Design and Usability Master Trips?

So, after my last comments about Apple’ service, it seems someone out there had appreciated the problem after all. I was browsing in the San Francisco Apple store and discovered that there is, now, an airline connector. In the the usual Apple way, it is nice, in white and has the usual dual connecter; airline seat that in turn fits into a regular cigarette lighter type outlet. Neat looking, with a little gizmo that grabs and holds the coiled cable neatly.

$60 though, premium pricing indeed!!!!

So, for once, I actually read the booklet. Good job I did. Despite having the auto (cigarette lighter) style of connector (good, that’s what they have on America Airlines!), it turns out that you cannot use it in you car. Or at least according to the dire warning in the booklet. Not clear why to me, as they must be all but identical in form, function, voltage etc…… If anyone knows why, I’d love to hear it. I have a suspicion that it’s got little to do with the functional aspects – more likely liability issues is my guess. But do I want to risk my nice new (under warranty!!!) MacBook to test that theory?

Second shock, it doesn’t charge my MacBook – it provides power to run the machine, but not to charge it – even if the machine is not being used! This seems like a major feature shortfall – if you are like me and knock the MagSafe connector, or your neighbor moves the plug (the outlet is under the next seat on the aircraft I’m on whilst writing this) then unless you spot it, you have a dead battery and no way to charge it – despite being connected to power.

Final problem with the design is that the two connectors (airline seat inside auto connector) do not latch together in any way. That means that when the connector is pulled out, the auto part tends to stay in the outlet and left behind. Not a good piece of design. Almost every other adapter I have used has some latch or a tight push fit.

You’ll probably guess that I’ve already fallen foul of each of these problems! I have lauded Apple’s products as outstanding examples of the user experience – by which I mean the design and use of the product is intuitive and supports the task(s) at hand. Almost always they get it right, this one misses the mark badly. Version 2 soon please, Apple.

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1 Reply to “Design and Usability Master Trips?”

  1. Graham,

    Learned of your blog through a friend. Glad to see that you’re out there focusing on the issue of service.

    I have been a fairly long-time user of Madson Line thrid-party power adapters for Macintosh, and have had excellent results with them. Like all such adapters, the care with which you transport them, wrap and handle wires, etc., plus normal wear and use will have an impact on how long they last. All of mine have exceeded the one-year warranty.

    Their ‘airline-only” adapter (doesn’t work in the car or charge the battery) for G-4 Powerfooks costs only $28, and the full-scale auto/air adapter for all iBooks and the 15 Titanium PowerBook costs $48. Find them here at: and check out their other adapters.

    Madson Line is a very small company, and in all fairness to my recommendation, I found a blog post by Chris Kohlhardt about the company that presents a consumer service issue, which I recommend reading as well:

    Best of luck. Still doesn’t deal with Apple. But sometimes it’s wise to go around the problem than try to go through it.

    Jay Aaron

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