My waning enthusiasm for the iPhone/iOS product line
I wanted to share my personal experience with the Apple iPhone and iOS over the years. I have no particular point to this post other than to share my thoughts as an iPhone customer over the past nine years or so.
My first iPhone was the iPhone 3s. I regularly upgraded every other year, hitting all the “S” releases. With the iPhone 7, I bought into the upgrade program and have owned the iPhone X and as of yesterday, the iPhone XS.
Since the iPhone 6s, my enthusiasm for the iPhone/iOS product line has diminished. This is especially true with the XS model that I picked up yesterday. It is exactly the same phone as the iPhone X. Yes, it has a better camera and processor specs under the hood, but from an everyday usage standpoint there is no perceptible difference between the iPhone X and XS. This is disappointing. For the first time in 9 years, I don’t feel like I have a new and improved phone.
In addition, I feel like the software suffers very badly from feature creep. I used to enjoy all the new little features that came out and loved to play with them. Now it feels more like a chore to manage/administer all the different settings and features that provide only very minor, incremental improvements. Some of the “improvements” only introduce new frustrations. For example, I wanted to transfer an image from my phone to my Mac with Airdrop as a jpg but it kept sending it to me in some strange new format I had to research to figure out how to workaround. The added complexity and integration with other devices make the platform feel unreliable. I can’t be sure why handoff used to work and now doesn’t. I can’t be sure my watch will stop unlocking my Mac for some unknown reason. I don’t know why my calls aren’t also fed through to my Mac anymore. I don’t know why the Homepod responds when I say “Hey Siri” into my watch. I don’t know whey Siri doesn’t respond at all many times. I don’t know why Siri has actually gotten worse and more unreliable than ever. I don’t know why some passwords on my keychain on my iPhone and not my iPad. The cloud sharing/file management feature between iPhone/Mac and the cloud is confusing as hell. I don’t know why some of my streamed photos aren’t showing up in the Photos app. And I’ve pretty much given up on ApplePay because the thrill of using is isn’t worth the effort of having to re-enter my credit cards every few months after I have to unpair and repair my watch because of some technical glitch.
More importantly, if iOS is frustrating to a tech enthusiast like me, far more basic features are surely confusing the hell out of Aunt Louise and Uncle Bill. And it not only confuses me, the geniuses at the Apple store aren’t even sure how it all works. When I picked up my new phone yesterday, they weren’t even sure if I would lose my activity data on my watch because I had a months old backup on my phone (it turns out I didn’t lose the data because it was stored on my phone, not the watch). The complexity of these products defies normal, human operation.
Overall, The promise of the software “just working” has been broken and fuels a feeling of frustration and confusion, not liberation and security.
That said, many of the core features and functions of the iPhone are more reliable than ever. I can’t remember the last time the OS actually crashed. It might have been 5 years ago. Sometimes rebooting the phone is necessary to get something working again but this happens maybe only every few months. iCloud backup and not having to sync with iTunes is great. Facial recognition was also a great, convenient enhancement over fingerprint ID because it works flawlessly and as advertised. It captures the magical quality Apple has come to be known for. So I do give Apple credit for many great improvements.
And I’m still a big Apple fan and I’m not considering switching, especially with all the new privacy issues on Android/Google. I trust Apple. But I feel like many of their software decisions are rushed and unpolished and they could do much better in this department. I’m seeing less magic from Apple and more hype. Apple is overpromising and under-delivering in many respects, especially given the significant price hikes. I’m willing to pay a heavy premium but in return I expect a premium experience. If I don’t get the premium experience, I’m going to start feeling ripped off and taken advantage of and I’m going to stop getting a new iPhone every year.
I worry Apple has become too reliant on their slick marketing image to propel sales. Public opinion is fickle and unless they focus more on the underpinnings of their technology, I think they risk serious backlash. I recognize Apple is in a tough spot. Developing great new, home run features year after year is difficult. But they are sitting on a huge stockpile of cash. They can, if they wanted to, spend some of that cash down and develop the most seamless, reliable ecosystem ever seen. But it feels like they are being too cautious. It feels like they are reluctant to spend what it takes to hire the absolute best engineering minds to ensure their products are as flawless and as easy-to-use as possible.
But, hey, the people at Apple are much smarter than me. They are full of marketing and product development gurus. But I have the feelings I have, whether they be right or wrong. And in this day and age, more than ever before, perception is everything. Apple must acknowledge this point because I don’t think I’m alone in feeling less enthusiastic about their offerings.