In Praise of Apple’s Year of Listening

04 December 2019
Gear, Gadget, Apple, AirPods Pro, IPhone 11

The user-centric era of luxe tech might finally be upon us

For real, my eyes have never felt better. And it wasn’t Lasik. It wasn’t sleep. It was the iPhone’s introduction of Dark Mode. Now, I can ontinue my wildly unhealthy habit of binge-scrolling news and social media feeds before sleeping, with an interface that’s seductively easy on the eyes.

Dark Mode, of course, has been a highly requested iOS feature for what feels like eons: power users have become accustomed to the feature from dozens of apps, demanding the function through a series of increasingly meme-y campaigns. But even casual iPhoners have become more and more aware of the need to take care of their peepers.

And really, the introduction of Night Mode is a microcosm of Apple’s biggest accomplishment of the year: they listened.

Over and over and over again, the criticism of Apple has remained the same: why, oh why, must this ostensibly brilliant tech company be so unwilling to listen to feedback that’s so prevalent amongst its customers?

Apple haters have long beat-up the company’s “walled garden” philosophy, saying that the Apple ecosystem is too restrictive, too slow to evolve, and too unwilling to listen.

2019 went a way to changing that.

Airpods, for instance, are one of my favourite invention of the decade. But, like many users, I found that they had a tendency to fall out of my ears during particular workouts, and that they were kinda useless in a super-loud setting like an airport or train, requiring me to either burst my eardrums with volume, or give up on listening to a softly-spoken podcast.

Lo and behold, the Airpods Pro: my new favourite invention of the decade. They arrive in a box with three sizes of buds, which help nail a perfect snug fit, and, for the first time, include noise cancelling. The latter is so damned good that it almost, kinda, sorta makes me want to leave my Bose cans at home before a long-haul flight (if the battery lasted a little longer, that would be a reality).

You’ll find these long-awaited tweaks all across Apple’s product lines – from phone to Mac to Pods to Watch…the complaints that flooded Twitter and message boards and Reddit were, for the most part, addressed this year: the Apple Watch got an always-on display. The 16-inch MacBrook Pro ditched the less comfortable, fault-prone Butterfly Keyboard. The iPhone 11 got a little thicker, in exchange for a few extra hours of battery life. As Steve Jobs once said…it just works.

For me, Apple events were beginning more and more like minor annual updates – like how FIFA gets a roster refresh and a teensy graphical bump every year, with the same starting price. But this year gave me fresh hope. This year felt easier on the eyes. Because, when you’re going for evolution not revolution, it always helps to, y’know, evolve.