The general trend for computing devices is this. Thinner, lighter, faster. That’s not always the case but it’s mostly the case. The MacBook is thinner and lighter than the predecessor MacBook Air, but not necessarily faster (but for all intents and purposes, much the same performance). The iPhone 6 and 6s line is thinner and faster than previous iPhones. iPads? Generally speaking, each new generation brings along thinner, lighter, and faster.
I can see the value of each, but where does it end? How thin and light can a device be and still not feel fragile? How much more power can an iPhone, iPad, or Mac have and still handle heat dissipation from the confines of an ever thinner, lighter shell?
My MacBook gets hot. My new iPad Pro can get hot, too. The iPhone? Not so much, but it’s more difficult to tell thanks to the case. Of the three devices, only the MacBook feels close to fragile. Both iPhone and iPad have a sturdy, solid, durable feel despite their respective thin and light size.
Where does ‘thinner’ end?
If you follow the standard technology rags you’ve likely seen screens that bend or curve; screens made not of glass but of some futuristic flexible material that embeds screen technology into almost paper thin devices which can be plastered on a wall, curled and rolled up, or folded to sizes much smaller than the original; paper thin, paper light.
Where does ‘thinner’ end? And what’s the advantage of thin?
Those futuristic devices make great demonstrations but if my history reading Popular Science and Popular Mechanics is any indication, what the prognosticators say the future will be like often falls before reality.
Remember flying cars?
Steve Jobs seemed to think that Siri would usher in the next great user interface. That hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to happen because we’re trained to view our devices rather than listen to them (Apple Music and YouTube notwithstanding) or interact with them in a public setting. You can’t whisper and get Siri to respond, but touch always works so the need for a screen that can be touched should be obvious.
My iPhone 6 Plus is almost too large but I love the larger keyboard, so size matters. Is the iPhone too heavy? In a word, ‘no.’ I’m not convinced that thinner is always the way to go because– other than the aforementioned iPhone 6s Plus which has nearly two days of battery life under normal usage– smartphones need to be charged every night. If it was every 36 hours or 48 hours we might forget, so the daily routine to charge a device has advantages.
My view is straightforward. We’re about to hit a wall. Or, rather, Apple is about to hit a wall. Chips can only get so small. Cases can only be so thin. Devices can be only so light. Anything beyond a certain threshold– and I think we’re about one or two generations away– of thin and light and devices just can’t get any thinner and lighter and remain usable.
3D holograms with a voice controlled interface make for articles of interest but are likely to go the way of flying cars. Our Macs, iPhones, and iPad can all use more speed and greater capability, but if they get any thinner than they are then those of us of the fat-finger, big-hands class won’t be able to buy AppleCare.
I have some hope for Siri as a user interface and maybe that’s the direction Apple intends to go with Watch (which itself could be a little thinner) because it has a screen for viewing but almost everything else Watch can do could be handled with a voice controlled interface.
Thinner must end somewhere.