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What I Really Wish Apple Would Make

September 11, 2009

So I’m working a part-time gig with a certain consumer technology magazine, and everyone has been abuzz about Apple’s recent (rather anti-climactic) press release. Yes, for those of you who weren’t paying attention, Steve Jobs is alive and well (if looking rather skeletal) and he announced a new version of iTunes (which has stuff that should have been in there on day one), a new version of iPhone OS software (which has stuff that should have been in there on day one), a rearranged iPod pricing scheme, and the addition of a video-only camera for the iPod Nano, which basically is a huge Fuck You to the Pure Digital Flip.

After spending a minute or two mulling over how much I’d like it if they got a decidedly less whitebread musical guest for their press events (more Wu-Tang Clan, less Norah Jones, please), I started thinking about how Apple is really seeing diminishing returns on their lifestyle products.

That is to say, the incremental iPod updates are getting progressively lousier. We’ve hit the storage saturation point (I can’t for the life of me fill my 60GB iPod Classic), the OS is already good enough, the damn things can do pictures and video and the iPod Touch and iPhone are basically mini-computers. Now we’re getting a damn video camera on the Nano, which is kind of cool, I guess, insofar as it facilitates the one-click YouTube uploading of cat videos, drunken party videos, and other stupid shit. I don’t even use Cover View on my iPod because finding the damn album art is such a pain in the ass when you don’t buy your music off the iTunes Music Store.

My point is that the guys at Apple design these things around a certain kind of lifestyle, and that lifestyle involves a lot of meticulous detail about their music, uninterrupted access to Facebook, Twitter, and NPR, and apparently, an irrepressible desire to film the daily mundane. I know plenty of people who are like this, and they already own iPods. Since Apple is in the business of selling iPods, they’re going to have a harder and harder time inventing new reasons for these hipster fucks to buy newer ones.

Believe it or not, there is an untapped market for Apple. They are young and hip, and they have disposable income. The thing is, they aren’t on Twitter or Facebook, they won’t really buy a Nano for the camera, and they don’t give a shit about Cover View.

Of course, I’m talking about young people of color. Ones like the kids I work with at the boxing gym. One of my kids managed to get into three fistfights on the first day of high school – one of which was with a gangbanger – and another one of my kids has seen three of his friends shot and killed in the last week or so. They live approximately between Fruitvale BART (where Oscar Grant was shot last New Year’s) and 74th Avenue (where Lovelle Mixon shot four cops). So here’s what I want to see from the tech world:

  • Right now, the iPhone has pretty good voice dialing. Let’s improve that tech! Have the phone automatically dial 911 whenever the iPhone hears gunshots. Patch into the Google Maps API to give the responding officer directions to the site of the call so they have no excuse for showing up 2 hours later. If the iPhone hears gunshots coming from a standard-issue police sidearm, the user can configure it to automatically dial the local newspaper, because you’re about to make the front page.
  • Put these new iPhone/iPod Nano cameras to good use. It’s accepted Homie Protocol in areas with frequent shootings that your friends take a crappy picture of you and make commemorative T-shirts which they print up at the mall. iPhone App, anyone? One touch and any pic can be instantly done up with life dates and a sappy caption. Send it via MMS to any local t-shirt printing company. (Oh wait, MMS isn’t working over AT&T yet.)
  • Everyone loves a good backyard brawl video. Instant uploading to YouTube is good. Automatic social media tagging – so everyone in your circle of friends knows that it was your grainy, pixelated ass that got ruthlessly beaten – is better. What I really want, though, is an iMovie plugin that automatically adds a Street Fighter II-style health bar at the top that depletes when it hears the distinct sound of fists hitting flesh.
  • Courtesy of John Hopkins: music studio iPod for making beats on the go. Complete with a gold chain case attachment, portable speakers, and maybe a docking cable that lets you use any write-capable optical drive to burn copies of your demo CD. (T-Pain optional–er, wait a minute.)
  • Google Turf. It’s hard knowing which block belongs to which crew, especially if you’re new in town. Harness the power of crowdsourcing with Google Turf, an iPhone app that provides you with on-the-fly coverage of gang lines via the Google Maps API so you’ll never be caught in Border Brothers territory without backup again. Bonus points if it has a plugin that suggests potential outfits that avoid certain colors.
  • Remember that bit from Dave Chappelle’s Killing Them Softly standup about how black people know the laws – and the penalties? “Don’t do that – that’s five to ten!” That’s what the iPhone needs. Think of it as an applied version of Lexis-Nexis – the user just types in a crime, and the corresponding minimum and maximum sentences, prosecution rates, and legal precedents pop up. Throw in a plugin that lets it cross-reference legal databases with local phone books to recommend defense attorneys with high success rates for that particular offense and maybe our kids will have a shot.

I leave you with this:

That’s it for now. Post your suggestions in the comments.

pat m.

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