Apple the “Gadget Maker”

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by ApfelKuchen, Mar 11, 2016.

  1. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Is anyone bothered when the media refers to Apple as a “gadget maker?” defines gadget as,
    “Small?” Most certainly. “practical use,” quite certainly. I’m hung up over that last part, “novelty.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with “new,” but novelty goes hand-in-hand with phrases like, “flash in the pan,” and, “when the novelty wears off.”

    I had a cousin who used to create novelty/joke items. There was no expectation of longevity. Most of his novelties satirized a fashion or pop culture trend - a satire rarely outlasts its inspiration. Each successful gag item had its day in the sun, then drifted off towards oblivion (if only he'd held the patent on the whoopee cushion or joy buzzer).

    A fair part of my dislike of the term is that I believe it reveals a bias in the writer or publication. It may help feed the, “Apple is going to crash tomorrow,” narrative. Though the term is used to describe Samsung as well, the citations are fewer, and often are found attached to phrases like, “fellow gadget-maker Apple.” Sorry, neither company fits the description as far as I’m concerned.

    Apple makes computers. Even when not marketed as such, even though the company removed that word from its corporate name, iPhones and iPads are computers. They are telephones. They are music players, cameras… You know the list. None of these functions are novelties. If mobile devices performed those functions shabbily, so that people would tire of using them… novelty. But have people returned to flip phones, point-and-shoot cameras, and pagers once the novelty of their smart phone wore off?

    If the iPod is a gadget, than so is any kind of music player, going back to Edison’s wax cylinders (hell, even the player piano and wind-up music box). Playing pre-recorded music stopped being a novelty well over 100 years ago, around the same time the telephone ceased being a novelty.

    Miniaturization does not turn a well-established tool or appliance into a novelty. And though people may reasonably debate whether a portable telephone is a necessity, useful option, or luxury, I don’t see how it’s merely a gadget.

    Over and over again, Apple’s “gadgets” have changed the way we live our lives, changed the structure of entire industries. Maybe that’s enough to eventually change the definition of gadget, but maybe the media could apply their mastery of language to the selection of a more neutral, accurate term.
  2. yep-sure macrumors 6502


    Sep 21, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    No. I'm not sure why it bothers you so much!
  3. dwfaust macrumors 601


    Jul 3, 2011
    Nope. I buy the Apple products that I want, use them as I wish and am not at all concerned about what some stranger with a blog or website calls them.
  4. Jessica Lares macrumors G3

    Jessica Lares

    Oct 31, 2009
    Near Dallas, Texas, USA
    The synonyms of gadget include appliance, tool, utensils, machine, and device. The example they give in the definition I saw is "a state-of-the-art kitchen with every conceivable gadget" which could refer to toasters, blenders, can openers, silverware, etc.

    It's not wrong, it just sounds so informal. But then to some people that's what they are - The people who make iPhones and iPads. To others that know better, they are a hardware and software company.

    I haven't actually read an article with the word, but I hear it in actual conversation.
  5. Mr_Brightside_@ macrumors 68030


    Sep 23, 2005
  6. kdarling macrumors P6


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    Maybe it's a generational thing.

    I think that being referred to as a gadget maker is fine; almost praiseworthy. Gadgets can be necessary.

    OTOH, sometimes they've been derisively called a toy maker, which to me has much more of the kind of negative connotation that you seem to be thinking of. To others, that might be considered praise.
  7. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Tbh, I never heard anyone call Apple a gadget maker - perhaps I've been living under a rock.

    I'm not bothered by it, because their mobile solutions are gadgets.
  8. C DM macrumors Sandy Bridge

    Oct 17, 2011
    I've kept on thinking the same thing as I read this post--I can't say I've really heard of Apple being referred to as "gadget maker".
  9. OllyW Moderator


    Staff Member

    Oct 11, 2005
    The Black Country, England
  10. ApfelKuchen, Mar 13, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2016

    ApfelKuchen thread starter macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    I wouldn't say I lose sleep over it - just a topic I thought worthy of an essay. I had a solid, old-fashioned journalism schooling, so I'm probably more attuned (or perhaps overly-sensitive) to signs of potential journalistic bias than some. And if you have a stake in a story (such as being a shareholder or fanboy), you're likely to detect "bias," even when it doesn't exist.

