Apple takes its eye off the ball: Why users are complaining about Apple’s software

“There always have been two great virtues in Apple’s policy of keeping the development of hardware and core software in-house: their seamless integration with each other and their quality,” Michael Hiltzik writes for The Los Angeles Times. “Lately, however, these virtues have started to disappear. The last few weeks have seen an explosion of discontent with the quality of the core apps of Apple’s iPhones, iPads and Mac computers — not only its OS X and iOS operating systems, but programs and services such as iTunes, Music, iCloud and Photos. Not only do the programs work poorly for many users, but they don’t link Apple devices together as reliably as they should. These complaints aren’t coming merely from users but several widely followed tech commentators who used to fit reliably in the category of Apple fans.”

“Walt Mossberg, for one,” Hiltzik writes. “Just last week, Mossberg pointed to ‘a gradual degradation in the quality and reliability of Apple’s core apps.’ He fingered iTunes for the desktop (‘I dread opening the thing’), and the Mail, Photos, and iCloud programs. Not even Mossberg could get a cogent response from Apple, which told him: ‘We have dedicated software teams across multiple platforms. The effort is as strong there as it has ever been.'”

“Veteran Apple-watchers John Gruber and Jim Dalrymple have joined the chorus,” Hiltzik writes. “Conjectures about why Apple can’t get its software act together abound. The most common is that the company has become so trapped in its cycle of annual hardware upgrades — a new iPhone had better appear every September, or else — that it’s simply incapable of keeping its software maintained… The risk for Apple is that, hounded into keeping its hardware products secure at the top of the consumer pyramid, its reputation is changing from a company whose software “just works” (as Steve Jobs used to declare) to one that just doesn’t give a damn.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We said as much over a year ago. Unfortunately, our opinion still holds true today, nearly 13 months later:

Dear Mr. Cook,

“It just works.” That’s getting tougher and tougher for us OS X and iOS users to say with straight faces lately.

Apple, while certainly still the best when it comes to desktop and mobile operating systems, needs to do better. Our expectations, some of us as users of Apple products since the early 1980s, are not being met when it comes to the quality and reliability of operating systems, software, and services. Used to be, you could pretty confidently install brand new operating systems from Apple. Recently, we’re more inclined to wait for a few point releases than not. It’s downright Microsoftian. Lately, for the past couple of years, your software seems rushed. Is “rush job” really the impression you want to give your customers?

Slow down! Getting it right is far more important than getting it out.

Frankly, we don’t need a new Mac or iPhone/iPad operating system every year and Apple Inc. doesn’t need it, either. Annual OS releases shouldn’t be mandated. What we all really need, customers and Apple Inc., are operating systems that are rock solid and do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it. Why not just add new features/services to existing OSes with continued point releases that refine and extend the experiences and services you want to deliver? Why not just release new operating systems only when they are rock solid and ready?

In other words, take a step back, take a deep breath, and focus on making sure that what you have now just works. Because too much of it doesn’t (Wi-Fi connectivity for one ongoing, glaring, vexing example). Getting it right is far more important than having two “new” free OSes to release each year. Seriously, nobody outside of Cupertino very much cares. We do, however, care very much that Apple’s software and services work as flawlessly as possible.

We occasionally hear things about the company from Apple employees.

Some of those things lead us to wonder if perhaps you should rethink some aspects of the culture at Apple? Specifically, what really should constitute a badge of honor at Apple? Working all day, all weekend and all night in order to squat out iOS 8.0.1 and then have to turn around and do it all over again, in a panic, to get iOS 8.0.2 out the door in order to clean up the mess? Or taking the time necessary to do the job correctly the first time?

People with proper sleep and lower stress levels do better work. Many major medical studies prove these facts. Shouldn’t quality, not quantity, of hours worked be the utmost badge of honor at Apple?

Working long hours simply for the sake of working long hours is counterproductive. It really doesn’t prove anything except that you have no life and that, despite all of their work on Apple Watch, Apple executives still do not understand basic human health requirements and are incapable of properly staffing their departments so that they can function without requiring sleep-deprived, mistake-prone employees who feel that it’s a job requirement to be able to reply to emails from managers at 2:00 am. That’s idiocy.

Driving too hard, too fast, and for too long leads to accidents.

We speak from experience, albeit at a far, far smaller level than yours. We’ve tried and been exposed to several methods as both managers and employees in the television, financial, and online media industries. Regardless of the size of your department or company, people are people. You can push people to a point that’s very productive, but when you exceed that point, it’s all downhill for everyone involved. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s not an “I love this company!” statement. It’s simply mismanagement. It’s verifiably unhealthy and it leads directly to diminished quality, increased turnover, and productivity declines. And customer satisfaction ultimately suffers. Hence this letter.

Bottom line: We long to again be able to confidently say of our Macs, iPhones, and iPads: “It just works.”

