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Summary:

If you ask any of the Apple “fanboys” in the world why they are so devoted to Apple, at least one of the reasons you will hear is that Apple “sweats the small stuff” that really proves their dedication to user experience and attention to detail. Here’s a few of my favorites, covering Apple’s attention not just to their hardware and software, but even the product packaging. See how many you may have noticed before, and feel free to add your own that I might have missed in the comments below.

Apple Logo

If you ask any of the Apple “fanboys” why they are so devoted to Apple, at least one of the reasons you will hear is that Apple “sweats the small stuff,” which really proves its dedication to user experience and attention to detail.

Here’s a few of my favorites that demonstrate Apple’s attention, not just to its hardware and software, but to even the product packaging. See how many you may have noticed before, and feel free to add any that I might have missed in the comments below.

Serial Numbers

AirPort Extreme Serial Number Location In the world of computers, serial numbers are important for a variety of reasons, including verifying warranty status and determining the correct specifications, to name a few. Many Apple products feature, in addition to their standard serial number, a barcode that makes reading this serial number much easier for Geniuses or other technicians.

Though some newer models have forgone barcodes, such as the 2009 model MacBook Pros and MacBook Air, barcodes can still be found on many other Apple products. In addition to serial numbers represented as barcodes, some Macs, like the Mac Pro, also include a barcode for the system’s MAC address. Though it changes from model to model, Apple has often put these barcodes and serial numbers in easily accessible places.

On the Power Mac G5, the serial number was located on the inside of the tower, behind the aluminum side panel. On iMac G4s and eMacs, the serial number was located on the inside of the optical drive cover. This really made it easy to quickly locate a serial number if you couldn’t access it through the OS.

Fiat Lux a la Mac

As many people leave their Macs running non-stop throughout the day, they have likely stumbled upon the infamous sleep light. Much like a heartbeat (or “snoring”), the little light pulses while your Mac sleeps. When the iMac G5 originally shipped, its sleep light indicator was bright! It didn’t bother people during the day, but for those who kept their iMac in an office or bedroom, it could light up the whole room at night. Apple issued a firmware update that reduced the sleep light’s brightness during evening hours, giving a much more relaxing pulse than before.

Beyond sleep lights, other indicators on newer Macs are typically hidden until needed. Take for instance the iSight indicator light, built into displays, which is seemingly non-existent until the camera is activated. Similar to the sleep light on the unibody MacBook Pros, the power light on the new aluminum Apple Wireless Keyboard blends in seamlessly until its activated. The thin aluminum that has been perforated with tiny holes for the light to shine through, but when there is no light, the keyboard looks seamless.

MagSafe ConnectorIndicator lights on power adapters are also worthy of mention. With once quick glance, you can easily see what is going on. If the light is amber, the battery is charging. If the light is green, the battery is fully charged and ready to go.

Another interesting use of light is the Apple logo on the rear of the portables. The light that illuminates this logo is simply excess ambient light from your display. Go ahead and take a look. Lower the brightness on your display and watch the apple dim.

Product Shots

iMac Clock View The next time you see a promotional shot for an Apple product, take notice of the time. For many years, whenever a Mac has been shown displaying the OS X desktop, the clock indicates the system version that the Mac ships pre-installed. This trend even carries forth to Apple’s retail stores, where display signage and wall banners that showcase Leopard prominently feature the system clock at 10:50. Due to only having 60 minutes in an hour, showing a clock at 10:60 for Snow Leopard would not make much sense. Pre-release screenshots from Apple still display 10:50, so this trend will likely end soon.

In the iPhone arena, all of the promotional images of the iPhone and iPod touch all display 9:42 (except one preliminary image,which displayed 9:41). What’s the significance of this? Some think it may relate to the time the iPhone was originally introduced; others see it as a somewhat disjointed homage to Douglas Adam’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.” Most of my research seems to confirm that 9:42 was the actual time of the iPhone announcement during Steve’s keynote in 2007.

Hidden OS X Easter Eggs

Clock Widget Apple’s attention to detail moves beyond the hardware and into its software as well. Take for example the Clock widget in the Dashboard. Look closely at the second hand and notice how it vibrates much like a real clock does.

For those that use Mail, as you drag the divider between the date column to expand or make the column smaller, the formatting of the date dynamically adjusts to fit. If there’s room to display the time, it shows up. As you make the column smaller, the formatting reduces to fit. Most email applications would just truncate whatever did not fit in the column.

This is just a small list of a huge number of little details found on a lot of Apple products that really make them a joy to use. The tipping point, so to speak, is that Apple doesn’t market any of these as “features,” it’s just the fact that they took the time to integrate them subtly into the Apple experience that makes it all worthwhile.

