Apple’s newest iPhones have a sexist design flaw
My iPhone XR is way too big for my hands, creating endless struggles and annoyances in my daily life.
All I wanted was a phone with portrait mode, and now I’m miserable.
My difficulties speak to Apple’s larger issues designing phones that are functional for women.
With the departure of Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, one can hope that Apple will enter a more inclusive era of innovation.
My iPhone is too big.
I can barely hold my iPhone XR in one hand. I’ve cycled through three PopSockets in three months, determined to find something to grasp. If I have a drink in one hand, half my phone is basically unusable, as my thumb cannot reach the far side of the screen (the letter A — so near, yet so far). I clutch my phone on the subway, paralyzed with fear that it will fall into the gap between the train and the platform.
Fortunately, I have a heavy-duty phone case. But I can imagine the day it bounces out of my control and gets run over by a truck. Or when it falls off a ledge, plummeting straight onto an unsuspecting civilian, causing near-fatal injuries.
Am I going to be sued? Will Apple cover the legal fees? Will I be sent to jail for a crime committed by my horrible, too-big phone?
While at age 28 I do have the freakishly tiny hands of a baby, I’m not alone in my struggles.
In 2018, Apple faced backlash for its supersized iPhone X lineup, with many women saying the company was ignoring the practical realities of people with smaller hands.
“I’m not saying Apple is being evil and deliberately setting out to design phones that injure women by being too big for the average female hand,” Caroline Criado-Perez, a journalist who said she developed a repetitive strain injury from using an iPhone with a 5.5-inch screen, told The Independent.
“They are simply part of an industry — and a world — that consistently fails to remember that women are 50% of the population,” Criado-Perez continued.
At the time, I vaguely agreed. Now that I’ve fallen into the trap of buying a new iPhone of my own, I am furious.
My preemptive response to everyone who thinks I’m an idiot
“Well, Kate,” I can already imagine you typing in an email, “why didn’t you just buy an older, smaller phone?”
Because I wanted portrait mode, duh. I want to look hot in my pictures! All I want in life is to look good on Instagram and scroll aimlessly on my phone while I’m waiting for the subway. Apple should not force me to choose between the two. The smallest iPhones with portrait mode are the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 8 Plus, both of which have 5.5-inch screens — slightly smaller than the XR’s, which is 6.1 inches, but still, I have found, too big for my hands.
Again, I’m not alone on this one. More than one woman I’ve spoken with has expressed a similar tension between her desire for portrait mode and her fear of an oversized phone.
“Well, just buy a non-Apple phone, you idiot,” I see you writing in another email, cc-ing my boss and calling for my resignation.
To which I say: No! I have gotten used to Apple running my life. It already has all my data, and I like the basic infrastructure and connection between devices.
Anyway, I’m not going to read a million other phone reviews in an effort to figure out what non-Apple phone is best for me. I write about fast food, not tech. I shouldn’t have to become an expert in technology before spending several hundred dollars on a phone. I don’t make you all read my fast-food backlog to decide what you’re ordering at McDonald’s.
Goodbye, Jony Ive
Why am I complaining about this now?
For one thing, I’ve been complaining about it out loud pretty much every day since I got a new phone in April, and everyone is sick of listening to me.
But I also wanted to write this now because of the departure of Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer.
“Ive, described as the Lennon to Jobs’ McCartney, is … the man who essentially changed the way we consume media on the go with the invention of the iPhone, the iPad, and other iconic hardware,” Business Insider’s Shona Ghosh reported.
In revolutionizing the way we consume media, Ive consistently skewed toward a certain type of male customer. In 2008, as Apple entered the iPhone 3G era, Apple faced backlash that it was making a phone that was essentially impossible to use with long fingernails.
People adapted, using voice-to-text services and adjusting the angle for typing. But again and again, Apple has shown that the iPhone isn’t created with women in mind.
Instead, needs outside of those of a cisgender American man tend to be a footnote, with tweaks made after the product hits the market. It took Apple a year after launching its HealthKit platform to add a period tracker, something that would be significantly more common to track than blood glucose level.
Apple did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on this issue.
While Ghosh said Apple isn’t churning out hardware innovation like it used to, Ive’s departure signals a new era for Apple. Hopefully, it’s an era that looks at the population more broadly when developing new products.
Even if some things never change, I hope and pray that the rumors are true and that the new era brings a smaller phone that will actually fit in my hands. And please let it have portrait mode.
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