It seems like the store shelves are flooded with idiotic, broken products. My background as an engineer doesn’t help matters, because it leads me to favor function over form. Silly me, wanting products to do things well before they start looking good. The rest of America, or at least the bulk of it, are more into the gloss, and thus it is the glossiest of the glossy that makes it to market. Being forced to choose what I dislike least rather than what I really want has made me realize how alike the open market and open elections really are.
The iPhone 4 is the perfect example. It is an Apple product, so naturally a tremendous amount of thought has been put into the esthetics. The “death grip” debacle has illustrated that less thought has been put into the functionality. It is a phone that doesn’t make calls if you aren’t holding it in the Apple approved method. I owned a Motorola a few years back that continued to make calls after a couple of dozen drops on concrete and even powered back on after a few seconds in the microwave… I’m hard on a phone. It also had a big honking antenna, chunky rubber bumpers, and flaps that sealed all openings against moisture. It was the cellular equivalent of a work boot to the iPhone’s Italian loafer. Sturdy, dependable, and more than a little ugly. It also isn’t available anymore. In fact, cell phones with an extendable antenna are almost entirely a thing of the past, and though it is tempting to blame Steve Jobs for this, he is not the one to blame.
A device does not become successful just because a certain person is pushing it. It becomes successful because a couple million people are buying it. The iPhone became the defacto model to rip off in terms of form factor and UI not because Steve Jobs declared it to be the best. It took over because the public, or at least a large enough chunk of it to make a difference, agreed. You can talk all you want about mulitasking and battery life and reception issues, but at the end of the day the people are still buying Apple. The people have spoken, and the market responds. Capitalism is a democracy, and you vote at the register. You may not like the guy in charge now, but the very fact he reached the office proves that MOST of the people in a position to make a decision about it DO like him.
The similarities to politics don’t end there. The death grip is the equivalent of a sex scandal. Stalwart supporters will naturally stick with the iPhone, even in the face of all logic. Others will revel in the publication of a dirty little secret. Once the blood is in the water, the smear ads will start to fill the airwaves and mud slinging will begin in earnest. Motorola whips out a “No Jacket Required” ad to mock the iPhone’s bumper jacket solution to the problem. Samsung throws out a more subtle “Helllo” slogan with full signal bars in place of the Ls. Hilariously, the rules governing commercial advertising mean that Capitalism is actually more civil in its negative ads than Democracy is. You don’t hear Pepsi talking about Coke allegedly employing union busters and slave labor, but that one time Obama met with a political dissident is sure as hell going to come up in every chance the Republicans get.
I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” … I guess it isn’t really a Churchill quote, then, but instead a “Churchill quoting someone else” quote. A meta-quote if you will… Okay, I believe it was Kent Brockman who said “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: democracy simply doesn’t work.” And yet our wacky little democracy is still tottering along. And likewise, despite the fact that capitalism is in essence anarchy with dollar signs in front of it, that’s been holding up remarkably well, too. Yet another thing they have in common. Democracy and Capitalism aren’t yin and yang, they’re yin and yin! That, my friends, is why they put presidents on money.