10 secret facts about Apple's product design

From the iPhone to the Apple Watch to even its product packaging, Apple pays extreme attention to detail when designing its products

apple logo products primary size
REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

10 lesser-known facts about Apple's product design

When it comes to design, whether it be on the hardware or software end of the spectrum, Apple’s attention to detail is arguably unparalleled. Over the past few decades, Apple has built a reputation for paying attention to minute details that most consumers don’t even notice until they're pointed out to them. Remarkably, even seasoned iPhone and Mac owners are often surprised by design details that they happened to overlook for years.

Here’s a list chronicling 10 of the more interesting, eye-opening, and lesser-known design flourishes that truly underscore how Apple quite literally leaves no detail left to chance.

apple ios flashlight icon

Flashlight icon 'on' switch

The flashlight icon in iOS is a great example of Apple’s attention to minor details. If you open up the flashlight app via iOS’s Control Center, note how the switch on the flashlight icon changes from an ‘off’ to an ‘on’ position when the flashlight is activated.

apple pencil

Apple Pencil's distributed weight

Released as an accessory to the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil has largely been lauded as the best stylus to hit the market. One of the interesting design aspects to the Apple Pencil is that it’s weighted to ensure that it always rolls over so that the side with the word “pencil” is always facing upwards. Not only that, but its uniquely distributed weight also makes it much less likely that the device will casually roll off of a flat surface onto the floor.

3. macbook groove

Opening up an Apple laptop

If you open up an Apple laptop, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that you can easily open it up using just one hand. This is made possible via a small industrial design decision that put a little bit of a groove into the bottom portion of the computer, thus providing a ridge for users to place a finger and seamlessly lift up the display. While this may seem obvious in hindsight, as are all great innovations, most people can likely remember a time when they needed to use two hands to open up a notebook.

4. apple maps

Apple Maps

If you open up Apple Maps and enter Satellite view, keep on zooming out until you’re presented with a photo of Earth taken from the vantage point of space. Now, what’s particularly cool about this view is that it’s dynamically updated to reflect the time of day in every part of the world. In other words, you’ll see areas of the globe where it is daylight (at the time you are viewing) lit up, and areas where it is nighttime draped in darkness.

5. breathing light

The 'breathing light' on MacBooks

If you’ve used an Apple notebook at any time over the last few years, you’ve likely seen a soothing blinking white light when the computer is closed and put to sleep. This light (called a sleeping indicator light) also used to appear on the iMac and the long-since discontinued eMac. Its purpose? To mirror the breathing rhythm of a human adult. Some of Apple’s more recent laptops have become so thin that they no longer incorporate the light at all.

6. iphone camera shot

iPhone camera development

The quality of the iPhone camera has improved dramatically over the years. This is no accident, of course, as Apple has devoted a ton of engineering resources towards improving camera quality on the iPhone. To this point, during a 60 Minutes profile, we learned that Apple has more than 800 engineers exclusively working on ways to improve the iPhone camera. Not only that, but the camera module itself is comprised of 200 disparate parts, with some components being thinner than a human hair. For every photo that the iPhone takes, 24 billion operations take place in an instant.

7. apple packaging

Apple's meticulous product packaging

Apple’s attention to detail even extends to the packing it uses to house its products. As anyone who has opened a brand new iPhone or even iMac can attest, Apple’s packaging is elegant insofar as it is inviting and reflective of a thoughtfulness that other companies have since started to emulate. Interestingly, Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky noted in his book “Inside Apple” that Apple actually has a secretive packaging room at 1 Infinite Loop where a designer makes sure that the way a new Apple product is nestled up inside of and removed from a box is as user-friendly and convenient as possible.

8. apple watch shot

Thousands of photos for a single shot

To come up with some of the watch faces used on the Apple Watch, Apple designers left nothing to chance. As noted by Apple interface head Alan Dye, Apple took more than 24,000 photos of a single flower in order to get the flower motion face working perfectly. For the jellyfish watch face, Apple went so far as to build an actual fish tank inside its design studio. What’s more, they then used a high-end 4K Phantom slow-mo camera to record footage at 300 fps.

9. apple watch

Apple Watch hues

You might think that the hues Apple chose to bestow upon the original Apple Watch Sport models were random, or perhaps chosen after significant market research. The reality is that Apple chose those exact hues only after experimenting with literally hundreds of different hues during the development process. As noted during a 60 Minutes profile on Apple earlier this year, Jony Ive and his team tests “hundreds of different hues and shades of red, blue, and yellow for the watch bands.”

10. hardware indusrial design

Hardware symmetry

While developing a symmetrical piece of hardware seems like a no-brainer, not every company gets it right all the time, a fact evidenced by the photo. The image on top shows the bottom portion of Samsung Galaxy S6, with lines drawn across the device’s center points. Note that even the sticker isn’t level. Below that, we see the respective bottoms of an iPhone and Samsung device. The iPhone, you’ll note, has the speakers and power jack completely centered. The same can’t be said for Samsung’s device.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.