Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Something Inside So Strong

The recent failure of my 6 month old Google Nexus 5 phone due to Water damage has prompted Marcus and Agata to again reflect upon the design compromises that consumers should ponder on when they buy Consumer grade products.

I suppose this is ironically highlighted from the recent official picture

From this Apple billboard advertising in Berlin I am reminded that Beauty and Form are often at the opposite end of, and counterpoint to: Function, Serviceability, Strength and Practicality

The Billionaire Test

This posting is of course not relevant to everybody

  • If you employ a personal assistant   AND
  • If you are somewhat clumsy OR careless AND
  • If you are happy to keep multiple spare backup iPhones (or other fragile items)  around AND
  • If you are happy with generally being a total Environmentally Unfriendly waster
then by all means stop reading now.

For the rest of us however

Planned or Designed Issues

If the device you have bought has most of the characteristics below you may be replacing it sooner rather than later:

Just Weak
The main point of this posting.   The device should be constructed in such a way that it can survive the usage pattern to which it was intended.  For a Smartphone that is daily use, and even a moderate accidental drop. Contrast that with (say)  Louis Vuitton luggage which you would expect to survive only occasional and careful use!

Short Warranties
Apple CH has a 1 year warranty but the Swiss Law stipulates 2 years.  A similar position in the EC. In practice to get a warranty claim in year 2 it can be near impossible to get service from an official dealer - who really does not want to know.

Feature Shorts
The Product is released and although overall brilliant is missing one or two key features that will be available in the follow on product.  Apple has a consistent and amazing track record in this area.  From Wireless Networking, NFC, Water-resistant design, Bigger screens.  The list is comical and practically endless.

Uneconomic Repair Costs
The charging circuit on my 6 month old Nexus 5 phone has corroded.  Presumably due to sweat/ water ingress  (it has never been dropped or left in the rain or immersed in water). Swiss warranty service was refused and a 350CHF repair proposed.  A new phone is 360 CHF!

No Spare Parts
I still own an original Shimano Dura Ace equipped bicycle.  But it uses non standard sized Crank pedals and brake pads.  Neither were available after 5 years of product launch in 1980, meaning I can't use the bicycle today.  No parts.

A famous example from a studied University level design course.  Electrical hand drills have Mean Time Between Failure rates of just tens of hours!  Reason, joe public is reckoned to use  them sparingly.  So if you are a tradesman, buy a Professional Unit  (at a much higher  price point).

So now, let's examine some actual products and for Marcus classify them into OKay or NOT.

Some example Compromises:

Compromise   (( OK ))

Aluminium bodied Apple iPhone 6

It looks great, but an all Aluminium bodied phone without an internal subframe is more fragile than its competition.  If you are overweight, clumsy and insist on sticking this phone in your tight jeans pocket the outcome will turn out bad for you.

But it is no Samsung ....

Samsung Note Testing
Samsung Drop Testing

Let us be clear, no short YouTube video of a journalist dropping a phone just once can really prove anything.

Jaybird Bluebuds X headphones

They are small, high sound quality and there is no equal.  So reluctantly we are using these headphones.  (They are just a little fragile). Soon we hope there will be other vendors to choose from.

Muji Credit Card Wallet

The Muji minimalist credit card wallet serves as Marcus's only wallet. Precisely because of its small size it forces you to limit what cards you carry and also never to carry coins. Both I regard as essential. After about 6 months though the plastic interlocks break and it needs replacing.  Acceptable compromise.

Titanium Road Cycle Skewers

Strong and light. For a race bicycle they make sense.  Of course Shimano Dura Ace are more solid, but in this case you can shave the grams without penalty.

Unacceptable Design Compromise    (( BAD ))

Apple Macbook Pro Retina

A stunning and beautiful product.  However it's designed to be difficult to open.  No component is user replaceable without voiding the warranty.  Memory and processor are soldered to the motherboard.  Only the SSD disk is replaceable, but with extreme care, and Apple have deliberately made sure not to make it easy

Carbon Fibre Bicycle Wheels

For a Wheelset weight below 1295 grams you need to choose a Carbon Fibre and not Alloy based bicycle rim. Lightweight can get a wheelset down to 1025 grams   .  For Marcus however the 1295 gram Mavic R-sys alloy wheels represent a better compromise. Mini Review

Mavic Huez Road Cycle Shoes
I bought these ultra lightweight (sub 200 gram shoe without cleat) but since purchase I've hardly used them.   The construction is so thin as to be uncomfortable.  An expensive test for Marcus!

Koenigsegg Carbon Fibre Wheels

I'm sure they would be too fragile for daily driving here in Lausanne Switzerland

Silk Lined Tubular Tyres
My first bespoke Condor bicycle which was fitted with Mavic SCC tubular rims onto which I usually mounted  silk walled Tubular tyres.   The trouble was, they seemed to be dry weather only!  In wet weather; the silk would get wet and a blowout would normally occur some short while later.  In London at the time this was not a lifestyle choice that could lead to anything but being frequently stranded!  After about 2 years of struggling I gave the rims away and bought /clinchers/ instead.

Of Course
We all have different opinions and tolerances.   If you are a fanatical driver then Carbon Fibre Wheels might be acceptable.  

Similarly, if you don't mind taking extra care of your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 plus then it's beautiful ergonomics might be worth the tradeoff against its NOT BEST in class strength.

And so to close let's listen in on the song those Apple Fanboys are playing these days ...

Something Inside So Strong