Apple has long been synonymous with user experience. One of the major appealing qualities of the OS X / iOS ecosystem is the synchronicity and simplicity of the native Apple Apps, powered by the iCloud service. Over the past several iterations of Apple’s operating systems, it seems like they have been losing sight of their original vision in regards to their software.
Many news sources and blogs have been criticizing Apple recently about this specific issue: their apps don’t work (or don’t work as well as they should). Users are installing third-party alternatives to applications and services that drew them to the iOS platform in the first place. Nate Ingraham, Senior Editor at Engadget epitomizes the experience of iPhone users struggling with Apple’s negligence:
“Raise your hand if you have a folder on your iPhone full of native Apple apps you never use … yup, that’s a lot of you. Now raise your hand if you use iCloud Mail, iCloud Drive or the default iOS Notes or Reminders apps instead of third-party options like Gmail, Dropbox, Wunderlist, Evernote and so on. Not nearly as many of you are raising your hand this time.”
So what is actually wrong with Apple’s apps? Each application truly has its own shortcomings. To truly understand what is wrong with the ecosystem as a whole you have to understand where and why each application is going wrong.
When I got my first iPod and installed iTunes for the first time, I was in complete awe. The act of importing CD’s and buying new music online was incredibly exciting, and I could plug in my iPod and take it all with me. That was it. That was iTunes. Now with the aggressive growth of streaming services taking a noticeable chunk out of Apple’s music sales, the media giant had to make a move into the streaming business. I will admit I love Apple Music. I ditched my concurrent Spotify and Tidal subscriptions for the individual Apple Music sub, and haven’t missed anything from my previous providers. This service works great on my iPhone, seamlessly integrating my (owned) music with the library I have collected through the streaming service. The desktop is a different story.
Whenever I accidentally click iTunes on my desktop, my heart skips a beat. The bulky music player/marketplace takes ages to load, then wants to analyze my entire computer for new music (as a musician who will have several versions of a song that I’m working on, this is a nightmare). Once iTunes decides it’s done with my hard drive it moves on to memory. I have relatively powerful Macs (Mid-Range desktop & laptop from 2015) and I still have trouble running iTunes smoothly with anything else open. Even if the application were running properly, the seamless combination of Apple Music and iTunes on my iPhone is nowhere to be found in desktop iTunes.
I don’t even listen to music on my computers anymore, because the experience of using iTunes is so awful.
The first thing I do when I upgrade my Mac or iPhone is install a new mail client. iCloud Mail (or Apple Mail) is slow, bulky, and if you’re using a custom mail server (anything not @icloud.com. For example, my email that I host at Newtek) it is a major pain to set up. My third party client provides quick access to all five of my email accounts, with fast retrieval times (including my Gmail addresses, which any Apple user will tell you is atypical on Apple Mail), intelligent filtering and sorting, and a lightning fast search of indexed items..
The point of this post is not to sell anybody on third party software. One of Steve Jobs’ most recognizable quotes in reference to Apple products was “It just works”. Why doesn’t it just work anymore? Why do I have to download someone else’s email client, or stream music only on my cell phone, when Apple has the development power and certainly the ingenuity to develop their own powerful products? Perhaps they should focus less on cars and jewelry and spend some more of their resources improving the core product of their business. While it is great that a powerhouse like Apple wants to explore emerging technologies, if their core products don’t work the way they should, what is keeping any user from switching over to Android, and buying a Google self-driving car? I know I certainly trust Google Maps for navigation more than the native Apple Maps (which, to be fair, has seen improvement since 1.0).
I haven’t lost hope in Apple entirely. With almost every major consumer electronics news source calling Apple out for their recent shortcomings, and the Apple-to-Android conversion numbers sure to follow (especially with a new season of Android phones on the way), Apple will almost be forced to acknowledge and address the issues in their existing core applications. The only real question is: “Do I want to sit around and wait for them to fix it?”