A Plug

It’s easy to go overboard when praising Apple’s design, but they do turn their attention to some pretty neat challenges.


The Ultracompact USB Power Adapter

Power adapters have been getting smaller and smaller over the years, but they still tend to be either clunky boxes that you plug into the wall, or bricks in the middle of power cables. With the iPhone 3G, Apple opted to push the envelope a little, and supplied a power adapter that’s just a little larger than a household power plug. (The standard USB cable slots into the back of this adapter.)

Now, this is great on several levels:

  • It’s very easy to pack
  • It shares the USB cable, so there’s one less part to manage
  • It’s aesthetically pleasing

The ultracompact adapter is a real grace note; there was nothing wrong with the traditional adapters, but the new one is better. I’m not sure what it added to the cost of the phone, but I’m glad they spent the money. This is one of Apple’s real strengths; finding those little design extras that make their products not only more desirable, but more valuable. (I probably wouldn’t really notice if my phone had another 4 gigs of memory – the sort of feature I imagine most companies would spend their production budget on – but I’ll notice that plug every day.)

Of course, there were a few issues with the adapter, but (a.) it looks like those have been smoothed over and (b.) I’m primarily interested in the design sensibility that tackles these problems in the first place.

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