    Thanks for the examples, OllyW! I was going to paste a Google search link like this one:

    For whatever it's worth, USA Today has a tendency to post what I'd consider "Apple-skeptical" reportage, and they seem to make heavy use of "gadget maker" in that coverage (sorry, I haven't done a statistical analysis). I understand the editorial urge to be always-critical - it certainly deflects accusations of positive bias. The question is whether the skepticism is so pervasive as to instill an overall negative bias. Sure, Apple is a huge, influential company, and playing the little boy in "The Emperor's New Clothes" is part of a journalist's mission. Care must be taken, however, to avoid morphing into "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

    As is true of most words, different folks will interpret "gadget" in different ways. Considering that I have a novelty-producing cousin, I may too closely associate "novelty" with items found in souvenir shops, and "gadget" with Rube Goldberg and Inspector Gadget.

    [Barely-related digression] Going back to my early days in radio, I still have vivid memories of a colleague's brilliant "jungle novelty" song mix, which we used to pad-out a 90-minute profile of the band Blue Swede (that ensembles "Hooked on a Feeling," the Chipmunks "Witch Doctor Song," etc.). Until he whipped that up, "How the hell are we going to come up with 90 minutes about Blue Swede that would be suitable for a nationwide, syndicated audience" was the question of the week. (And no, we weren't working for Dr. Demento.)
  11. Mr. Buzzcut macrumors 65816

    Mr. Buzzcut

    Jul 25, 2011
    I can see Inspector Gadget using an iPhone or Apple Watch. An iPhone is more of a gadget than a phone. Sort of a multi-purpose gizmo. A Mac is a personal computer. An iPod is a gigital music player. Some of these other devices are whatever you want them to be. As such, they are gadgets to me. I don't think it's derogatory at all.
  12. ApfelKuchen thread starter macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    Ok, if I keep posting about this, it's going to seem like I'm a conspiracy theorist, but what the heck? You have a dead horse? I'll beat it!

    I was cruising through that Google search for "gadget maker Apple" a few minutes ago, and found this from from March 10, 2015 (yes, 2015) Granted, it's not the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg... Just a general business recap/digest piece, with each paragraph introducing an article at another publication. What stood out here wasn't the choice of adjectives, but that so few were present. Of 18 organizations named, just four monikers were enhanced. Were those choices made by Ohio Media Group, or were they drawn from the source articles? As I clicked the links, it became clear that the source was the inspiration.

    Unsurprisingly for a finance page article, Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and S&P needed no further introduction in a paragraph linking to a CNN Money piece. No need to attach "automaker" to GM or "trade union" to UAW (Bloomberg News) or append "fast-food chain" to McDonald's (Washington Post) - lean and clean. On the other hand, a paragraph citing USA Today listed, "Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, Google, gadget maker Apple..." and S&P Capital IQ (this is the only reason made it to my search results). Mashable did give us, "Uber, the popular ridesharing startup." Apple was appendage-free in a Watch piece from the San Francisco Chronicle, though Qualcomm was tagged "chipmaker" by Reuters. Google returned, again unadorned, in a ZDNet piece, as was Twitter in a Reuters-linked intro that exceeded 140 characters. Bloomberg News did not call Credite Suisse a moneylender or note that Prudential is an insurance giant. However, the lead to a Sydney Morning Herald piece on a terror threat in New Zealand did refer to "dairy giant Fonterra."

    Though it may seem I have a grudge against USA Today.... It happens that the full "Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway" article skips the use of adjectives for Standard & Poor's/S&P/S&P Capital IQ (again and again), Google, USA Today, Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobil, UBS, Yahoo, and Alibaba Group. Most of those firms need no further introduction, especially to readers of the financial pages. Oracle, however, is singled-out as "database king." So, Berkshire Hathaway is associated with its chairman, Oracle is linked to databases, and Apple... It makes me wonder whether "gadget maker Apple" is required by USA Today's style book. To be fair, USA Today has always aimed for greater color in its reportage, and if you're going to name 14 companies, three adjectives seems a judicious sprinkling of spice. As to choice of spice or how much to use, chefs can agree to disagree. But do they have to use cinnamon in every recipe containing apples?
  13. Tech198 macrumors G5

    Mar 21, 2011
    Australia, Perth
    so a watch is a gadget ? That's small.. but guess maybe anything small and is "smart" is a gadget..

    Maybe they were thinking mp3 players are as well 'gadgets' when they came with voice .

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12 March 11, 2016