The iPhone 3G plug: little things count

The Apple iPhone 3G's marvellous adapter

Look around your office floor or home office's power strips. How many big, obstructive, hot black power bricks and adapters can you count? My home entertainment system sports about six for a very modest set of gear; my office has three. Power adapters aren't given much thought by designers.

That's part of what makes the new Apple iPhone 3G's adapter so marvellous. While oceans of ink and electrons have been written about the network and software features of the phone, I'd like to wax briefly rhapsodic about the tiny bit of white plastic with a USB port on one side and two metal electrical prongs coming out of the other.

Apple likes to rethink basic assumptions. They know what we hate and what we love. Where other computer and phone makers have seemed to require teams of people working separately to integrate their varying projects at the least cost in a sort of "you got your peanut butter in my chocolate" sort of collision, Apple works iteratively and progressively among all its teams.

The famous scroll wheel on its iPod? Suggested by a marketing chief, according to Leander Kahney's excellent new book Inside Steve's Brain. (Contrary to the title, it's not about Steve Jobs per se; it's a business guide to how Apple's CEO aggressively directs small, hard-working teams in avoiding accepting a second-best alternative — ever.)

When an Apple exec slid the iPhone 3G power adapter to me across a conference table during a briefing Monday, I was briefly confused as to what he was showing me. It was so vastly unlike every other power adapter ever designed. Even Apple's own tiny rectangular bricks with easily swapped plugs — for international use or to replace a two-prong plug with a cord with a third-prong end — pale in comparison.

I've seen once before a simple adapter designed for devices that could adapt universally to local voltage that simply fit over whatever plug style you were using with the plug style you needed. But this is the first I've seen a company work so hard on this particular item.

Apple isn't just about the flair and pizzazz. They're about the hard engineering work required to make things simpler and less invasive. It takes a village of wonks to shrink a power adapter.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Glenn Fleishmann

PC World (US online)
Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?