There’s no way to know whether Steve Jobs would have signed off on Apple’s first battery case, but we do know that he despised knee-jerk products: “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
But if there was ever a focus group product, it’s this one. While there’s still some cool innovations inside that make it smarter than the average battery case—the Lightning connection is a nice addition and the live status updates are particularly clever—without the Apple symbol on the back it would never be mistaken for a Cupertino product. And at a hundred bucks, I can’t imagine it’s going to fly off shelves.
The iPhone battery case is a solution to a problem, but I just don’t think it’s one Apple strongly believes needs solving. People have been comparing it to the Magic Mouse’s charging port or the Apple Pencil’s built-in Lightning charger, but those are design compromises made for style and convenience. The Apple Pencil might look funny sticking out the end of the iPad Pro, but the care and detail put into its design is obvious. With the battery case, not so much.
Cause and effect
Apple doesn’t need to create reactionary products. It has an army of third-party partners that are happy to fill specific needs that arise as people discover things that Apple chose to overlook. Some smarts aside, the iPhone battery case doesn’t really offer much that the Mophie Juice Pack doesn’t, and it’s hard to understand its reason for existing, other than the occasional upsell to an unscrupulous iPhone 6 or 6s buyer at an Apple Store.
Of course, this could all just be an overreaction. A $99 accessory is basically a rounding error on Apple’s bottom line, and after a few weeks it’ll just blend into the others on the shelf at the Apple Store. By the time the iPhone 7 comes around we’ll probably forget it ever existed.
It’s no secret that Apple does its best work when it’s giving its customers products they want, not what they want in a product, and I hope this isn’t a sign of a shifting philosophy. The Apple I love builds products on its own terms with little regard for popular sentiment. It doesn’t respond to squeaky wheels with a generous application of grease.
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