Originally published at The Atlantic

“Our lightest product ever,” the page announces. Lithe and sleek like all Apple’s wares, the Apple Plug is a small, aluminum stopper meant to seal up the “archaic headphone connector” in your iPhone 6 or 6s. Machine-rounded at the end to match the device’s curve, it comes in gold, rose gold, and space gray to match every iPhone finish. Once installed, the Apple Plug is eternal, permanently barring access to the 3.5mm port—which Apple just “courageously” removed from the new iPhone 7. Until you can get your hands on one, what better way to prepare for that bold future than to stop-up the temptation to live in the past?

As you might have guessed, Apple Plug is a joke. Created by a South Carolina design studio called Nicer, the website is so dead-on in its visual design and copy, it’s easy to mistake for the real thing. Apple Plug sounds almost reasonable, even: “When we made iPhone 6 and 6s,” the text reads, “the world wasn’t ready for the future. Now, it is. Apple Plug is the perfect solution.” Before affirming that it’s all a gag, a heading implores, “Just trust us. It’s better.”

As my colleague Kaveh Waddell explains, Apple portrays the removal of a century-old standard like the analog audio port as the ongoing expression of the company’s bold and unrelenting nature. Faced with a choice between abandoning the past with discomfort and embracing—nay, creating—the future, Apple chooses progress. Anyone who might complain is simply stuck in the past.

The company has a good track record for success, too. Two of its other forced obsolescences have largely been forgotten by today’s users. The removal of floppy drives upon the launch of the iMac in 1998 felt similarly aggressive at the time. Most computer users had dozens of disks loaded with software and files, all rendered useless. And the MacBook Air, first introduced in 2008, removed the optical drive to allow for a thinner, lighter laptop body. Today, none of Apple’s computers feature built-in CD/DVD drives, and nobody seems terribly bothered. Thinner computers are far more important.

But Nicer’s parody underscores an unseen motivation: Apple’s aggressive battle against the retrograde pull of hardware standards also exerts an implicit control on its users. Buying an Apple product becomes an exercise in trust for the future it will bring about. And the problem with the future is that it’s very hard to think about how it might have been different once it arrives.

…continue reading at The Atlantic

published September 8, 2016