking over their shoulders every step of the way, from parts sourcing, to the machines used for manufacturing, inspection, shipping, everything.

The idea that offshore contract manufacturers will figure out how to make your product and do it correctly if you just give them a big enough check is kind of insane.
posted by ryanrs at 4:37 AM on May 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


A guy I know who runs a company that had stuff made in a cheap labour zone said that a third of items showed up defective unless he was over there hassling the workers and going boozing with the factory owner.
posted by colie at 4:44 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean you pretty much have to control some of the supply chain just so you can meter out critical components so Foxconn or whoever doesn't make a ton of iPhones off the books. Because yes, that would really happen.
posted by ryanrs at 4:46 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


yeah except you have a sub-supplier do the metering with a huge stick of potentially bankrupting their business if they can't deliver on time and on schedule.
posted by JPD at 5:52 AM on May 13, 2015


chipworks:
Inside the S1 SiP alone we have cataloged more than 30 components. Now, some of those components contain multiple die; the package-on-package (PoP) assembly, for example, contains the new Apple processor and the DRAM die. The NFC solution also contains the secure element as well as the NXP NFC controller and radio. So there are 30 individual components, and at least 30 pieces of silicon, all in a package that is only 26 mm x 28 mm. That is quite an accomplishment.

Apple and/or their suppliers have designed and manufactured a 26 mm x 28 mm package that is very unique. Let’s consider its construction for a moment. We have a common motherboard to which all of the components (wafer scale packages, PoPs, BGAs, etc.) have been attached. The entire motherboard, with all of its components, is then overmolded with a packaging compound containing silica or alumina spheres suspended in a resin. We see this same type of material in conventional IC packaging, but we have never observed this being used over a 26 mm x 28 mm motherboard.
Haters, to the left.
posted by frijole at 6:04 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


How awesome would it be if Apple started making boats?

The Apple iYacht: Beautiful clean lines, polished aluminum hull, carbon fibre rigging, built in navigation, radio, radar, sonar, and lidar. A patented 87Hz AC power system prevents you installing non-approved electronics. Everything is perfectly waterproof, but if the bilge ever does fill up with water you'll have to buy a new boat. The wheel will turn the boat the opposite direction you'd expect if you're used to non-Apple steering, but enthusiasts will insist it's more "intuitive" that way. If you want to use non-Apple harbours you'll need an expensive docking adapter.
posted by sfenders at 6:07 AM on May 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Not quite an Apple boat but there is this.
posted by octothorpe at 6:16 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The problem is that no one else makes nice things anymore. Even the nicest thinkpad now is kind of a hunk of junk. Dell precisions have been slowly sliding in to overpriced plastic junk, hp can't make anything that doesn't fall apart and isn't head-up-ass engineered even when it's the nicest elitebooks.

Exactly. When your competing on price with everyone else, who is also competing on price, the only way to win is to try to deliver the most for least. Something's got to give, and there's exactly two things that can give. One is quality. Two is profit. This is also why those who live by the Enterprise die, because the last thing the Enterprise market is willing to do is let you make money. Charge enough to make a profit, they dump you and go to the the next guy, who undercut you by $3 a box. Why? Because when you're buying 10K boxes, $3 is $30K, and that's enough of a savings to get noticed by your boss. And if you can talk him to taking $20 off? That's $200K, and you are getting a bonus!

Apple decided in 2000 to not play a game they were losing. They would play a different game. They might lose, but they were definitely losing at the "lets just build a computer" game they were playing in the 1990s. They would build better things, they would sell them at a profit. They would stop promising things -- they would announce them when they were done, and otherwise, not a word would be said. Steve Jobs famously emailed the entire company with the Do Not Leak Ever policy, and then fired every single person who promptly leaked the Do Not Leak Ever email to get the point across. *

Why? Because every time you promise a product, if it doesn't happen or doesn't deliver exactly what you said it would when you announced it, you've failed -- or at least, the market says you've failed. When you come out of nowhere with a product, then *you* can tell the story. The market has to react to you. This means you're setting the story.

Look at what happened with the switch to Intel. The market could well have spun this as a massive fail for Apple if they'd announced it well before it happened (go find my comment where I predicted massive doom for Apple for the switch. See just how wrong I was!) Instead, they got ahead of the story -- Motorola/IBM couldn't deliver the mobile processors they needed to make the MacBooks they wanted to make, Intel could, therefore, they were making the switch to make better notebooks. Simple as that.

When the iPhone was announced, the phone manufactures immediately went "You have no idea what you need to do to build a cell phone." But they only had days to beat on that drum, not months, and it rapidly became clear that, well, yes, Apple had an idea how to build cell phones, the problem was that Nokia, et. al., had no idea how to build smartphones.

