The sisterhood of the non-internet pants

OK, so now that everything we knew about the new iPhone has been confirmed,1 I want to talk about Andy Ihnatko’s blind spot as a reviewer.

I like Andy’s reviews, and what I like most about them is his understanding that not everyone cares about, or even recognizes, the attention to detail that Apple tends to put into its product design. For people who treat their cell phones and computers as things instead of boon companions, Andy is a voice of reason. Even those of us who do care about fit and finish and have deep relationships with our devices have limits on the amount of money, time, and attention we can lavish on them. Andy understands that better than any other pundit in the Apple orbit.

Sometimes I think he goes a little too far in defending the philistines against the Apple aesthetes. He has, for example, been saying for a few years that [insert latest Android phone here] is finally the one that could be an adequate substitute for an iPhone. He said it again on last week’s Ihnatko Almanac.

But that’s not Andy’s blind spot, that’s just him trying to be fair. But his blind spot did come up during the podcast when he talked about the advantages of having a larger phone like the Samsung Galaxy S III he’d been trying out. He never mentioned any disadvantages of the larger size, and that’s a consistent problem whenever he talks about portable devices.

Andy, you see, has no idea of the pocket sizes of normal human beings.

I can remember several times on MacBreak Weekly, when he’d talk casually about putting a first-generation Kindle in his pocket. This was a hard plastic device that measured 8″×5.3″×0.8″ and weighed over 10 ounces, and Andy considered sticking it into his pocket the most natural thing in the world. He seemed to have no idea that most of us would never dream of doing such a thing.

And then there was the matter of his internet pants, which seemed to give free rein to his pack animal instincts. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he now carries an 11″ MacBook Air in them.

Once upon a time, the cool thing about cell phones was how small they were. When the iPhone was first announced back in aught-seven, one of the features that caused a stir was how damned big it was. Now idiot tech pundits are calling it tiny and saying that the size increase of the iPhone 5 is just a copycat move on Apple’s part. I guess it’s hard to remember a whole five years ago.

I suspect Apple’s reluctance to increase the size of the iPhone—and its decision to increase it only in length—came from the recognition that a significant number of its customers would find a larger phone to be a burden. Not only because a larger phone is harder to stretch your thumb across when using it one-handed, but because a larger phone is just harder to carry around.

If you think a larger phone isn’t an encumbrance, my guess is that

  1. you don’t wear dress pants, or if you do, you don’t care what they look like with a big chunk of glass in them; and
  2. you’re not a woman.

Now I’m sure there are plenty of women who carry their phones around in their front jeans pockets, just like men. But I’ve never seen one. The women I’ve seen carrying phones in their pockets have them in their back pockets, and even the current iPhone sticks out of the top of a back pocket.

Cargo pants? The pockets on women’s cargo pants seldom carry anything. They’re there for style, not function, just like a man’s tie.

Women do put their phones in their purses, but purses have limited space, and although men like to think they’re filled with junk that could easily be removed to accomodate a larger phone, women certainly don’t think that, and it’s their opinion that matters. Until every woman can have a purse like Hermione Granger’s, space will be limited and larger phones will strain their capacity.

Unlike the overwhelmingly male tech punditry, Apple understands that its customers are both men and women and that they’re both young and old. While some may be willing to put up with an inconvenient size to get extra “power,” most aren’t. Many of their customers can even remember a time when people didn’t carry phones around with them at all.

I’m sure Andy Ihnatko remembers those days. That was when he had a paperback book stuffed in his back pocket.


  1. Except the name. Remember when “the new iPad” meant that Apple was ditching numbers across its product line? Good times. 


12 Responses to “The sisterhood of the non-internet pants”

  1. Rafe says:

    The original iPhone wasn’t that big compared to the other phones of its day. Here’s a picture of my original iPhone next to the phone it replaced, a Sony Ericsson T610, one of the more compact candybar phones of its day:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rafe/665103586/

    Here’s another comparison:

    http://www.whoisgregg.com/blog/2007/01/comparison-of-iphone-to-razr-and-slvr/

    The iPhone couldn’t compete on size with flip phones, but for candybar phones it was pretty comparable.

  2. Lukas says:

    Is it possible that Andy simply doesn’t mention the “pocket pants” disadvantages because they’re obvious? If you don’t have pockets that fit a large phone and don’t carry a purse (almost none of the iPhone-carrying women I know carry it in their pants pockets, because it’s too thick and has hard edges; it’s really easy to see its outline), you probably already know this, and don’t need the reviewer to tell you. It would be a bit like reviewing a Porsche and noting that you can’t use it to move your furniture.

    I also think that Andy’s pants pockets (including the Kindle thing and the tactical Internet pants thing) are a bit of a running gag with him. He might have casually noted that he carried a Kindle in his back pocket, but I’m pretty sure this is part of his whole “I have huge pants” joke.

