State of Apple

Marco Arment:

I suspect the biggest force keeping stories [of people switching from OS X to other platforms] from being more common is that Windows is still worse overall and desktop Linux is still too much of a pain in the ass for most people. But it should be troubling if a lot of people are staying on your OS because everything else is worse, not necessarily because they love it.

My main computer is still a Mac, but not thanks to anything Apple has done.1 It’s things like Coda, Pixelmator, Sketch, BBEdit, Kaleidoscope, OmniGraffle, or Interarchy that keep me on the Mac — despite the issues I have with Apple’s OS. By now, I’ve stopped using any of Apple’s own applications.

Ubuntu itself is more than good enough to replace my Mac — but despite looking, I haven’t found good alternatives to stuff like Coda, Pixelmator, or Sketch.

The same isn’t true for tablets and phones. There are no compelling apps that kept me on iOS, and as a result, I’m not using any iOS devices anymore. My Android phone does things my iPhones never could, and my Surface 3 is the versatile, powerful tablet that the iPad should have been.

Marco notes:

I fear that Apple’s leadership doesn’t realize quite how badly and deeply their software flaws have damaged their reputation, because if they realized it, they’d make serious changes that don’t appear to be happening.

I get the same impression: Apple doesn’t see what’s happening.

It seems to me that the media covering Apple is partly to blame for this. There seem to be two main factions covering Apple: people who dislike Apple, and whose opinions can thus be disregarded. And people who like Apple, but would rather talk about how wrong the first faction is, and how badly Samsung and Google are doing, than discuss the problems Apple’s own products have.2

As a result, the people covering Apple are either not credible, or seem to think that it’s their job to defend Apple.3 And while defending a «beleaguered» Apple might have been necessary in the 90s, a lot has changed since then. What Apple needs now is not a partisan media that will rationalize whatever issues Apple has; what Apple needs now is honest feedback about what’s going wrong.

Why are there no compelling apps that kept me on iOS? Because of the way Apple’s iOS app ecosystem works. And why has that not improved? Because any criticism Apple receives for it is either tainted by partisanship, or so timid that it is pointless.

You’re really not helping Apple if you’re just defending whatever they’re currently doing.


Ben Thompson links to this article by Guy English:

I believe that many Apple observers have been too invested in picking off the low hanging fruit of obviously out-of-touch commentators, columnists, and analysts. Apple is winning. It’s fun to pick on the idiots, and we do tune in for the affirmation that engenders, but that’s not insight. It’s a tag team wedgie patrol.

Guy English, again:

Marco is right but perhaps his framing is too narrow. This simply isn’t an issue that developers grouse about and move on from. This is something that, at least in my experience, has been affecting customers who have otherwise loved their Apple devices.

Kirk McElhearn writes:

I was wondering if it was just me getting cynical, but more and more seasoned Apple users – I’ve owned Macs since 1991 – have been echoing these problems.

Dr. Drang:

I’ll bet you know several people who bought a Mac, an iPad, or an iPhone because they saw you using one and noticed how easily you did things that were difficult for them. They may have asked for a demonstration of Fantastical; they may have asked whether they could still do X, Y, or Z on a Mac; they may have asked for a recommendation on which iPad to buy; but however it happened, you were largely responsible for Apple sales beyond your own collection of devices. That’s leverage.

(…) Apple’s stuff really was easier to use, both initially and as your expertise increased. All you had to do was use it, and those around you would see it.

  1. Well, technically, the apps that keep me on the Mac use Apple’s APIs, so there’s that. back

  2. But if I’m using an iPhone, how much money Samsung makes doesn’t really affect my experience at all — and actually, neither does how much money Apple makes, or how many bugs Android has. What affects my experience is how good the iPhone is. And if nobody talks about the iPhone’s problems, it’s not going to get any better. back

  3. Yes, there are exceptions. back

If you require a short url to link to this article, please use

designed for use cover

But wait, there's more!

Want to read more like this? Buy my book's second edition! Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web is now available DRM-free directly from The Pragmatic Programmers. Or you can get it on Amazon, where it's also available in Chinese and Japanese.