You read the title correctly; this is the post where we gripe about everything we DON’T love about Apple.
Are you still there? Did you pass out? Pick yourself up and keep reading. We want your input.
Apple does so many things right: build quality, customer service, software integration, user interface design, minimalism and simplicity, etc. Recently, you’ve suffered through us extolling the virtues of the New iPad, AppleTV, iCloud, AppleCare, Siri, Find My iPhone, and much more. At this point there is very little that would ever sway us away from using Apple products. That’s not to say there aren’t a few things that bug us about Apple’s current offerings. Several glaring issues exist; ones we hope Apple is feverishly working to correct.
The iPhone is So Boring Now
It was inevitable. With so many new android devices hitting stores everyday (literally), all with custom skins and user interfaces, and new offerings from Windows (admittedly cool looking, though not as simple to use), our insatiable desire for something that looks new and different was bound to usher in a few doubts about the “dated” look of the iPhone interface. Let’s be clear: the iPhone itself is a beautiful device. Even keeping the same form factor from the 4 to the 4S, the iPhone remains an industrial engineering marvel. Easily one of the best looking phones ever made. But then that home screen: so very functional and simple. And, yet, so boring.
We get it: as prevalent as iPhones are, there are millions being sold to Apple newbies every year; people who are unfamiliar with modern technology and need the simplest means in which to communicate with their device. This means Apps stay very visible on the home screens, nothing too complicated about getting to your contacts or messages, no confusing info popping up in random places. Everything is contained within easily identifiable Apps.
And that’s great. It really does mean anyone can pick up an iPhone and start using it immediately. We’re not suggesting they change that. But just as Apple has added some very powerful features to the iPhone over the last 5 years without changing the simplicity, it’s time for them to update the look of the user interface and add some convenient features so as to keep the experience fresh.
Let’s start with the look. The iPhone interface looks a little like a toy at this point. We understand the need for some skuemorphic details (making certain things look like real world items – hello lined paper in the Notes app, rolodex style selectors in certain information fields, etc) but it’s almost to the point of goofy. Consistency is also an issue. In certain places, Apple employs very little real world detail. Contacts, for example, is very mundane. Black text on a white list with funny blue header bars interspersed. How easy would it be to make this into a futuristic digital rolodex? Flip through your contacts, tap one and their card pulls up.
This same black text on white background is used in the Music app as well. Yes there is coverflow to browse your music, but it’s not very functional (beautiful, not functional). It’s almost too simple currently; reminding us what it felt like to look at a Blackberry or WindowsMobile interface after the original iPhone came out. It’s dated and ugly. Recent additions to the operating system have shown promise. Classy looking black and gray linen. Very streamlined and straight forward. IF they were to translate the new look of Siri and Notifications throughout the OS, it would look much more up to date and fresh.
Then there’s the issue of Settings. We have our phones with us all the time in every place we go. Some places require us to have different settings selected. In an airport, at work, in the car, at a concert. Apple makes it somewhat confusing and not very intuitive to toggle these settings. Few people would complain if a swipe to the right from the home screen brought up some of the most useful toggles: airplane mode, bluetooth on/off, wifi on/off, screen brightness, sounds/vibrations, wi-fi sync, etc. That space is currently used ONLY by a spotlight search bar. Take it a step further and add custom profiles that you could switch to automatically. Or even make them location based: when I show up at work my phone automatically switches profiles. Or just put settings in the Notification tray like this:
It’s also extremely frustrating to have to open and close Apps continually in order to do very simple tasks. Facebook and Twitter status updates are the most obvious. Thankfully, Apple has addressed this in the upcoming release of iOS 6 by putting a status update in the notification center. But there has to be a way to access the most basic App functionality without fully opening the app. We’re thinking about news apps, for instance. To get the latest headlines you have to open the app completely and wait for it to load. What if you could simply swipe down on the app icon to expand it? Not fully opening the app, but expanding it slightly to show headlines or breaking news. Tapping on one of those stories would then open the App completely. The Clock App could work similarly: swipe down on the icon to pull up a list of alarms and enable them without opening the App completely. The possibilities are limitless depending on the App. Think about how this could be implemented with Reminders, Twitter (to see a brief timeline view), Music App (to see Now Playing and skipping a track) ESPN ScoreCenter (to see a few scores), etc. Joost van der Ree has a great concept for many of these things in the video below.
And for the love of everything holy, can we put unlimited apps in folders? We have at least 3 Games folders on the iPhone. It’s annoying! Sure you could get so many Apps in one folder that it would be difficult to find them again. We think it would be simple, however, to include a Top Shelf feature in each folder where your 4-6 most used apps reside.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the lack of a proper File System. Files exist on your iPhone. Unfortunately, you have no way to access them except through the App that created or stores them. This means you can’t open a Pages file in another word processing App. You can’t select a chart you made in Numbers and place it in a Keynote. You can’t even access a document from email to forward to someone. You have to go into the App that created it and email it from there. This is just ridiculous. Apple has given developers ways to access the photo library and music library within their apps. Why not add another section for Files? A simple way to see all your documents by file or App type and utilize them in other apps if the developer makes it compatible.
