This anecdote perfectly illustrates Apple's obsession with detail

Jony IveGetty Images/Michael KovacJony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer.

Apple is known as a company that’s obsessed with attention to detail.

But just how obsessed?

Really, really obsessed, it turns out — the company worked hard to make sure its new mouse “sounds right” when you use it.

Steven Levy, who has written several books about Apple (in addition to books on subjects), has a new profile of the company out, and the piece includes an anecdote that perfectly illustrates Apple’s approach to detail.

It concerns Apple’s brand new wireless mouse, dubbed the Magic Mouse 2, which the company unveiled on Tuesday.

Levy writes that Apple ran into some difficulty redesigning the mouse, which looks just like the original Magic Mouse, but now includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

The team at the Input Design Lab, a secretive workshop where Apple cooks up its accessories, Levy explains, just couldn’t get the new mouse to “sound right” when using it. According to Levy, the mouse “stirred consternation and late nights in the maze of workspaces” at Apple’s Input Design Lab as the employees tried to determine why it didn’t sound right.

From Backchannel:

The culprit appeared to be the little polycarbonate runners on the bottom of the mouse. “We changed the foot architecture,” says [Kate] Bergeron, Apple’s VP for Ecosystem Products and Technologies. (Translation: you pound on her keyboards.) “And it changed the friction characteristics of the sound.”

“When we did the previous mouse we spent so much time dialling those feet, the material, the geometry, everything, so that it sounds good and feels good when you move it on the table,” says [John] Ternus, whose title is VP for Mac, iPad, Ecosystem and Audio Engineering. “But then you change the mass of the product and you change the resonant frequency of the product and all of a sudden the feet that we loved weren’t great anymore. They weren’t what we wanted.”

What exactly was wrong with it? I wanted to know.

“It had just changed… kind of… the sound,” says Ternus, who has been working for Apple since 2001. “They all make a noise  —  the question is getting a noise we like. It sounded… not right.”

And that’s how Apple got the new Magic Mouse 2 to sound just right.

I highly recommend reading Levy’s whole piece on Backchannel. He’s the first reporter who’s been in Apple’s Design Lab, and the story has great details about how Apple approaches its products.

Apple magic mouseAppleApple’s new Magic Mouse 2. Now it sounds ‘just right.’

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