17 Jun 2016

The Mac’s Declining Software Quality

I just bought a top-of-the-line iMac with 5K display for 1.8 lac. It’s the best computer I’ve used, but it has some concerning reliability problems.

In the first fortnight, the machine hung, needing to be power-cycled.

It often doesn’t wake up from sleep when I press a key on the keyboard, or move the mouse, or click. I try several times, and wonder whether it hung again, at which point it comes back to life.

The iMac also loses its internet connection every few hours. I have to turn off Wifi, wait ten seconds, and then turn it on again [1]. This happens only on the Mac — my iPad and Android phones remain connected 24x7. I haven’t had to turn off Wifi on my Nexus 5x since I got it six months ago, and it works perfectly. That’s how it is supposed to work [2] in the first place, and it’s sad to see Apple fail to deliver something reliable. In 2016, you shouldn’t even be thinking about whether the Wifi works.

Apple has always positioned itself as a high-end brand — you pay more, but you get a better product.

The iPhone has stopped being an unambiguously better product a few years ago, when Android [3] reached parity with the iPhone. Better in some ways, worse in some. Better for some people, worse for some. You can’t unambiguously say that the iPhone is better. I will no longer buy an iPhone, because it’s similar to Android but twice as costly, for no sensible reason.

I wonder if the iMac has reached that point, too. I haven’t used a Windows laptop since 2009, so I don’t know if the Mac is at parity, or still better despite its flaws. Maybe I’ll find out the next time I buy a laptop. Unless I need to do iOS programming, I’ll consider a Windows laptop [4].

[1] If I immediately turn it on again, without waiting ten seconds, it doesn’t work, or fails again in ten minutes or so.

[2] The iMac is a meter away from the Wifi router, so a poor signal can’t be the problem.

[3] Disclosure: I work for Google, but not on Android.

[4] It’s also good to not get stuck with any particular platform for too long. Variety is the spice of life. Different platforms have different tradeoffs, and different cultures. Stay too long in one world, and you may become parochial, admiring what’s good about your platform but missing the other side of the coin. 

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