  3. Blaise Pascal says:

    I was able to carry my Kindle 3G in my front pants pocket, until I heard the painful sound of a snapping screen when I bent down to pick up a piece of road debris.

    When I had an iPhone 3G, I found it worked well in my pants pocked, except the headphone cord was just a couple of inches too short; I always ended up walking around slightly hunched and uncomfortable.

    I moved the iPhone to my shirt pocket, where it, and it’s successor iPhone 4, fit nicely. It’s nice to be able to walk upright, and it forces me to wear shirts with breast pockets instead of T-Shirts.

    One of my concerns when getting a Galaxy Note was how well it would fit into my breast pockets. Compared to the iPhone, the new phone is huge (it was, and still is, the largest phone on the market). I was pleasantly surprised to find that it fits nicely in most of my shirts’ pockets.

    Since I sit occasionally, carrying anything bulky like a wallet, a phone, etc in my back pocket has always seemed uncomfortable. I’ve never understood how people routinely sit on their wallets. Sitting on a cell-phone, especially a smartphone, seems a quick way to bend and crack the screen. So my phones and Kindles never go in my back pants pockets.

  4. Brenton Taylor says:

    My wife absolutely REFUSES to carry her own phone around if she didn’t also bring her purse. So I’m usually stuck with an iPhone in each pocket and little room for anything else, as my back pocket is for wallet only, like most men do.

  5. Brian G says:

    The more I’m thinking about this, the more I’m realizing that I have my big S3 on my person less than my older phones.

    Yes, it really does put a weird bulge in an expensive pair of dress pants and look odd in jeans. I have one pair of skinnier cut jeans that I flat-out don’t like carrying the phone in and often find myself without my phone while wearing them, because I unconsciously set it on my desk instead of in my pocket.

    None of the women at my office carry their iPhones around at all. They sit on their desks. When they’re away from their desks, their desk phone rings, then their iPhone rings, and neither get answered.

    My wife doesn’t carry her Android phone around in the house, and I almost never reach her by calling. This seems to be a common complaint that men have about their wives and girlfriends.

  6. Dr. Drang says:

    This was meant to be a jokey sort of post, but…

    Rafe,
    I think the photos you linked to make my point more than they make yours. The original iPhone was expensive, stylish, and bigger.

    Lukas,
    What could be more obvious than “a bigger screen shows more”? But it always gets a mention in the reviews of larger phones.

    Finally,
    I didn’t mean to imply that the back pocket is the normal carrying spot. But it does seem to be a common place to stash a phone temporarily.

  7. Adam Turetzky says:

    Andy sold a lot of pants with that gag. I own 3 pair thanks to him. Happily I’ve lost a lot weight in the past year and those stretchy 38’s fit like circus tents now. Although I’m now happily wearing the same pants I wore in high school (size 33 Levi’s) I’ll certainly be buying some more “internet pants” in the future.

    Remember when the only chic way a man carried a cell phone was in a leather case attached to his belt? Ala “Nick Burns”. http://i.imgur.com/GYZAa.jpg

  8. Jonathan Lundell says:

    I dunno. Seems sort of like arguing that Apple shouldn’t offer a 27” iMac variant because I don’t have room for it on my desk, and neither do many of my friends.

  9. Clark says:

    I think the underlying issue is that Apple wants a very small model line for phones. Basically one plus the last year’s model. That means they are unwilling to have different sizes. For me the current iPhone4/4S is a perfect size although I’m sure the slightly larger 5 won’t be a big deal. Those large Android phones are completely out of the question though.

    I’m actually surprised Apple didn’t have a Nano phone more akin to the iPod Nano. I think they’d sell quite well.

  10. Aristotle Pagaltzis says:

    I think what really made the iPhone appear huge was the size of its screen. It was unprecedented. I don’t know if there were any devices with comparable size displays, and if there were they would have been giant-keyboard Blackberry-style things.

  11. Tom Shannon says:

    I think I’m going to use the word “aesthete” as many times as possible today just to see how many people think I’m talking about the players in last night Bears game.

    ;)

  12. Margaret says:

    Of the six women I know well who have iPhones (including myself), half carry it in their purse and half use their pockets (front; never back pockets!). It seems to be generationally split — if you’re under 45, you carry it in your pants. If you’re over 45, you carry a purse daily and the phone goes in there.

    (Side note: these women are professionals but not executives — doctors, nurses, scientists, etc. Dress is more casual, I suppose.)

    Even when I carry a purse, I often have my phone in my pocket because in the purse I can’t hear (feel) it ring or access it quickly.

    I hate buying pants without decent pockets (which makes it very difficult to buy dress clothes), and have even altered pockets myself. I find that the woefully short pockets on low(ish)-rise jeans will accommodate an iPhone if it is inserted horizontally.

    I am very nervous about the increased length of the new iPhone. I will not buy one until I can test drive one in my pockets.