The reviews for Apple’s new Studio Display are in — and they aren’t kind. Some of them are brutal. I read, viewed, and heard what the reviewers had to say — and my conclusion: they are fine, with a handful of misses. You can get a near-exact display from LG for about $300 less. However, Apple’s display is better built. And it is tightly integrated with Apple’s computers and ecosystem. The 4 Thunderbolt ports, six speakers to pump out great sound, and three microphones to make calls with — Apple Studio Display stands above the competition and is worth the premium. 

Well almost!

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The much-ballyhooed 12-megapixel wide-angle camera for making video calls is turning out to be quite a dud. 

“I find to be crushingly disappointing,” writes John Gruber. “Image quality is astonishingly poor, and Center Stage is glitchy.” It was poor compared to the new iPad Air and the new iPhone 13 SE, two devices that also use the same camera as the Studio Display. 

“It looks awful in good light and downright miserable in low light,” writes The Verge editor in chief, Nilay Patel. “I’ve tried it connected to the Mac Studio and on my MacBook Pro running macOS 12.3, and on both machines, it produces a grainy, noisy image with virtually no detail. I tried it in FaceTime, in Zoom, in Photo Booth, in QuickTime — you name it, it’s the same sad image quality.” Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern sums it up well when she writes, “OK, the real surprise is, it isn’t a good webcam, especially after how much Apple talked it up.” 

An Apple spokesperson told WSJ that they “discovered an issue where the system isn’t behaving as expected. We’ll be making improvements in a future software update.” Remarkably, Apple didn’t have the right processes to prevent what is a bad product experience from making it out of its doors. It should raise questions about the software capabilities of the camera and the embedded OS that has been shipped with the displays. 

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As we humans know, becoming smart is a continuous process. You first go to school and then to college. You learn from books, from life itself, and work experience. In other words, you become smarter.

And since Apple has put an A13 Bionic chip in the Studio Display, a future software upgrade can make this “smart” display work better. I am sure Apple has already fixed it internally. But it is a good reminder of something I have always believed in — the ever-increasing importance of the camera — the third eye — in our modern society.

In a culture and society that is increasingly visual, the camera is the decisive factor when it comes to buying a phone. We want to look as good on our work Zoom calls as we do on our selfies. Video is the ultimate projection of self, and the camera is the way to get it done. 

More than the screens, storage, or speeds, the camera emotionally personalizes our devices. A camera is our tool to project our reality and our image to the world, but more importantly, to ourselves.

Apple, which has become a trillion-dollar company based on a straightforward concept — “it is the camera stupid” – should never forget that simple reality.  

March 17, 2022. San Francisco