I wasn’t always an Apple fan. My Atari 800 was bought by my parents because the Apple II was too expensive. It felt like a computer for the elites. I got over that when my grandfather bought a Mac 128k for me in early 1984 and it was everything Byte magazine said it was, and more.
Since then, it’s been a fun ride. The original Mac was easy to figure out. The screens were all 72 dots per inch, which meant that even without a screen, I could shut down a Mac via the Special menu with a mouse. The Mac grew and languished at the same time, and then things changed.
When Apple bought NeXT, things changed for the better. Gone were most system crashes due to shared memory, or system lockups due to cooperative multitasking. The UI was rough, but overall stability and growth potential more than made up for it.
Apple did start another trend with OS X, one towards discounting consistency and user friendliness. It was subtle. For example, the application name moved to the right of the Apple logo. This small change meant that familiar menus like File and Edit were no longer accessible via mouse muscle memory. Their location shifts with the width of the application name.
Apple shipped iTunes and the UX experience continued its downfall. Release after release added, and changed, functionality. Dialog boxes became less and less useful. One example was “Some items could not be synced.” This is not very useful to the customer, especially a non-technical customer.
The trend continued over the years. When Time Machine corrupts a remote backup, Apple tells the customer that the backup needs to start over to improve reliability. This is technically true, but it doesn’t help the customer by telling them that a) their entire backup was corrupted and lost and b) What to do to prevent this from happening again.
The trend continued into iOS, where a dialog that “some applications could not be restored” appeared. Hardware like the Mac Pro languished for years. Apple stopped shipping new wireless routers, which I’d claim helped them seal the Apple ecosystem, but continued to sell the older hardware. Apple stopped selling monitors.
Then it all came to a head starting in late 2016. Apple shipped the new MacBook Pro. Between the expense, the keyboard, the touch bar, and the lack of upgradability, Mac fans like me had had enough. Yes, I bought a 2017 MacBook Pro, but it wasn’t a normal purchase. I bought it to replace a damaged machine. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t blogging about how great it is. I kind of loathed it.
I write this story on that MacBook Pro, and it’s fine, but not $3600 fine. I don’t need the Touch Bar, but to get the best graphics, Apple forced me into it. So many people were upset and venting that Apple brought a number of media personalities in for a talk about the upcoming iMac Pro and a new Mac Pro.
In the meantime, they announced, and still have not shipped, the HomePod, which many are seeing as an overpriced Echo competitor. Apple wants you to think of it as an awesome speaker with Siri built in, but that’s not the message customers are getting.
The problem is, along with these other decisions Apple has made to become less user friendly, they haven’t even made Siri awesome. Siri works, and is very cool technology, but it fails just as often. Fifty percent isn’t that great. Just the other day Siri completely garbled a message to my wifi. Trying to add items to lists in apps other than Apple’s is very spotty. Things sometimes work, sometimes fail miserably.
Apple also had a very bad run software wise. I trust Apple with all of my data, a lot of important data, and they let me down with password bugs, root access bugs, HomeKit access bugs, and other general software concerns.
However, the issue that came back to light and inspired this story is how Apple transitioned to iOS 11 and dropping 32 bit apps. During the course of iOS 10 usage, Apple had some vague dialogs about apps that may no longer work when iOS 11 ships and also told people when they tried to use those apps.
However, what Apple totally failed at was telling customers, at the time of upgrade, exactly which apps would no longer work. I spoke with relatives, who are not technical at all, who were upset that they no longer had access to some apps, and more importantly, some data. Apple has revoked access to people’s data, and to me, this is peak Apple 2017.
I am sure Apple’s analytics show that not many people were using 32 bit apps, and I agree with the need to move past them, but I think Apple should have spent more time to educate people and to treat their data better.
A customer may have an app that will never be updated. The developer may have died. Who knows the reason, but now the customer is stuck. Unlike a computer, a customer can’t get to their iOS data and try to convert it with another app. The data is invisibly locked away, for good security-related reasons, but the customer doesn’t care.
All they know is that Apple took their data away.
The last stroke of 2017 was the battery issue with iPhones. As a final example of Apple trying to present customers with zero information, Apple was burned by public perception of what Apple was doing to prolong the life of their iPhones. I won’t debate the issue with the batteries themselves, but because Apple decided that customers don’t need to know which files could not be synced, that they don’t need to know which Apps could not be restored, that they don’t need options when it comes to building expensive hardware, that customers want a black box that just works, Apple hurt their reputation and wrote some future Samsung television ads for them.
I thought about making a list of things I want to see Apple do in 2018, but I am sure their plans are already written in stone. I just hope that Apple has woken up. There is a middle ground between too much information and zero information, too many choices and zero choices.
I want Apple to make me feel great about Apple again.