Off Brand

Apple Still Hasn’t Fixed the iPhone’s Fatal Flaw

With the new iPhone 11, Apple proves it has no business being a paragon of great design

Rob Walker
Published in
6 min readSep 11, 2019
Illustration: Tom Guilmard

ToTo the surprise of no one, the centerpiece of the latest Apple Special Event — as the company’s annual product launch announcements are branded — was the new iPhone. Sure, CEO Tim Cook and various minions touted news of Apple TV, an update to the company’s watch, a game subscription service linked to its app store, and so on. But the hyping of the new iPhone 11 (priced at $699) and iPhone 11 Pro (available in two sizes, priced $999 or $1,099) took up pretty close to half the hour-and-forty-five-minute affair.

Also as expected, the new batch of phones looks terrific. I’m referring specifically to looks: As ever, the latest iPhones are beautiful, sleek, slim, simple, clean, elegant — hot. The iPhone 11, finished in anodized aluminum, comes in six colors, including lavender, teal, and bright red. The Pro versions, made of “surgical-grade stainless steel,” per the official pitch, comes in “midnight green” and “space gray,” as well as a gold color that is “new” in some unspecified way.

In the promotional videos they all look positively lust-worthy. Throw in the impressive new specs — which I’ll get to — and suffice it to say that the public will surely fling their money at this new object when preordering begins on Friday at 5 a.m. Pacific. Apple says the phones will be available, at least to those who act fast, on September 20.

At which point these iPhone devotees, if they’re smart, will buy a case for their new treasure immediately after leaving the store.

That’s because, as you know, the iPhone, in addition to being a masterpiece of tech-industrial design, is shockingly easy to break. So it’s vital to smother that sleek and elegant design right away, with some sheath of rubbery plastic that hopefully looks okay, but really needs to perform its protective function.

In fairness to Apple, the same thing is true of pretty much any smartphone. That’s why there’s a whole secondary market largely dedicated to coping with the breakability of perhaps the most celebrated designed objects of our time. Research firm IBISWorld estimates that the…