And just for giggles, we want to suggest a new app for Apple. A follow App. Currently your contacts can have their Facebook or twitter handles stored on their contact card. This makes it easier to link your contacts with Facebook and twitter. But you still have to use the Apps to see your friend’s posts. Why not a Follow App? One app that aggregates the Facebook, twitter, PhotoStream, Find My Friends feeds, etc., of the contacts you select. Not all your contacts; only the ones you select. Sure, there are some 3rd party solutions for this, but nothing as easy and intuitive as if it were baked into the operating system.
iLife Is Ruining My Life
For those of you stuck in the PC world, here’s a newsflash: Apple actually makes some really good software. For years pros have been utilizing Final Cut Studio and Aperture to edit video and photos. Likewise, general consumers and pros alike use the iWork suite of programs (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) to create professional looking documents (that, not incidentally, can import and export in MS Word, PowerPoint, or Excel formats).
The Apple software most people are acquainted with, however, is iTunes. And, unfortunately, It is a bloated, slow, and confusing app for most people. And that’s on a Mac. It’s even worse for Windows. Likewise, iPhoto and iMovie consistently hog the CPU when open. The two latter apps have received makeovers recently to make them more intuitive and visually appealing, but they will still bog down your computer if you don’t have the latest and greatest machine.
It’s interesting to note that both iPhoto and iMovie for iPad and iPhone are great, light-weight, useful apps. Apple redesigned each to work better with the limited hardware of the mobile iDevices but has yet to make them lighter and more efficient on the desktop.
iTunes is another story all together. What began as a simple music player and app to sync your iPod has gorged itself over the last 10 years with movies, podcasts, tv shows, books, iOS apps, pictures, and the stores to purchase all of them. There has to be a better solution.
Hopefully that solution is already here. On your iOS device, all of the stores are broken up by app. Sure, you can still download music, tv, movies, and podcasts through the iTunes App. But the easiest way to access new content is through the corresponding app itself. The Music, iBooks, Movies, Newstand, Podcast, and Apps…uh…Apps all have direct links to their particular store in iTunes. This is great on an iPad or iPhone where you can’t really multitask and have limited screen space. But would it be a successful implementation on a desktop or laptop?
For playback, absolutely. A dedicated Movies, Music, Podcasts, Books, and Newstand App would be great; linked directly with their part of the iTunes store so you can discover new content and download it. The problem is needing an App to manage your iDevices.
I think it’s time for Apple to bake device management right into the operating system (sorry Windows people, you’re stuck with a clunky iTunes App). Apple could simply implement a device list. Click on one and you can manage it from there. No App required. The OS pulls all your content from the various apps to sync them with your device.
Or maybe there’s a better solution. We can only hope. (leave us your ideas in the comments)
“Goo-Lahd that a lot of money!”
For many years the biggest knock on Apple was the price. Apple is an was considered a high end consumer electronics company. Fans of other manufacturers cite this regularly when making their arguments that Apple is only for rich, mindless, fanboys. Most fail to point out that Apple made a huge shift in their pricing with the advent of the iPhone and iPad. $499 for the entry level iPad was and still is a completely justifiable price for the quality of device you receive. Now, Apple has begun extending these lower end prices to their portable computers as well. The Macbook Air is an engineering marvel. Thin, lightweight, powerful, and, best of all, affordable, with the lowest end 11” air coming in at $999. Sure there are WAY cheaper laptops out there but they are heavier, clumsier, built poorly, and come with little to no customer care.
But Apple finds ways to gouge their customers just like anyone else. For the last 5 years, the biggest point of markup has been on flash storage. That’s the number of Gigabytes of storage you have on your iPhone, iPod, iPhone, and now your Macbook Air or Pro. Let’s be clear, flash storage is expensive. However, in a move to distinguish their products from one another (and to drive their margins up) Apple disproportionately marks up their larger storage options. 16GB iPad with WiFi is $499. 32GB is $599, and 64GB is $699. We understand why they do it. We just don’t like it. With every bump in the amount of storage you order, Apple is getting a higher percentage of the profit. Same thing is happening now with their Air and Pro series of laptops. Bumping your flash memory from 256GB to 512GB will cost you an extra $500. These are expensive components, but not THAT much more expensive. It’s time to play fair with these prices or bite the bullet, have fewer options, and take an average of the margin costs.
We have several other complaints related to iCloud. However, many of those items are being addressed in Mountain Lion and iOS 6 which are being released in July and October (most likely), respectively. We’ll have a full Mountain Lion preview and review in the coming weeks.
We welcome comments from all people. But particularly, if you’re an Apple user, what are your chief complaints. You’ll notice we didn’t say anything about the “walled garden” of Apple or the inability to “customize” their iDevices. These things don’t bother us. In fact, we appreciate that about Apple products. So don’t bring it up. 🙂