A week ago or so, I was finally able to enter my local Apple Store and spend 10–15 minutes in peace with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. I had already handled an iPhone 6 Plus because my brother-in-law purchased one for himself and let me play with it a while. After trying out the iPhone 6 at the store, I left with a bunch of impressions and feelings I wanted to write down. And the evening of the day after, a 1,000-word piece titled After handling the iPhone 6 was ready to be published here.
After the usual proofreading and final editing, I decided to read the piece one more time. Then I deleted it.
This is the second time I’ve done that in thirteen years of online writing. Mind you, it doesn’t mean that this is the second time I’ve decided not to publish an article — I actually have accumulated dozens of drafts in MarsEdit over the years. I’m a packrat even with the things I write. I tend to keep all my notes and observations and unfinished or unpolished articles because who knows, maybe there’s some brilliant insight I can recover later and put in a new context, and things like that. But to obliterate something that took me almost two hours to elaborate the way I wanted — that’s kind of unexpected and unusual for me.
The first time I did that was back in 2006, if I remember well; it was something about Apple’s migration to Intel architecture. I deleted that piece simply because soon after the article was ready to be published, I read something online that drove me to dig deeper with the fact-checking. I discovered that my initial assumption was plainly wrong, and that made all the following observations and insights fall down like a house of cards.
What happened this time? What was wrong with the never-published After handling the iPhone 6 piece?
I realised, upon reading it one more time, that I was about to break a promise I made to my readers in Why you should read me. I was about to serve you a plate of hot steaming bullshit.
The article was a collection of ‘first impressions’ after handling the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, and mentioned — among other things — the very different feeling the iPhone 6 gives me as opposed to handsets like the iPhone 5 and 5s, the iPhone 5c, and even the iPhone 4. I wrote about how the combination of the increased thinness of the iPhone 6 and the materials chosen made the phone feel somehow less precious, less sumptuous than the iPhone 5 and 5s. Not that it feels poorly built, because it’s definitely not the case. But its particular lightness makes it feel almost as if you were handling a demo unit and not the ‘real deal.’ I went on, elaborating on things like this, quoting articles of other people reflecting on the iPhone 6’s design, and so on and so forth.
Still, when I was reading my piece before deciding to delete it, I couldn’t help but ask myself How is this useful? What’s the point? And in addition to this, I realised that I had forgotten one very important fact — that my very first reaction when holding the iPhone 6, after carefully disconnecting the Lightning cable from the stand where it was placed, was: This thing is beautiful, well-built, and I want it — bad. And this kind of first reaction is the typical gravitational pull of the best Apple products. I felt it with the colourful iMacs back in 1998. I felt it with the Power Mac G4 Cube, with the iMac G4, with the first MacBook Air, with the first MacBook Pro Retina, with the iPad…
I realised that my piece was becoming a waterfall of rationalisations that was literally submerging the device. I realised it was starting to ring untrue somehow. Not because I was portraying the iPhone 6 in an unfavourable light and I decided to remove the article to avoid speaking ill of Apple — this would have been even more untrue and dishonest on my part. No, I simply challenged my own observations and asked myself: How are these ramblings useful to my readers? They’re just personal impressions and rationalisations based on 15 minutes of interaction with the device I’m talking about. This is not the same as my criticism regarding the decision of switching to Helvetica as a system font in OS X Yosemite, for example, because in that case it’s rather easy to demonstrate how Helvetica is worse than Lucida Grande on the legibility front. With the iPhone 6 my impressions and potential criticism all stemmed from a very subjective point of view, and again, from too short a session with the device itself. The result couldn’t have been of much value — in fact I realised the article just wasn’t serious and thorough enough. I’ve criticised other tech writers in the past because I thought their reviews were too superficial. I was making the very same mistake.