So, now, the Watch? What the heck is it? Don't know yet. It may fail -- we don't know yet. But the original iPhone didn't have apps, didn't have 3G, didn't have cut-and-paste, and we really didn't understand when it came out that it was going to change the world and lay waste to two of the most prominent companies in the world at the time.

Seriously, in 2007, did you really think RIM and Nokia would go down that fast?

So, it's fun to beat on Apple, and yet, they make money. Hand over fist. Maybe, just maybe, they're doing something right and other companies should look at what they are doing.


* This was also a famous stupid test. They forwarded this email from their Apple accounts through the Apple mail servers and wondered how they were caught. Well, it's like this....it's called a mail log. We did this complex thing called "grep."
posted by eriko at 6:20 AM on May 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


The wheel will turn the boat the opposite direction you'd expect if you're used to non-Apple steering, but enthusiasts will insist it's more "intuitive" that way.

You have obviously never been on a boat when someone used to tiller steering takes a wheel.
posted by eriko at 6:21 AM on May 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've switched back and forth from tiller to wheel, many times. Making the two experiences more consistent does not seem to me like a good reason to make the wheel work backwards.
posted by sfenders at 6:42 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]




But actually, you'll have to replace it after 10,000 miles, because it's not compatible with the latest version of iGas.

Wouldn't that be Android Car? Because last time I checked iOS 8 is available on an iPhone 4S circa 2011 and an iPad 2 of a slightly older vintage. Try getting an OS update from an Android vendor for your four year old Android phone. I think the only phone that even comes close is Google with Lollipop on the Nexus 4.
posted by Talez at 7:50 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Just throw the car away away and get a new one!

So I hear this comment all the time -- How is apple different than any other company when it comes to consumer electronics in this regard? The whole idea of "upgradeability" in laptops is largely a myth anyways, with the sole exception of the soldered in drives and ram (which other manufacturers are starting to follow)
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:57 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The problem is that no one else makes nice things anymore.

There is LEGO. And unlike Apple, everything is backwards compatible. The Lego brick you buy 20 years ago, can still click together with a Lego brick today.
posted by FJT at 10:05 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is LEGO. And unlike Apple, everything is backwards compatible. The Lego brick you buy 20 years ago, can still click together with a Lego brick today.

This is a great example, and also the exception that proves the rule. It helps that Lego is a private company not beholden to the supposed tyranny of shareholders who demand quick profits.
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:40 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


LEGOs don't send email.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:43 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd still have perfectly interoperable LEGO bricks from the late 60s if a female parent who will go un-named hadn't unilaterally decided I'd grown out of them and given them away.
posted by Grangousier at 10:47 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've had MacBook Pros in service for FAR longer than any wintel piece of shit. Latest hand me down to a college student friend is a near six year old Mid 2009. Upgraded to its maximum of 8GB of RAM and an aftermarket SSD and it tears through OS X and any everyday task you throw at it.

I'm typing this from a 7 year old MacBookPro (early 2008!). So I get it.

At the same time, see what you added there? "Upgraded to its maximum and an aftermarket SSD"?

Guess what you can't do with most of the laptops apple has sold for the last 3 years?

Also, the support for old hardware story and reliability of OS X is not on a positive trend. I got off the upgrade treadmill for a while. I skipped Lion and Mountain Lion if for no other reason than the "Duplicate" vs "Save As" debacle, and delayed Mavericks... and now I can't get Mavericks, because Yosemite is out and The Rules Of The App Store are apparently that you can't get Mavericks unless you bought it while it was the latest (because of course you want the latest, right?).

Meanwhile, Yosemite is one of the least stable things Apple has ever released. It's not just that I know people who have serious issues with it; it's that almost everyone I know who has upgraded to it has had issues with it. It also requires more in terms of computing resources... and apparently partly dedicates them to a new aesthetic effect. Not great for my older machine, but possibly great as a metaphor.

I'm sure their current approach will work out even better for their newer non-upgradeable hardware when the time comes that people are saying things like "16 GB of RAM isn't much, you know. Do you even *want* to run Photoshop CC XX 4k?" and Apple has just excitedly had its most recent press event announcing 10.14 and their exciting new even-thinner laptops and tablets where they've finally been able to get rid of that last remaining damn hole in the case.

But they're thinking very hard about their supply chain!
posted by weston at 10:56 AM on May 13, 2015


It's good to know that Apple has sorted out their supply chain issues from when I last cared about a decade ago. Back then they'd consistently lowball their processor orders and then when Apple ran out of stock and couldn't fill orders they'd just loudly blame Motorola or IBM (whoever had to suffer them as a customer that generation).

Have they also figured out how to make laptop power supplies that don't catch fire, or is strain relief still a mystery?
posted by ckape at 11:45 AM on May 13, 2015


There was a real problem with Motorola, which is why they switched to Intel.
posted by Grangousier at 11:49 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


There was a real problem with Motorola, which is why they switched to Intel.

