I’ve fallen out of love with Apple. Let me explain. We have to go back to my teenage years. My Chemical Romance were at the peak of their popularity, YouTube had just been bought by Google, and the Nintendo Wii was released, catapulting console gaming into the mainstream. At that time Apple were still the underdogs. The iPod was very successful, and Mac sales were steadily increasing, but this was a pre-iPhone world. I was obsessed with this company. I scoured the Apple website for new information, I watched the apple keynotes whenever they were released, and I worshipped at the feet of Steve Jobs. Back then I was still reluctantly using my Dad’s custom-built Windows PC, which sat in the corner of the living room. It ran Windows XP, which worked well, but I had dreams of a fruit-based future.
I bought the 1st generation iPod Nano, the black one with the glass back, which held 1000(!!!) songs in my pocket. This was my first Apple product mainly because it was the only Apple product in their line up that I could afford. I now had a taste of Apple’s slick design and intuitive UI experience. In 2008 I bought a white MacBook and was chuffed. It was the first big-ticket product I had ever bought solely from saving up. I still have the plastic laptop stored away in a box, its now yellowed shell cracked and worn. With my phone, I had a more indirect path to Apple. Due to high prices and the inflictions of student debt, I flirted with android, then windows phone, but ultimately bought the iPhone 5 a few years later. Man, I loved that phone. I upgraded my computer to a mid-2012 MacBook Pro which lasted me 5 years until it finally gave up the ghost this year. My iPhone SE was a purchase out of necessity rather than choice, but it’s a great phone. For a while, I had visions of replacing my MacBook with an iPad Pro accompanied by an Apple Pencil. This didn’t work out the way I thought, although the Apple Pencil is a remarkable stylus and great for taking notes and annotating documents. The iPad 3 I owned before the Pro was my media consumption device of choice for the longest of time.
I joined the Apple bandwagon at the right time. Macs were adding features that Windows were scrambling to integrate, iPods were the dominant music listening device with iTunes becoming the most popular music service, and the iPhone was released sending shockwaves through the mobile industry. I think most people underestimate the enormity of the iPhone. It changed the landscape of phones forever and was truly an innovative product.
So why have I fallen out of love with Apple? The problem is Apple isn’t the same now as it was 5 years ago. The biggest change came when the charismatic and enigmatic Steve Jobs died in 2011. Steve had a storied history with Apple. He founded the company in 1976 in his parent’s garage with Steve Wozniak, and then grew the business until and was ousted in 1985 by the then CEO John Scully, whom Steve had hired a few years before. Subsequently, due to declining sales of Macs and the company on the brink of bankruptcy, Steve was brought back in 1997, and so began the golden era of Apple. Between 1997 and 2011 Apple and Steve Jobs were Indistinguishable. Tim Cook was appointed as CEO by Jobs before his death. Inevitably, the company has changed under Cooks leadership. Steve was problematic in a lot of areas, whereas Cook is a much more compassionate leader. He’s overseen tremendous growth throughout his tenure, with Apple becoming the richest company in the world. Cooks record with activism; like supporting the LGBTQ community and people’s right to privacy, has helped position apple in a more positive light. The successes of Apple in the present owes a large part to the foundation’s Jobs set for the company, but that’s not to discount Cooks effort and his ability to create efficiencies in all parts of the company from manufacturing to software development.
I have fallen out of love with Apple because I believe it has stagnated. An iPhone is an iPhone. They can add features and take away front buttons, but at the end of the day, it has the same core functions as the iPhone before it. Computers are the same. There’s only so much you can do with the hardware and software. Most of Apple’s products are in a mature state, and there are very few big changes they can make to differentiate the generations in their own products. Parts of their Mac line up haven’t been updated in over a year, with the Mac mini has not seen an update in over 4 years. The computers that do get an update, mainly the MacBook Pro line of devices, are updated to prefer form over function. The 2016 MacBook Pro is thinner, resulting in a keyboard where the keys have a shorter travel distance, making it more uncomfortable to type on, (my fingers are starting to hurt while typing this post). The USB C ports force users to buy dongles in order to connect their existing devices. Apple now faces stiffer competition, especially from China. Apple used to be the symbol of quality, but now the rest of the industry has caught up, with manufacturers like Samsung and Google making phones to the same high quality as Apple, and Microsoft making innovative form factors for their surface line of computers. That’s not to say Apple isn’t innovating. The Apple Watch is the most popular smartwatch, and the AirPods are truly remarkable, with easy pairing to your Apple devices — something that has been a problem for most Bluetooth headphones. And AR is becoming an area that Apple is becoming stronger in with the introduction of AR kit, a set of developer tools which aims to make AR easier. (This might come in handy one day, for say, a pair of AR glasses.)
Apple’s biggest challenge is in services. Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, is currently the least capable voice assistant, with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa being far more useful. It’s the same with Music. Spotify, a music streaming platform, slowly stole customers away from iTunes. For the longest of time, Apple buried their head in the sand until they admitted defeat and launched Apple Music, which is now playing catch up. Apple is also reportedly getting into the video streaming business and have ordered multiple series from a variety of content creators. Again, this is an area in which they are behind big players like Amazon and Netflix.
I’m not saying Apple is doomed, and it would be ridiculous to suggest so. It has plenty of money in the bank, it is the richest company in the world after all. Yes, it’s easy to argue that the rate of innovation has slowed throughout the whole of the personal technology industry, but for a company that innovated as much as Apple did in the naughties, it appears that things have slowed down more for them than its contemporaries. Maybe that’s more of a perception problem than an actual fact, but there are choices that Apple has made in recent times that can clearly be seen as missteps.
I lied to you at the start of this post, I haven’t fallen out of love with Apple yet, but I am worried. They make great products that I continue to love and use every day, it’s just, I harken back to the era where they set the bar for innovation and quality. I will continue to use their products, MacOS and iOS are still my preferred operating systems, and as far as Windows 10 and Android have come, I can’t see myself moving to them. The future of Apple is undoubtedly services, hardware sales will continue to be steady, but Apple Music and the upcoming Apple TV streaming service will be the real growth area for Apple. The only problem there is they are going to be going against services giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. In a sector where Apple has traditionally been weakest, it’s the battleground where Apple can innovate the most. Hopefully, there’s a return to form for Apple soon, I for one will be waiting eagerly.