September 10, 2013, was a big day for
), the day the tech-forward iPhone 5S and the colorful iPhone 5C
made their official debut. I remember that many analysts felt
underwhelmed, that the thrill of Apple product announcement events
was gone. While many were discussing the merits and problems with
the new phones, as well as their boredom with the presentation,
some of us were stuck on one small detail: When the iPhone 5C is in
the colored, stylish case that Apple designed for it, the word
"iPhone," printed on the back of the device, is cut off. Through
one of the case's holes appears the word "non."
Apple is renowned for its design sense, so this must be
The earliest reviews of the case were mostly negative, simply
because of the "non." Said Matthew Panzarino of
on the day of Apple's release event, "The iPhone 5C's case looks a
lot like Crocs shoes. It also makes for one of the most annoying
Apple design missteps I've seen recently."
In his review, John Brownlee of
imagined how Apple's famous designer Jonathan Ive might have been
playing Connect Four with his daughter one day when inspiration hit
him to create a colorful and light-hearted case for the company's
new entry-level (or at least closer to entry-level) iPhone. Like
most other commentators, however, Brownlee took issue with the
mysterious "non." Moreover, he went so far as to theorize why Apple
made such a seemingly glaring error. "The reason Apple missed this
is because Apple execs don't besmirch their iPhones with cases.
They go bareback, and think you should, too."
Whether or not this is the case, the error still seems egregious.
As Panzarino mentioned in his initial review, "And it was
photoshopped out of the presentation, so they know it looks bad."
Philip W. Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at
Apple, presenting at the September 10 event. Notice the missing
Last week, Michael Ferranti of the French start-up blog
drew further attention to the fact that in French, "non" translates
Adverting [sic] is omnipresent in the Paris Metro (it's no
ad-tech is a growing part of the French economy
), but it's done with class, with beautiful posters featuring
theater, ballet, and ski vacations framed in ornate green or brown
glazed-tiled frames. One of the most extensive Metro stations is
Montparnasse, a section of Paris historically important for the
arts. Some sections of the sprawling Montparnasse station are so
long that moving sidewalks have been installed, letting commuters
take a break from walking through the long corridors.
One early morning. . . I was taken by the enormous, colorful
posters that had been installed promoting Apple's new iPhone 5C. I
had seen similar billboards before in San Francisco on the 101
highway, but never so many, and never in France. Gliding along
beside the impressive display, I noticed something that, once in a
French context, seemed odd. Does that say 'non?' Why, yes it
So, writes Ferranti, "Apple has said 'non' to the French smartphone
market. Whether it will affect sales is an open question, but from
both a design and localization perspective, it was certainly a
'faux pas,' and that's no mistranslation."
I can't disagree.
Follow me on Twitter: