For those who know me, and as other articles on my blog will reveal, I’m not a fan of Apple products. However, since we needed an iPhone 6 for the business for development and testing, I chose to stay up until midnight Friday morning to pre-order the phone, against my better judgement. It turned out to be both a frustrating and entertaining experience, all at the same time.
As we approach Apple’s WWDC event for this year, I am reminded of an article I saw on Engadget earlier this year titled, “Apple reportedly considering iTunes store for Android phones“. It was a surprising article given how Apple likes to lock customers into both its hardware and software ecosystem. However, it was one the of the smartest and boldest moves I’ve seen Apple consider in some time. While it’s possible that Apple could announce this at WWDC, it’s highly unlikely.
There has been a massive shift in the balance of power in the technology industry. In a space that was dominated by the likes of Microsoft, Dell and HP, the emergence of mobile as a computing platform has allowed Apple, Google, Samsung and Facebook to challenge the incumbents’ leadership position. While Apple has claimed the top spot for now, Google has been gaining ground, and there are some key reasons why I feel Google wins in the marketplace and will soon challenge Apple for the title of most valuable tech company.
In prior days, I would have believed that iPhone 6 rumors and images were true leaks. In other words, someone involved in iPhone 6 design, prototyping or production builds provided unauthorized information to a blog. After reading the Ryan Holiday book, Trust Me I’m Lying, I don’t buy that these are leaks. I believe that Apple coordinates the release of such information.
Why would a company that is supposedly so secretive and protective of their new products do such a thing? I believe there are two valuable reasons that Apple would leak information to the media.
It will come as no shock to my family and those who know me that I’m not a fan of Apple. It’s not that I don’t like their products. They’re great. Apple products are the best designed products on the market. I dislike them because of their business practices.
I don’t like that Apple insists on owning the end-to-end experience. While they’ve created the best hardware, their software can leave a lot to be desired. Sure they make some great applications. But for every one good one, there’s an Apple Maps. And don’t even get me started on iTunes.They think they can create the best software to go with the hardware, and in the process, they lock out potentially great alternatives. It handicaps how good the Apple experience could be.
I don’t like that they try to lock you in, for life. Once you pick up an Apple product, you get sucked into their environment. You can resist, but the alternatives are always way more painful than what Apple provides. In the end, it makes it difficult to ever switch away from Apple’s products, locking you in. If Apple should fall behind or muff a new product design, you are stuck with their poor choices.
I don’t like that they treat me like a child. Why does Apple always feel the need to protect me from myself? They ruthlessly
censor curate the app store to keep out what they feel are unwanted apps. For years they prevented multi-tasking for fear I would run too many apps at once and kill battery life. They make all the hardware choices and limit the ability for me to customize the product. It keeps me from being able to tinker and experiment, much like the rules we give our kids to protect them from hurting themselves.
I don’t like that Apple has an arrogant attitude. Why does Apple insist on using its own connector when every other vendor uses micro-USB, allowing me to mix and match chargers in my house? When the iPhone gets poor reception, why is the answer I’m holding it wrong? Why does Apple insist on using a different SIM card size, the nano SIM, than every other phone? I would expect an industry leader like Apple to have some amount of arrogance, but they’ve taken it to a whole new level.
I don’t like that Apple charges a premium for their devices. Whether it’s a laptop or a phone, Apple charges almost 2x for an equivalent competing product. Case in point, my daughter’s iPhone 5 was twice the cost of my son’s Nexus 4, which is every bit as good as the iPhone if not better. I had a similar experience buying a laptop for my daughter two years ago. The Windows laptop I bought was equivalent to the Apple device in every way except styling and price, which was 50% less. To this day, I’m still amazed at the marketing job that Apple has done and how it is able to continue to charge the “Apple tax” for its products.
For the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Lately, though, I’ve noticed more people are starting to question Apple’s practices. Others are even considering switching away, which does not bode well for Apple’s future.
If Apple wants to grow and eat into Android’s popularity, they will have to open up and change their business practices. Until they do, I’m staying away and sticking with my Android and Windows based devices.
At the urging (and begging) of my two oldest daughters, I gave in and purchased an iPhone 5 and iPod Touch 5 as Christmas gifts. Before I go off on a rant, I’d like to state for the record that Apple makes a sweet piece of kit. Both devices look absolutely gorgeous.
After getting the devices setup, which is a painless process, I set out to sync up their devices with our home music library. The shine wore off as I waded into iTunes, which is an unbelievably horrid piece of software. It reminded me why I had avoided Apple products for the longest time despite their beauty. I didn’t want to get trapped into their software black hole.
For all the praise people heap upon Apple, I can’t believe they tolerate the abomination that is iTunes. If people knew what existed outside of the Apple reality distortion field, there would surely be a revolt. Fortunately, since Apple keeps their users quarantined and chained to their software, they have no idea how bad they have it. A few of the things that I noticed:
- It is painfully slow. I don’t have a huge music library (~3,000 songs), but it took 3-4 hours for iTunes to process the library. I found this very strange since it was only indexing songs, it wasn’t copying them to local storage or anything. Most other Windows-based software can index my library in a matter of minutes, as half hour at most.
- Syncing options are limited. How can you not allow syncing on a song by song basis? Really?
- iTunes does not auto-discover new music. Once setup, if you add new music to your library, you need to reload the library. While it doesn’t take as long as the initial load, it still takes a long time to page through the library.
I could continue to go on, but I think you get the point. I’d like to believe that the issues are the result of me doing something wrong, but Google searches lead me to the conclusion that these are limitations that have not been addressed in the ten years that the iPod has been around.
The iTunes experience is so bad that my daughters aren’t even using their new Apple devices for music, they’ve sticking with their Zune HD devices. People may ridicule Microsoft’s Zune devices, but the Zune HD was, and still is, a great music player.
Anyway, here are a couple of suggestions for improving the iTunes experience. I doubt anyone at Apple will listen, but if they did, I just might consider getting one for myself:
- Let me use the device as USB storage. I’d like to be able to plug the device into a computer and drag-and-drop directly to the device without having to go through a single piece of software.
- Allow other programs/apps to sync music. Apple’s software shouldn’t be the only choice. Developers should be allowed to create better options for syncing music libraries.
- Provide a music subscription option. Surely Apple can convince the record labels to permit music subscriptions. Those familiar with Zune Pass know what I’m talking about – it rocks, literally!
- Give better syncing options. At a minimum, the ability to sync on a per song basis.
If anyone has any tips on how to get more from iTunes, I’m all ears. Something tells me the Zune HDs won’t last forever, and that sooner or later I’ll be forced into using iTunes, whether I like it or not.