Having watched Apple closely over the past few years and thoroughly enjoyed using many of their products that enable much of what I do every day, there have been a number of increasingly worrying trends which have emerged and been reported on recently which I think bear looking at as a whole:
- Declining hardware quality – the new iPad has an amazing screen but compared to the iPad 2 it gets hot and it’s battery doesn’t last as long. The magnets in the MagSafe 2 connectors are apparently too weak to hold it in place reliably and the glass on new Retina MacBook Pro’s breaks more easily as it’s thinner than the previous design.
- Declining software quality – Apple software is supposed to just work without having to fiddle with configuration setting but chinks have begun to appear, especially in apps like iTunes which is a bloated mess and Messages which requires a PhD to understand how it routes between devices. iCloud has proved itself to be far better than MobileMe but still doesn’t sync seamlessly and the way it handles files is pretty confusing.
- Skeuomorphic design – nearly all Apples core apps (iTunes, Calendar, Contacts, Podcasts…) have been designed to look like digital representations of their real-world counterparts with faux leather, torn pages and so forth. This kitsch ornamentation is universally hated in design circles and one can only imagine what Jony Ive makes of it all considering the contrast to his clean and modernist aesthetic.
- Embarrassing advertising – Apple’s latest ads have been a sharp departure from their usual iconic campaigns and not in a good way. Commercials starring celebrities and condescending employees feel cheap and a million miles away from the usual laser-focused product demonstrations we’re used to. How these ever got approved I can’t imagine.
- Frivolous lawsuits – Samsung, Google and others were clearly influenced by the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 which totally changed the smartphone landscape as we know it today. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Apple should stop worrying about this and focus their energies on innovating ahead of the curve. Fighting these battles in court just looks petty and desperate.
Whether this is just a bump on the road or something which is endemic to Apple’s massive growth and success I don’t know but if all indications are to be believed Apple has a lot of new products to launch before the end of the year and I only hope they don’t rush them in order to just one-up Google or Microsoft.