Sloppy Apple, No Longer A Premium Brand

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It bothers me to no end what Apple has become, especially since I have been an early adopter of Apple almost thirty years ago. Mentally, I can no longer associate with the brand. Growing up as a loyal yet discerning technologist, it hurts like losing a best friend.

 

Sans Steve

I have seen Apple without Steve Jobs, then with, and now again without. And I despise seeing how the focused alignment of services, software, and hardware Steve Jobs worked so hard on to perfect is eroded by too many products for too many people, with rapidly diverging development branches putting severe pressure on development teams just to sell more. Their inevitable trip-ups are apparent.

Apple simply has lost its focus, vector, and identity of who it was, is or must become.

I can talk for days about the mistakes in Apple’s product strategy and execution, not the fault of Apple’s many talented developers (I know), but a lack of leadership that should define the vision of macro to keep engineering aligned with an identifiable and deep sense of identity. Steve Jobs is gone taking his vision and execution along with him.

 

Sans Buffett

Don’t be confused by the recent commitment and investment from Warren Buffett into Apple. For here is a man who’s compass to sell sugar-water to the world considers that investment the proliferation of a happiness business. Never mind that “vision” having swayed America into the excessive caloric intake responsible for becoming the second most obese country in the world. For which he saliently now has a health insurance answer too. Wake up people, money does not equate to merit.

Let me illustrate, once more, the most flagrant and top-of-mind issues I have with Apple products, not to suggest Apple’s problems can be solved by whitewashing these kinds of consequences, but by highlighting how each undesirable consequence listed here is indicative of ignorance to cause and lack of vision Apple must address. By no means are these the only indication of Apple’s losing mind:

