What Should Apple’s Next Product Be?

by Aayush Arya Mar 13, 2008

Apple has a knack for taking existing technology and devices and turning them into simpler products that have an excellent user interface and good design. They’re often thinner (but heavier) than existing products in their class, have fewer buttons, WiFi, a truckload of software level restrictions, generous displays and sealed batteries. Generally, they also throw in a bunch of advanced sensors for good measure.

Today, Apple’s product line-up consists of the Macs, iPods, iPhone, AppleTV, Xserve and some Mac and iPod accessories. Given that Apple is no more just a computer maker, the diversity in their lineup pales in comparison to the other heavyweights in the consumer electronics field, such as Sony and Samsung.

I’m in favor of having a focused approach and a limited selection of products myself. We don’t want Apple to spread itself too thin and the product quality to suffer as a result.

However, I do think that there is room for an addition to their lineup. Like they did with the iPhone and the iPod, there is one more industry that requires Apple to intervene with a revolutionary product and spur the existing players to step out of their comfort zone and improve their offerings. Like they did with the iPhone, Apple needs to step in and raise the bar.

I’m talking about the digital camera segment. I’ve used several compact digital cameras from a variety of companies. I’ve fiddled with all their settings, tried all sorts of techniques I know and read the user manuals in an attempt to find the magic key which would allow me to take a picture I can be proud of. But all of it has been to no avail.

No matter what I try, I just cannot seem to come up with a decent picture. In every shot, there is a lot of noise, it’s underexposed or overexposed, maybe the colors are not right. Something goes wrong and the picture never turns out well. I have accumulated an iPhoto library full of shots that I’m too ashamed to upload to Flickr. After every vacation, I return home, connect my camera to my Mac and hope that this will be the time when I’ll finally be able to get some Flickr-worthy shots, but it’s always the same story of disappointment. Every trip is a missed opportunity.

Apart from the quality of the pictures, there are several other complaints—the designs of most cameras are just plain pathetic, the user interfaces are almost universally poorly designed, the batteries need to be charged separately, they cannot charge via USB, don’t have WiFi, etc.. The point I’m ultimately trying to make is that this calls for an intervention from Apple.

I want a sexy looking camera, the Apple Snapshot perhaps, that I can pluck out of my jeans pocket, click a button to take a shot, connect it to my Mac over WiFi later and get a library full of decent pictures. That’s all I want. I want the camera to have options only slightly more complex than the iPhone’s camera (which has none at all). They could, possibly, have an ambient light sensor onboard that would detect the lighting conditions and automatically modify the camera settings based on them.

What do you think? Is it too fantastic an idea? Can there be no such thing as an easy-to-use camera? Would Apple never enter any field with a glamor quotient as little as the digital camera’s? If you were Steve Jobs, would you be considering a move into one more field? If yes, which one? In other words, is there any product you want Apple to make? Will I ever stop with these questions?


  • I’d settle for a universal remote that I could actually understand and use.

    Maybe they could form a subsidiary, say “UI Unlimited,” that would design user interfaces for client companies in areas that Apple is not planning to enter. For example, automobile dashboards, sewing machines, kitchen appliance, thermostats; anything that now has confusing controls. Which is to say, just about anything.

    Hugmup had this to say on Mar 13, 2008 Posts: 40
  • Back in 1994, Apple did make a digital camera of their own—the Apple QuickTake. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he killed it (rightly so), along with the Newton.

    Truth is, unlike with smartphones, there are many variations of user interface and features among digital cameras, so Apple’s influence here would be much smaller. For most pro and semi-pro photographers, the UI is less important than the lens quality, speed, and sensor of the camera itself. For the non-pros, convenience, size, and ‘good enough’ picture quality are the deciding factors. My ancient Casio QV-2000UX had an incredibly simple and beautiful UI that put other digicams to shame, so it’s really up to consumers to make sure they’re not buying a camera on brand name or price alone.

    Apple owes alot of its successes to a single mantra: design something consumers never knew they wanted, then make them lust after it. Photography is a field that goes beyond electronics and design, and an Apple entry here would be too risky to the company’s reputation. As well, the type of camera you’re looking for (with WIFI, USB charging, easy UI) is, in fact, already available.