At which point the hilarious claims of the Motorola chips being 10x faster than anything Intel put out stopped (from users, not necessarily Apple, though their marketing division, just like most, was and is hilarious). It was like an early version of the crazy right wing wingnuts spouting off emotionally charged absolute nonsense (which unfortunately in their case has real consequences). One statement I will never forget is how Windows forced you to perform "hand gymnastics" because the mouse had more than one button that you could optionally use or not. God knows how that person reacted to touch devices like the iPad or any of the multi-touch devices put out by Apple since.

Do they make better iPods these days? Do they even make them anymore? My girlfriend was thinking of getting her's repaired but I think there must me something more reliable.
posted by juiceCake at 12:05 PM on May 13, 2015


Guess what you can't do with most of the laptops apple has sold for the last 3 years?

To be fair that's because Apple of today is far less stingy on memory and has converted their entire laptop line over to flash. Back in 2005 when I bought my PowerBook G4 a memory upgrade of the box was practically mandatory and you sure as hell didn't pay the Apple tax on RAM. Compare to the MacBook which comes with 8GB out of the box. It's already far ahead of the curve not starting out behind.

If Apple remain generous with the base amounts of memory and use the space saved to fill the case with batteries I can only encourage this behavior.

At which point the hilarious claims of the Motorola chips being 10x faster than anything Intel put out stopped

Did you live in a cave during the first half of the 2000s? Netburst sucked giant donkey balls. We were assured that performance issues would be abated once it scaled into the region of 10GHz. Which obviously never came. My Prescott-D was obscenely hot and didn't perform that well despite putting out the same amount of heat per square inch as a nuke reactor. So then we got Pentium-M chips which we can only assume that Intel's Hafia branch went to Mount Sinai to receive from God herself. Funny that as soon as Intel's chips stopped blowing major chunks Apple started switching over.
posted by Talez at 12:15 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh and since 10.9 OS X has been orders of magnitude better/more usable in situations of extreme memory pressure thanks to memory compression. Moving to flash only as well makes it infinitely more bearable once you do start hitting swap.
posted by Talez at 12:25 PM on May 13, 2015


I enjoyed the article, but remain somewhat skeptical of Apple's mastery of the supply chain. I woke up in the middle of the night and had my watch ordered within 5 minutes of the launch (I know, point and laugh all you want), and I still won't be getting it until June. Which doesn't really bother me, but they sure screwed up somewhere to sell out that fast.
posted by TedW at 12:55 PM on May 13, 2015


they sure screwed up somewhere to sell out that fast.

One of the things Apple is supernaturally good at is creating desire and anticipation. Making you wait means you're going to be thinking about that watch for the next month, and be extra excited when it arrives. It's kind of an interesting inversion of the instant gratification consumer drive, to me.

And:

MetaFilter: fucking the earth into oblivion with one hundred and fifty two thousand kilometers of dick
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:00 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hold on, adding Apple to the list of things not to ask Metafilter about.

There's a perfectly good shot-by-shot dissection of a marketing puff piece if y'all are done.

The most interesting thing pointed out by the article is it reveals Apple's use of lasers to smooth out burrs caused by stamping a piece of metal out of another piece of metal. Is that so revolutionary, or is it just a money thing?
posted by fragmede at 2:23 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The duplicate vs. save thing is why I still use third-party apps (Word, Skim) for documents and Dropbox for the cloud.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:31 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


> they sure screwed up somewhere to sell out that fast.

The current speculation is that it's the Taptic engine. (Yeah, it really isn't a buzzer. It feels very very different.)

Apple apparently had two suppliers, one Chinese and one Japanese, and the Chinese units started weak and quickly failed in practice. So (again, rumor and speculation) Apple canned the Chinese supplier, but they only had ~50% of the promised supply of Taptic engines on hand. Hence long delays and no supply for in-store sales at all.

Obviously this isn't the full answer, because specific combinations of models/colors/bands seem to have been hit much harder than others. But it's a first generation product, never manufactured before - not one single part is in common with a previous generation part - and Apple has moved millions of units already.

(I can't think of any other situation - in history, ever - where a company introduced a totally new product, never manufactured before, and then shipped literally millions of units on day 1. That's what Apple's supply chain mastery is all about, not the next model year of an existing car line in Detroit that will ship tens of thousands of units in its first week, if that.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:37 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


(And when I say "I can't think of any other situation" I do mean just that, that I personally can't think of a similar situation. Happy to be educated on this. Maybe some World War II arms manufacturers did things on this scale with new manufacturing lines?)
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:41 PM on May 13, 2015


It was karmic punishment for bastardizing "haptic".
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 5:03 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I deeply regret the upgrade to Yosemite. Every day. I love my MBP, and things like Handoff are awesome ideas, but it's incredibly unstable, and my laptop feels really slow. The updates aren't helping, either. Huge disappointment.
posted by wintermind at 6:14 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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