10 Oct 2014

Is Apple Losing the Plot?

(Disclosure: I work for Google, but not on Android, and in any case, these are my personal opinions.)

Apple seems to be losing the plot with iDevices. There isn’t one big red flag, but too many things going wrong. Most of which can individually be explained away, but paints an alarming picture when put together:

First, iOS keeps crashing every once in a while, and has been for the past couple of years. This is disconcerting, because it was previously a rock-solid OS.

Then, iOS 7 was a train wreck, with a hard to use UI — in some places, you couldn’t even tell what was a button (which you can tap) and what was a label (which you can’t). You’d have to tap blindly and see if anything happened. And it was ugly. Shipping something both visually ugly and hard to use is a shame.

There’s also the added complexity. Swiping up from the bottom of the home screen brings up Control Center. Swiping down when you’re in the home screen brings up either search, or notifications, depending on whether the swipe gesture started off the screen or within the screen. This is three vertical swipe gestures just on the home screen. And when you’re in an app, these gestures conflict with in-app scrolling, which means you often end up doing something you don’t want to.

iOS 8 isn’t any better. In fact, it tremendously slowed down my iPad 3, to the point where it can’t keep up with my typing, even with the slow speed of typing on the touchscreen. Every tap and swipe, every gesture and animation, is painfully slow. When I used my Nexus 7, it seemed lightning fast and buttery smooth. iOS has become like Windows 95 — slow, stuttery and crash-prone.

iOS 8 also requires almost 6GB of free space to update. This doesn’t work when Apple is still selling 16GB iPhone 6 and 6+. And charging $100 for more storage, which actually costs only something like $8. Shameless. Apple likes to claim that they make only amazing devices, and criticise their competitors for shipping crappy devices along with great ones, but they are no better. You can choose an iPhone that sucks, because it has too little storage, and one that doesn’t suck, and if you’re not tech-savvy enough to make the right choice (which excluded 99% of the population), you end up with a bad phone.

Then there’s the pricing. Apple increased their already sky-high pricing, charging ₹72 K for an iPhone 6+ with 64GB storage. Are you kidding me?

You can make excuses for any single one of these mistakes, but when you put all of them together, a disconcerting picture emerges: has the post-Steve Apple lost its skill at devices and software that great, at not making you make choices that really have only one sensible answer (like choosing an iPhone not crippled for space)? At shipping OSs that don’t crash and stutter and freeze all the time?

As a user, I want to have multiple great options for every product I buy, and I’m concerned that Apple is on a path towards shipping shoddy products.

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