    The troubles you are having with your camera sound less like they have to do with technique or technical know-how, than the actual quality of the camera sensor, flash, and lens. Why don’t you take a Canon DSLR for a spin and see for yourself.

    baronkarza had this to say on Mar 13, 2008 Posts: 2
  • I wholeheartedly agree that digital cameras these days. They claim to be simple to use, yet my mom is more comfortable with those ones with the film in them. Then there’s the horrible design for these things. The USB cable plugs in such, that there is no way but to hold the camera in my hand while the pictures transfer. Constant removing of the battery makes those cheap china-made plastic latches weak and eventually after a year they just come off. This is the sorry state of cameras these days. However, I don’t see how Apple fits into this. I just don’t see it (Not sure why, but I just don’t see it). I just don’t.

    Pro cameras on the other hand do their job pretty well. They are not meant to be simple and they produce awesome pictures.

    goobimama had this to say on Mar 13, 2008 Posts: 9
  • If you got your iCamera and your pictures still sucked, who would you blame then?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 13, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • Scott Thurstall said at the SDK presentation that “Apple is a platform company”.

    Does a digital camera fit with that? I don’t think so.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 13, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • I know it does not fit in their product lineup in any way. I just want them to make it. :p

    Plus, I wanted to hear what products other people wanted to see Apple make. Hugmup’s idea isn’t a bad one, IMO.

    I’d be at my wit’s end. :p

    Aayush Arya had this to say on Mar 14, 2008 Posts: 36
  • iCamera does not fit with apple. Lenses can only get so small, and we are there (it is a physics thing). Lenses limit the degree that apple could re-design. Apple does well when it combines hardware and software, I don’t see where it could enhance the software. I am very happy with my current camera, before the ipod I was very unhappy with my mp3 player.

    Hugmup’s idea is very good so good apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was the first to make one in 1985. His company cloud nine made the product, but it failed to catch on and it went out of business.

    Graham had this to say on Mar 14, 2008 Posts: 24
  • I would suggest getting some books on digital photography. It really doesn’t matter what camera you use if you don’t know the basic principals.
      I use a Canon SD450 Elph compact and a Canon XT SLR. Both are capable of taking fine pictures within their limitations, but only if I do my part.
      I agree that many cameras are more difficult to use than need be, mostly due to the poorly structured menu interface.
      It may be helpful if you try using your camera in a manual mode setting and experiment in different degrees of lighting. Try different ISO levels to see at what point the digital noise becomes too objectionable. If possible, try a black & white mode in low light levels; this can sometimes help greatly.
      Modern cameras are amazing tools, capable of wonderful things. Many a great photo has been made over the last century with far less sophisticated and capable equipment.
      Try to learn as much as possible BEFORE you are going to take valuable and irreplaceable photos. A little trial and error before hand can make all the difference in the world. After all, it costs nothing to take and delete as many bad pix as needed to learn to do it right.

      Now, as for my wish for an Apple produced product:
    I would like for them to make a color laser all-in-one printer.
    As it is now, most of these things have a hodgepodge of thrown together software that is truly mediocre.
      Many of the so called features turn out to only work with Windows. I was about to order one recently that had Windows and Mac support, but luckily found some user reviews that stated the scanning software did not work with Macs. What a crock of crappola.
      I think Apple could remedy this if they made their own printer or teamed with one of the makers to produce to Apple’s specifications. I sure would buy one.

    LorD1776 had this to say on Mar 16, 2008 Posts: 19
  • I think the universal remote is a natural place.

    Apple excels at making things easy to use… and your camera problems (as others have noted) are that the camera isn’t smart enough. Not that Apple couldn’t do it… but that’s not their speciality.

    So what else could they do?
    I’m thinking they could very simply replace the humble home phone. Without thinking too hard smile....
    Base level: just a humble home phone… but voip enabled and easy to configure.
    Mid level: Add an iPod classic screen and iSight.
    High level: A desk unit with the iPhone screen and interface instead of keypad. Video enabled. Save money by using a laptop hard disk, bigger chip, external power supply, telephone handset)

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Mar 17, 2008 Posts: 228
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