Rotten Apple: a look at Apple's recent shortcomings

Image result for iphone x
Apple is great, don't get me wrong here. But it's easy to see that their priorities have been a little out of whack. Considering what made them stand out and be great in the first place. Apple needs to go back to their roots, and also look to the future. It's a careful balance that needs to be maintained, in my opinion.

Without a doubt, iPhones are the driving force behind Apple's profits. Apple has sold over 52 million iPhones within the first 3 months of 2018 alone. That's no small figure, and it makes sense why this would be Apple's main priority in today's mobile-centric market, but they're leaving other products and services behind.

Complicating the product lineup:

Think about it. You're an average everyday consumer who just wants a new iPhone. Often times people want the nicest or cheapest iPhone. Having 4 models just makes that confusing. Apple is rumored to be releasing a standard iPhone X sized device, a 6.1" LCD iPhone, iPhone SE 2, and a 6.5" "iPhone X Plus." There could be even more models in the lineup if they retain this year's iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

Average customers don't care about all the proverbial bells and whistles. They just want something that has a nice screen, a nice camera, and a device that is fast. I can see where Apple is coming from trying to target as many price points as possible in the market but this is the opposite of what Steve Jobs did.

Steve streamlined Apple's product lineup, and focused on making a few, well-functioning, great products, not several good or okay ones. Having several models is what hurt Apple in the 90s before Steve came back and I'm afraid convoluting the product stack may hurt them again in the future. They need to focus on creating a great experience rather than confusing potential buyers by offering several models of similarly performing products.

Software stability

iOS 11 arrived in June 2017 at Apple's annual WorldWide Developers Conference. It, of course, featured UI updates such as a redesigned control center, a transition back to actual signal bars of yesteryear, and the bold headers prominently featured in many apps such as Settings and Notes. iOS 11 also featured a completely new app store design. It all sounds good, right? Well, let's just say it needed some more time to marinate. It shipped with many bugs that should've been worked out in the beta testing process and was not great performance-wise until subsequent releases, namely iOS 11.3. 

macOS was also not immune to bugs, given the transition to running the window server on Apple's own graphics API, known as Metal, and many other major underlying changes. The biggest one of all would have to be the move from an HFS+ filesystem to Apple's new APFS, which stands for, you guessed it, APple FileSystem. These massive changes all at once got macOS High Sierra off to a rough start.

Now, rumor has it that Apple is going to double-down on stability in iOS 12 and if I had to guess, macOS 10.14 as well. 

The bottom line is Apple is acknowledging there are problems but they should still have given iOS 11 more time to mature instead of rushing it out.  

Siri is a not-so-smart assistant

Siri was essentially the first personal assistant to arrive on our smartphones, you'd think then that Apple would have a lead in that area, but they have nothing even close to it these days. Siri is lagging behind the competition with Google's Assistant largely in the lead. Now, part of this is probably because Apple is careful with user data and does not exploit it for personal gain, something which I will give them over their Mountain View rival.

Siri's lack of intelligence was largely the main negative of the recently released HomePod as well. Having great sound quality but lacking where it matters, in the smarts department.

However, there is good news on the horizon. Apple recently handed control of Siri over to Craig Federighi, the head of essentially all major OS development, save for tvOS and watchOS. In addition to that, the fruit company recently hired Google's chief of AI. This gives me good reason to believe that Siri will be getting "buffed" in the near future. Hopefully, we can see some of these changes in iOS 12.

Touch ID should stay on newer iPhones

Last year, Apple removed Touch ID from the iPhone X and replaced it with their FaceID facial recognition sensor array. While FaceID is cool and all, it is beneficial to have multiple authentication methods. Face ID is not as fast as Touch ID in all cases, and Touch ID also has weaknesses, like not being able to work with gloves or wet hands. Having both options present on high-end iPhone models would benefit the user by allowing them to use the option that best suits them at the time. Even if it means putting the sensor on the back of the phone, I think that it should be added to benefit the user.

Overall MacBook mismanagement, Touch Bar lacks a 'killer app'

My biggest gripe isn't with iOS or even with Siri. It's the fact that the Mac is treated as a second-class citizen in Apple's product family. For years, the only major usability enhancements to macOS have come down from iOS. Launchpad? An iOS-like launcher. Siri? Straight from the iPhone. User interface decisions? OS X Yosemite ripped it's UI changes straight from the iOS 7 revamp the year prior. Continuity? Used to interact with your iOS devices seamlessly.

Apple's main focus now is the iPhone, not the Mac, not the product line that brought them out of obscurity, no. That much is clear.

Not to mention, Apple's 2016 redesign of the MacBook Pro line is not very pro at all. It has weak internal Polaris dedicated graphics chips, an utter lack of any useful I/O aside from USB-C which nobody really relies on yet. How is the machine for professionals when professionals can't even use the ports and devices they need without adapters? There's not even a damn SD card slot. Can someone also explain to me why the trackpad is the size of a football field? These design decisions don't make any sense and make the MacBook stand out as an overpriced machine where you can get better performing Windows machines for the same money. The software shouldn't be the only selling point, it should work in conjunction with the hardware to create a world-class computing experience. But the MacBook Pro is not that at all. Don't get me wrong. I have a 2016 model and it's great, but it's not as good as it could be, especially for the premium you pay for the Apple "experience. Apple could make the MacBook Pro actually a powerhouse instead of focusing on thinness and form over function.

Another incredibly useless addition is the introduction of the Touch Bar. What exactly is the point of it? Function keys can do the exact same functionality and a bit faster at that as you don't need to click and swipe through various shortcuts. It looks cool, sure. However, it's not even close to a selling point. There is no utility for it unless you spend the time to customize it with BetterTouchTool, but that's not the point. It doesn't do anything on its own that makes me go "Oh, I've gotta have this laptop because of this." The addition that I actually do like is Touch ID, and I will give them credit for that, but overall I think they can do a much better job with their computers. I won't even get into the Mac Pro desktop issues.


Finally, I believe that Apple is spending too much attention on the iPhone, and not enough attention on the Mac or Siri. Maybe some of this software nonsense will turn around with the upcoming WWDC 2018 keynote on June 4th and with the upcoming iPhone models. Apple needs to simplify its mobile offerings and double-down on the Mac and its AI endeavors. They need to do it soon or they risk losing important segments to competitors. Their strategy is helping monetarily but it's not making the life of the consumer any better, which is the opposite of what they used to do. Apple needs to take a minute and reflect on what made them successful, they need to be customer-oriented rather than product-oriented.