Apple’s iPhone battery case isn’t the first time it’s ‘bumped’ a thin design

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Smart case
Baby's got bump.
Photo: Apple

To the derision of the entire internet, Apple’s new Smart Battery Case for the iPhone has an inelegant hump on the back.

Turns out, this isn’t the first time Apple design chief Jony Ive and his team have “humped” a thin design.

Way back in 1997, the Twentieth Anniversary Mac had a bump of its own.
Way back in 1997, the Twentieth Anniversary Mac boasted a bump of its own.
Photo: The Mac 512

The Twentieth Anniversary Mac, released in January 1997, was one of the first major projects given to Ive after he joined Apple’s Industrial Design team.

As lead designer, Ive created a svelte precursor to the now-familiar flat-screen iMac. If owners wanted to expand it, however, they needed to add an unsightly hump on the back.

To accommodate expansion cards, Ive designed a special clip-on hunchback that covered any cards the user might add. The hunchback — dubbed internally the “backpack” — shipped as an extra with every machine.

Ive put a brave face on the horrible kludge: “With the original back in place, the design is powerful yet physically lean,” he said. “But with the backpack inserted, it becomes a real power system, expressing on the outside the enhanced function contained on the expansion card inside.”

Yeah, right.

Check out the 1997 promotional video below to see Ive waxing on about the joys of owning this $7,499 commemorative Macintosh, and showing off its metal-flake lacquer and Bose speaker components.

While the TAM was ultimately a commercial failure, it still exhibits a certain charm. That’s not a given with the new Smart Battery Case. While it will help some folks keep their flagging iPhones juiced up longer, it’s hard to see much charm in such a kludgy implementation.

Here’s hoping we’ll get a signature Jony Ive video extolling the virtues of the case (though I won’t hold my breath).