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Thoughts on the Camera Nubbin

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have camera nubbins. This has caused a significant amount of consternation. I’ll admit it: the thing is unsightly.

We all know Apple made tradeoffs when designing these phones. But most of us seem to assume that the tradeoffs they made were between: “bigger battery, flush camera, same or slightly thicker phone” vs. “smaller battery, protruding lens, thinner phone”. Given those tradeoffs, why choose the protruding lens and smaller battery when by just about all accounts the phones are thin enough?

Well, what if the nubbin exists because:

  1. Apple wanted to improve the camera optics and
  2. Could not get the quality they wanted at the requisite thickness to fit flush in the iPhone 6/6+ casing, and
  3. Is already well along in development of next-year’s iPhone models, which will retain the same casing, and also include
  4. A new camera which they *are* planning to make flush with the case, but which
  5. For technical reasons they cannot achieve in 2014 but can achieve in 2015, and
  6. Rather than ship a thicker device in 2014 and a different case in 2015, 
  7. Made the decision to stick with the nubbin this year, with the understanding that it will be gone next year and 
  8. They’ll be able to re-use the 2014 iPhone casing for the 2015 iPhones and 
  9. Enjoy the price and manufacturing economies of scale that go with such advanced knowledge and planning.
In other words:

Maybe Apple hates the nubbin as much as the rest of us—maybe more. We all know they made tradeoffs, but perhaps the tradeoffs aren’t as simple as we may think. Perhaps Apple has more information than we do and thus a far more nuanced perspective than we're giving them credit for. Perhaps they aren't prepared to divulge that information right now.

Perhaps with a similar perspective, we would all be celebrating our nubbins instead of reviling them.


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