It just works

Good post by Daniel Andrews that sums up some of my relationship with Apple products lately.

The only Apple apps on my home screen are Mail, Messages, Camera, Photos and Passbook. Not a great ratio. I mention this because it makes it easier for myself and anyone else to decide to try another platform if they like if their vendor lock-in is so low. Further, if users get in the habit of looking at default Apple apps on iOS and thinking “oh, I don’t need this” it actually creates a negative perception in their mind. Apple isn’t in the “surprise and delight” business as much as they used to be – instead, they’re focused on locking their users into their ecosystem, and honestly the apps they’re using to do that are not very good.

For me, it's Messages, Photos, and Safari. Messages and Safari are solid apps. No complaints there. Photos is great too, a true example that Apple can do cloud services. However, I use Dropbox instead of iCloud Drive in most cases because it is more reliable and has better sharing features. Google Maps instead of Apple Maps for the same reason. Overcast over the Podcasts app, mostly because it is more reliable but also because it's design is top class (and because I truly miss it's smart speed feature when I am using another app). I use Evernote over Notes mostly because Evernote has features that allow me to get stuff into it more easily. I use Fantastical over Calendar for reasons that could fill another blog post. And I use Outlook over Mail beacuse it allows me to attach documents from cloud services, snooze mail, and more.

Apple does have a tendency for making apps that are “just good enough.” This has always been the case with Apple. It's not disappointing that there are often more powerful third party alternatives. This is the nature of software. That being said, the more Apple requires you to use their apps to get features deeply tied into the operating system (for example, saying “Siri, take me home” and getting instant directions through, and only through, Apple Maps), the more disappointed I become. These deep connections to the operating system are often massively time saving which is especially noticeable on mobile devices.

Additionally, I’ve begun to hedge my bets and avoid buying into Apple’s ecosystem too much when I can avoid it. This means that instead of buying lots of Airplay-compatible speakers, I’ll be buying a Sonos system instead. Rather than looking at something that is HomeKit based, I might invest in a Nest instead. And obviously, I trust Apple with their cloud services as little as possible – instead, I use Google’s cloud, Dropbox and others with my data these days. Instead of doubling down on Apple’s streaming solutions in the household, I’m buying a NAS that can work with any HTPC or video streaming solution. I’m not looking to get out of the Apple ecosystem per se, but I am making sure that if things continue to trend in a downward fashion I have a fairly easy exodus ahead of me.

Once you start getting used to bugs, it is really easy to stop trying the new features that make new technology so compelling.

Some of Apple's recent software issues that have plagued me are: AirDrop and AirPlay never working reliably (so frustrating for dining room music listening that I recently bought a Sonos and it works great!), frequent iOS animation lagging and crashes, searching in Apple Maps, everything about Apple Music, iCloud Drive syncing reliability, Mail app syncing, and more…

The bottom line is: Apple can't be criticized for making software that some people don't want to use. They are the least guilty of this. Samsung phones come with tons of useless software installed on them. Windows PCs come with countless apps that most users don't even know the meaning of. This has always been part of owning a computer. That being said, Apple is loosing my trust with unreliable software, particularly when it comes to maps and music. Truthfully, I don't think they need to make the best software in the world. I just wish I could set some defaults on my iOS devices. Simple things like web browsers, maps, and mail so that I could take advantage of the third party options like I can on a Mac. This kind of ecosystem lock-in appears to be the way of mobile operating systems, but if Apple is going to hold my feet the the fire with their default apps, they have a lot of work to do to keep me happy.