Aluminosilicate glass. CNC-machined steel. A4. IPS panels. Unibody. Retina display. It sounds like jargon plucked from a stuffy science journal. But it's straight out of Apple marketing.
The iPhone 4 is a zenith for materials discourse in Apple's online marketing: Parts and process. How something is made, the actual process of putting it together, and what it's made of. They're justifiably proud of their baby.
The introduction video for the unibody MacBook Pro was an exegesis on the production of a notebook. According to Apple's implication, other companies' notebooks are made out of multiple parts, so they're weak. The MacBook Pro is made out of a single piece of aluminium, Jon Ive informs us. It's CNC-machined. It goes through 9 milling operations. The video even shows us how it's done. A factory worker leisurely examines a unibody frame.
What's inside the MacBook's aluminum exoskeleton merits a much smaller chunk of airtime. After all, it's practically the same slices of silicon any other notebook manufacturer can procure and shove inside their laptops. Intel chips. Nvidia graphics cards. A hard drive. Some RAM. Dell notebooks have this stuff. So do HP, Asus, Lenovo and Acer. All the same inside, all sourced from the same handful of suppliers. This fact is in part why the what and how of Apple's products became a critical point of distinction. It's why they're better.
Before Apple made the Intel switch, a Mac gut's were actually different from a PC, if not better, since Apple used IBM's PowerPC chips. (Obviously, Apple phrased it as better. "Massively" better, faster, stronger.) And for a lot of people, different is better enough.
Then suddenly the inside of a Mac looked a whole lot like the inside of a PC.
The A4 chip that powers the iPad and iPhone 4 is a return to difference at the gut level. It's "custom silicon we designed," Senior VP of Hardware Bob Mansfield says with a level of earnesty that would make politicians weep. It's not simply unique to Apple's product—it's designed by Apple, in the thing that Jony Ive says "defines our vision, our sense of what's next."
The A4 is first chip that Apple has actually talked about in a mobile product—the iPhone, until now, was a black box. But Apple says little about the technical specifications of the A4, beyond the fact it's clocked at 1GHz in the iPad. The trick is that it's not all that special, or even Apple born-and-bred, since it's built using ARM's Cortex A8 architecture, and even shares its CPU core with the Samsung chip powering Sammy's Galaxy S Android phone.