  • Battery quality across all devices has gone down dramatically, my MacBook has not held a decent charge since two years after I bought it, equally with the last four iPhones I purchased, and I am holding my breath for my new iPad Pro. The lifetime of the batteries seems well-tuned to post warranty expiration, allowing Apple, reportedly, to make another billion dollars on battery replacements. This all seems to be in sync when Apple’s main battery guy left, years ago.
  • I have had three keyboards on my now 4-year old MacBook, with two free replacements, the latest two weeks ago, leaving me wondering how the latest and greatest is actually better. The latest version is indeed different, better is not how I would describe it. I can tell Apple is rushing its devices and lost the perfection it used to care about.
  • The USB-C charging cable on my MacBook turned yellow, so did the premium Apple replacement cable I bought subsequently. Is this a premium experience?
  • Apple TV has become an undependable nightmare. The screensaver application showing some 8,000 of my photographs, working splendidly on previous versions of Apple TV, has not worked consistently since I bought the 4K version a year ago. Menu options often do not work, music does not play when instructed, media disappears, the user interface is constantly changing and not for the better. Too many inconsistencies to count. You wonder who is doing quality control on this product.
  • Apple’s iCloud file services generally work reasonably well, with a few hiccups in ancillary services such as Notes and Reminder updates, but the file-system updates to the local file-system are often slow and irritating. I fail to understand the benefit of the odd storage options of some of Apple’s core applications, and integration with other apps is sloppy at best.
  • Productivity apps like KeyNote have gone downhill since Steve Jobs. Many key presentation features do not work, have been badly designed, and miss the boat on becoming the robust presentation application it once was. You can tell nobody with a strategic mindset has looked at how the application should have developed moving forward.
  • The calendar apps on MacOS and iOS work well, but the user interface is abhorrent. It diverges from any other app in term of modal window operations, selections of the day, weekly, and monthly views leading to inadvertently adding appointments. Just dumb design. A disgrace frankly.
  • Apple has failed to implement sufficient paradoxical rules of freedom in its development kits to prevent third-party developers to take customers for a ride. The excessive abuse of privacy and security is the result of Apple not establishing the rules of “gameplay” ahead of time. The system determines what can be discovered, in the words of Einstein, and Apple has failed to establish the system by which the use of any application on Apple’s platform obeys to the standards Apple proclaims to stand for. In this age of dynamic screen adaptability, it is in-fathomable how Apple has not forced developers to anticipate and be flexible for any new screen size Apple may be coming out with. Responsive design must be part of those development kits, enforced or denied. Apple is now touting new UI libraries to its development kits, woot-woot. Thirty years after the curses library in Unix (of which iOS is a derivative) achieved more or less the same. This is catch-up sold to greater-fools as innovation.
  • Managing alerts across multiple devices is a nightmare. Clearly, many of Apple’s capabilities are not truly cloud-based and thereby lack the ability to offer a single point of truth. Alerts do not show up where expected, every device seems to have a mind of its own. Nothing is in sync. The more devices you have the more time you need to manage and clear what you received and when. Opening up your MacBook will reveal new messages you’ve cleared on another device one hour ago. This is the mess resulting from not having thought deeply and architecturally about how the cloud should work.
  • Wifi connection and switching on MacBook is shoddy. Disconnects many times, reboot as the only recourse. Same occasionally on a new iPad Pro. Automatic reconnect as in the past is far less robust.
  • The magnifier to select text on iOS, along with setting begin and end points, does not point to the proper place, and text entry and correction on iOS devices it abysmal, the reason why many vendors have sprung up to offer alternative input services and keyboards. Grammarly, a venture capital funded company, stepped up to attempt to fill the huge gap of technology companies unaware of the perfection of input needed to make these devices useful and fast. Who at Apple is not aware most people use text input to communicate? Who at Apple does not understand the value of linguistics? Who at Apple does not understand a reference to an address book entry should not automatically supersede and replace proper grammar? Who are these kids at the helm of decision-making at Apple? Millions of people are affected by these dumb decisions every hour of the day.
  • iTunes is unplayable on MacOS, stuttering, skips, and weak connections over Bluetooth.
  • The iMessage app on iOS looks like it is designed by a kid, some of its capabilities as deeply hidden as a vi-editor on Unix. Powerful if you know where to find them, but awkwardly laid out requiring an easter hunt every time you recall the feature was there. Compared to platform independent messaging apps like Telegram, iMessage is a mess of bolted on technology speeds and feeds, void of any consistency or portability to MacOS or Apple Watch, where many features are unavailable or work differently.
  • The iPad Pro is a remarkable piece of hardware, working reasonably well with the latest iOS. The iPad freezes in apps on occasion. Here too the cohesive user experience so staunchly protected and developed by Steve Jobs is falling apart. In fact, I still revert back to my old iPad 3 with a fantastically consistent battery after, what, 7 years. The user interface of the old iPad is remarkably simple, consistent, and powerful. On the new iPad, simple features like copy-and-paste do not work consistently, the keyboard does funky things, the pen capabilities are an afterthought, available only in limited applications (on balance, the pen drawing responsiveness and capabilities are amazing). This device, again, has not been put through the wringer of quality control Apple used to be known for.
  • MacOS is patched together and at the end of its rope. Especially when you consider dark mode is the key subject of a new major release. Apple should be embarrassed to call that a major feature. I am sure it was a lot of work for them, but the OS needs improvements on many core capabilities rather than “innovation” akin to slapping new lipstick on the pig. You can even tell how after all these years window management is still severely broken when rolling over an option in the top bar makes the cursor in an underlying browser moves along too. This is deeply rooted in architectural dysfunction.
  • On the iPhone, the real confusion about the vector Apple aims to pursue really becomes clear. The device offers more options than dishes served at an average restaurant to try and please any and all possible customers. This is now the business model of Apple, competing with subpar products, adding and subtracting options like mediocre restaurants will do anything to please their customers. No longer does the chef’s unique vision and execution determine why you want to eat at his place, to begin with. Such is the new Apple, a me-too restaurant, just a tad above the rest until it falls further in the abyss of commoditization.

I have got to get over losing that best friend in technology, and in the words of the Beatles let it be, but it hurts. Sigh.

 

Discuss

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Georges van Hoegaerden
Georges van Hoegaerdenhttps://www.method41.com/georges
Georges is the Founder and Managing Director of method41. From analyzing the workings of policy, capital, and innovation, Georges noticed how these siloed constructs are woefully incompatible with the principles nature deploys to produce regenerative performance. With humanity stuck in a fabric of its own making, Georges set out to reinvent the operating-systems of humanity to fix the theory that determines what humanity can discover, aiming to fundamentally improve human adaptability to nature's entropy.
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