Tangled flex landscape

I’m as big a fan of beautifully engineered products as the next guy. I want to argue, however, that the device cable is part of the customer experience, part of the product, and needs some fairly urgent design attention.

I’ve a MacBook Air and an iPhone.  Not the latest versions of them, but pretty recent, let’s say the last 12 months. They’re lovely, and lovely to work with. The cable for my iphone has a mic, volume control, ear buds, all the usual stuff. So what’s the but, I hear you say? Well, it’s always getting tangled, and takes a while to get untangled, before I can use it, in that fiddly sort of way that inanimate objects have of turning me from mild-mannered man into raging psychopath in a matter of seconds.

If you calculated the total time lost globally from messing around getting cables and wires sorted, the productivity losses would be staggering. Yet it shouldn’t be that way.  I remember being round at a girlfriend’s apartment many moons ago, before cordless phones became mainstream, and marvelling at the cord on her telephone.  It was immense, and enabled her to potter round the sizeable apartment with the phone cradled between chin and shoulder. More impressive though, was that it had been engineered in some way to be tangle-proof.  It never got twisted up.

Even now with today’s phones you have to lift up the cord every once in a while and let the suspended handset helicopter itself back into a state of ‘untwistiness’.  Surely we shouldn’t have to put up with this nonsense in 2013? If the materials and the capability was there a quarter of a century ago, you can’t tell me it’s not important any more.

We need to start encouraging device makers to focus as much on the peripherals as the core device, as both contribute to the collective user experience.