Although not as fun as Samsung's current advertising campaign, Apple's latest television spots are notable for their focus on ergonomics. While Apple has always been know for marketing their products based on simplicity, ease of use and aesthetics, their newest TV campaign puts a direct emphasis on the physical ergonomics of their products. For example the "Thumb" commercial compares the range of thumb reach to the screen layout of the iPhone 5:
Another one of their ads, "Ears" touches on the anthropometrics of the outer ear (although certainly not using those technical terms). Here's the long-form version, not typically seen on TV, with Jony Ive discussing the 3D scanning of ears to determine best fit:
Why is Apple marketing a new emphasis on physical ergonomics? Perhaps with the growing intersection of digital interaction and physical design, an area that Apple has pioneered via gestural interactions of the iPhone and iPad, consumers are looking beyond the flat-world of the digital display to the more holistic three-dimensional aspects of the user experience.
As an ergonomist it's interesting to see how potential ergonomic benefits are defined and communicated to the consumer public. The thumb advertisment is intentionally simplistic and non-technical, almost poetic. The long-form ears video is certainly more interesting and explanatory, and Jony Ive admits, albeit subtley, the challenges in designing a one-size-fits-all product:
"Making one headphone to fit everybody's ears would be like trying to make one pair of shoes to fit everbodys feet - I mean it's impossible. But that's exactly what we've tried to do with the new EarPods." (emphasis added)
It's important to note that there's a difference between marketing ergonomics and designing ergonomics (often a huge difference). For instance their are some concerns about the just announced iPad Mini, including the fesability of one-handed grasping (see A Mini Tablet for a Maxi Hand).
It will be interesting to see whether Apple continues this emphasis in its marketing and whether competitors start doing likewise.
Update Dec 1 - I learned of Dustin Curtis' examination of thumb reach for the 3.5" vs 4" versions of the iPhone. Although seemingly based on his own thumb dimensions, Curtis extrapolates out some interesting insights on the ergonomics of the iPhone 5:
"Four inches is only now barely acceptable on iPhone 5 because:
- iPhone 5’s huge reduction in weight makes it easier to hold while contorting your hand to touch the hard-to-reach areas of the screen.
- The screen’s width remains narrow and only grows vertically, meaning it’s still easy to reach the entire width of the device;
- The device is 20% thinner, which allows your hand to wrap around more fully and to gain slightly more reach; and
- iOS’s tab bars are anchored to the bottom of the screen, where your thumb more naturally rests, so it remains easy to change app sections (contrast this with Android’s tab bars, which are usually located at the top of the screen, and sometimes out of reach)."