If you’ve found other examples of Apple’s attention to detail, let us know in the comments!

  1. Jeremy Brooks Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    One detail that comes to mind is the way the iPhone shows Airplane Mode. When you enable Airplane Mode, the plane flies in from the left and stops on the status bar. When you turn Airplane Mode off, the plane flies off to the left. The animation is a very nice touch that is completely unnecessary.

  2. Jeremy Brooks Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Oops, meant to say “the plane flies off to the right”. One day I will learn my directions. Or maybe there’s an app for that….

  3. I guess I’m not a fan boy because I could easily make a list a lot longer where Apple didn’t pay any attention to detail – and I can’t find a serial number anywhere on my MacBook.

    But, I will say I’m a fan of the start up screen when you unpacked a new Mac and power it on for the first time. I think that’s a nice touch.

    1. Remove the battery, look to right of the casing..there is a sticker. If you have the new uni-body one, remove the battery, flip the MacBook from the back of the display (where it connects to the uni-body) vertically and there is a sticker there. iMacs have it on the stand at the front.

      Help?

    2. I guess I didn’t *really look* for it. Sorry, I thought the article made it sound like it’s easy to find.

    3. “In the world of computers, serial numbers are important for a variety of reasons, including verifying warranty status and determining the correct specifications, to name a few. Many Apple products feature, in addition to their standard serial number, a barcode that makes reading this serial number much easier for Geniuses or other technicians.”

      I stand corrected, apparently Geniuses can find the serial numbers easier.

    4. If you want to find the serial number while the machine is on, for instance to check on the warranty site. Go to the Apple menu, then go to About. Then click on the Version under Mac OS X. It’ll toggle through build and serial number there also.

  4. Look at the side of all portables and note that all of the plug holes are sorted large to small.

    1. Not really. The MiniDisplay Port is in between the FW800 and the USB ports on the June 09 unibodies.

    2. Though this applies for my Oct 2008 MacBook, I think it would have been much better if Apple separated its two USB ports.

      When I plug anything on one port, more often than not, it obstructs the other port as well. And I cannot carry my USB hub everywhere.

  5. Wishpot Gadgets Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    This is a pretty cool topic, people often overlook just how good apple design is. Speaking of Apple, have you been following the tablet rumors?

  6. I agree. Its really nice 2 notice the “Easter eggs” apple puts Into thier products :-)

  7. Howie Isaacks Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    One of my favorites is the fact that all of Apple’s application icons are 512 x 512 very high quality graphics. There are details on these icons that most people will see, or never stop to notice such as the ‘Think different’ poem written on a sheet of paper in the Text Edit app icon.

    1. Great comment on the icons, guys! Apple takes this a step further in Snow Leopard. The default folder open appears to “open” when you drag files into it, instead of merely darkening like in Leopard or before.

      I’m glad Howie brought up the Think Different poem on the TextEdit icon. There’s actually more “easter eggs” hidden in Apple’s other icons. Sounds like a great idea for an article! :-)

    2. I agree, 512 icons look amazing, and are fun to design. But the user never really sees them – at least their full detail – unless they are using maximized coverflow… something that is only useful when you’re wanting to see eye-candy in the first place, or you are sight impaired.
      It may be “nice,” but is, at the same time, a tad superfluous.

    3. It doesnt feel as good when the Apps you use dont have 512×512 icons. One feels like designing replacement icons, just for the sake of consistency.

      But then, PC users are stuck with 128×128 and more often than not, App icons will be 32×32 or 48×48. That was the case with me earlier.

  8. In Finder’s Cover Flow view the directory folders have little flecks on them as if they are real folders.

    Of course the Dear Kate letter on the TextEdit icon.

    The iTunes icon needs an update though – the text around the spindle hole reads Apple 2006 iTunes 7 before passing behind the music note.

    The KeyNote icon has text on the document, but I can’t quite make it out on my 20″ screen.

    1. All I could read is the first sentence which says “God, I dreamed there was an angel.”
      But if anyone could read the rest, tell me please.

  9. i think despite some bad press the magsafe adapter is a life saver. I’ve killed old laptops getting up and damaging the charge socket cause the plug has yanked the port.

    My only hope is that when the dock connector is retired it’s replaced by something as elegant and functional. I’d love a wifi transmitter and some sort of induction charging.

  10. Hold down the shift key when you minimize a window…See how it slowly fades down the the dock. It’s the little things…

    1. And ctrl + shift makes it even slower :)

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