Something’s amiss with Apple

I’m using and have owned various Apple products through the years. I’m typing this blog post on an iPad Pro that is tethered to my iPhone 6S Plus while regularly checking my Apple Watch to ensure that I don’t miss my next appointment. When I get home, I watch Netflix on my TV via an Apple TV and then check my emails on my iMac before I go to bed.

Therefore, it is with great excitement in September when I got to know that Apple will be making a keynote announcement of the new iPhone and other products ahead of the holiday season. The rumor mill was abuzz with, on hindsight, very accurate hardware descriptions of the products that were going to be announced. Mock-ups of the new iPhone hardware were all over the internet. However, I stayed up to watch the keynote live because as Apple has always claimed, they are selling a unique experience where hardware and software worked seamlessly. While I’ve seen the hardware, I haven’t seen how it would work with the software.

The live stream was coming from the Steve Jobs Theatre in the new Apple spaceship campus. It was the first time that the world got to see what the new campus looked like. While nice, I really can’t shake off the feeling of how much the theatre looked like a mausoleum. Things got off eerily when the keynote kicked off with Steve Jobs tribute video and a quote. The whole event felt like a religious gathering. I get it that Steve Jobs made Apple. I like Steve Jobs. But he’s dead. The only way to maintain his legacy is to keep producing great products that are fun and easy to use.

A lot of time was spent to introduce iPhone 8, the greatest phone Apple ever built, a moniker that lasted a whole 30 minutes before it became the second best phone Apple had ever built when they revealed iPhone X. The X got the “one more thing” treatment because it was supposed to be so cool and revolutionary.

But before we talk about iPhone X, let’s break down what is so new with iPhone 8. It has a new chip (which is now more powerful than the desktop/notebook processors that they use a year ago), some software tweaks to the camera app (which uses machine learning to do cropping and lighting effects), a glass back (which Apple claims is made from toughest glass) and wireless charging.

Nobody in particular asked for faster chip. Performance had never been an issue with users as past generation iPhones consistently outperformed their current generation rivals. Nor will new photo filters make you a better photographer. And if polled, I guess that the majority of users do not want a glass back that they now have to spend money to protect. Essentially, Apple took the 7, skipped the “S”, impose a USD50 premium, add in items that people didn’t ask for and called it iPhone 8.

It wasn’t obvious to me that other people would have felt the same way. I though that I was being overly critical but recent slow pre-order numbers and no-lines launch day showed that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.

Next was the iPhone X.

Now, I’ve seen the hardware design leaks from rumour sites. It was supposed to be Apple’s answer to the various Android hardware maker’s 2 year old challenge of edge-to-edge display. Apple’s solution wasn’t elegant- there’s a highly area on the top of the display that houses the required sensors and camera lens. There have been various fan made mock-ups on how Apple could handle this elegantly.

But alas, Apple’s solution was just down right ugly and weird. Compare Apple’s (left) and a fan’s (right) approach:-

Apple also removed fingerprint ID from iPhone X and replaced it with Face ID a new technology that is supposedly more secure than fingerprint (unless if you are twin). The technology was later revealed to be similar to the one used by the first generation of Xbox Kinect. A sensor projects 30,000 invisible dots and a camera read off those dots to interpret your mug.

What happened next in the keynote was surreal. Senior Apple execs took turns to show off the power of the face sensors by mapping their faces to animated chicken, alien, unicorn and poop (yes, poop!) emojis while making strange noises and faces on stage. At this point, I felt that Steve Jobs must have rolled in its grave a few times over.

At the time of this writing, we don’t know how iPhone X is going to perform in terms of sales because pre-order hasn’t started and no phones had been shipped yet. But the phone costs an unbelievable USD 999 and demand will surely be tapered by this astronomical figure.

I haven’t been excited by Apple in a long while. The generational jump of their products are more akin to marginal increments just to keep up with the competition. But this recent announcement was the worse because of the build up. Apple has created an unrealistic level of expectation that they really can’t deliver on.

Perhaps I should close with my opening paragraph.

I’m using and have owned various Apple products through the years. But I’m slowly trying to divorce myself from this ecosystem because, frankly baby, I’m feeling less loved these days.

I’m typing this blog post on an iPad Pro (on a 3rd party keyboard cover because yours is just so much more inferior and expensive) that is tethered to my iPhone 6S Plus (which I can squeeze a decent day’s worth of battery life until I installed iOS 11) while regularly checking my Apple Watch (which I’m forced to use due to a lack of better alternatives) to ensure that I don’t miss my next appointment. But I’ve stopped using my MacBook because Microsoft’s Surface Pro is just so so much better as a general purpose laptop. I’ve also stopped using Apple’s software on my Apple devices. I sync my all of the mobile photos to Google Photos. I’ve stopped using Apple Keynote for presentations. And as much as you tout iPhoto as the best photo management software, it is a toy software when compared to Adobe Lightroom.

When I get home, I watch Netflix (and I am so looking forward to other streaming services because I just don’t buy movies from your iTunes Movie Store anymore) on my TV via an Apple TV (because I can’t change the DNS of my Google Chromecast to get certain streaming content via VPN) and then check my emails on my iMac (which has crawled to a snail’s pace because every iterative MacOS update makes it slower and slower) before I go to bed.

And when I sleep, I wonder if Androids dream of Apple users as electric sheeps…

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