Sincerely,

MacDailyNews, January 5, 2015

SEE ALSO:
Breaking down Apple’s software quality issues – February 4, 2016
Walt Mossberg: Apple’s software needs work – February 3, 2016
2015: Apple’s year in beta – December 29, 2015
​Apple’s dirty little secret: Sucky software – why Apple’s entire UX/UI team needs to be fired – November 19, 2015
What Steve Jobs gave Apple that Tim Cook cannot – November 18, 2015
Alternatives to Apple’s bloated iTunes – November 17, 2015
Apple’s new iPad Pro debuts with forced reboots, missing Apple Pencils – November 16, 2015
Apple’s perplexingly incomplete launch of the iPad Pro – November 16, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015
Apple’s major problem is Tim Cook – November 16, 2015
At Apple, it seems as if no one’s minding the store – November 13, 2015
Houston Chronicle’s Silverman reviews new Apple TV: This cake needed more baking – November 9, 2015
The new Apple TV has more rough edges than a sack of saw blades – November 3, 2015
Apple Music one month later: Not loving it, but I’ll be subscribing to it – August 10, 2015
The tragedy of iTunes: Nothing ‘just works’ – July 28, 2015
Apple Music, both on iOS and OS X, is an embarrassing and confusing mess – July 10, 2015
After many of complaints about Wi-Fi issues, Apple dumps discoveryd in latest OS X beta – May 27, 2015
OS X 10.10.2: Wi-Fi problems continue to plague some Mac users – January 30, 2015
The software and services that Apple needs to fix – January 14, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015

47 Comments

    1. @silverhawk1

      Sure you have no problems.

      My issues:

      * iTunes is a complete MESS (can you say change for the sake of confusion?)

      * iPhone 6 Plus buttons are a joke (the 5x and 4x buttons were recessed, making them harder to accidentally depress)

      * OSX loses connection with WIFI printer all the time

      * Find my iPhone app is slower and less intuitive

      * Every iOS version since 6 has been sluggish and buggy

      * All products released under Tim Cook are an utter JOKE

      Impatiently awaiting the day they boot this guy/girl.

      😛

        1. And your comment is from that closeted homophile. Do you see how circular reasoning works?

          I always find it delicious when people act as though a man’s sexual behavior says nothing about him, especially when his is a confused sexual behavior. I guess everyone needs to feel self-righteous and so they can boldly declare: “Nothing wrong here! Nothing to see! You’re a hater!” Facts are so unfair.

  1. My Apple devices works. And they do it with style. Having the luxury to answer my phone on my MBP, iPad or iPhone is something that other compagny would die for.

    iOS is getting better at UX, Apple music is getting there, map is getting better, iMessage never fail me, Garageband is fun to jam on… On the Mac, IE Captain is stable, FCP, Motion and Compressor are rock solid, Logic is breeze.

    I have yet to understand why Apple fanboy are getting angry…

    Ho, I understand, this is another venue to FUD Mastering on Apple’s back. Get a life or go back to Winbox.

    1. I find the divide is between casual users and more hard core users. Casual users are happy because in general their devices are working as expected. More hard core users are frustrated because some feature don’t work, are difficult to use, or features have simply been removed.

      1. You are right. Once you get past the surface, you discover the loose ends. I was on SL for the longest time, and now I’m on Mavericks and that’s my line in the sand until the UI is skinnable.

  2. Yup this is definitely where Apple has shined in the past and where it needs to keep the cutting edge sharp. Great software that just works.

    Keep it simple silly.

    1. Agreed. But I take exception to the following statement in the article:

      “…its reputation is changing from a company whose software “just works” (as Steve Jobs used to declare) to one that just doesn’t give a damn.”

      There is a huge difference between flawed execution and not giving a damn. I refuse to believe that Apple no longer cares. The company is just much larger and less focused on its software. The processes that worked when the company and its product lineup were much smaller no longer function as effectively. On top of that, Steve Jobs, the enforcer of quality to the most minute degree, is no longer with us. I have no doubt that has contributed to the decline. But the “doom and gloom” commentary is incredibly overblown, and the whimpering and whining of some people is getting intolerable. Apple is not perfect. Neither is any other company. And Apple will have its ups and downs. If you see something that you like better, then go for it. If not, then try to be constructive in your criticism and provide feedback to Apple.

      1. That’s a very valid point KingMel, certainly Apple cares a lot, that’s my gut feeling. I think people don’t realize that it’s all getting move complex and there is a need to strike a balance between slick features, bloatware, legacy support, standards.

        I call it “media fatigue” the result of the medial changing so fast that segments of the population (including companies) can’t keep up. You point that out with the smaller product line up. Think of it, the desktop computer to the transportable computer to the portable computer to the wearable computer. All within how many years?

        Your point is the way it should be, comment to Apple. I think the media can be a method of doing this but they tend to go crazy on the hyperbole as you’ve pointed out.

        Thanks for the well reasoned post. Have a great day.

      2. Apple is now the largest company by value and has an enormous number of people working on a great many projects.
        My thought is that Apple can do many things poorly or it can do a few things really well. The software–the new version of Pages or Numbers, iTunes–can not be considered as done “really well.” As for customer service and support, it certainly is not what is used to be, but then they are dealing with a great many more people than when I first started using Apple products.

        One idea is for Apple to downsize and focus on doing a few things really well, give up on trying to be large in revenue and profit and strive for quality above all else. I don’t know of any companies that have done this, and I don’t expect it from Apple. What I do expect from Apple, unfortunately, is more different products in more different areas which will require a larger work force and put them in touch with more consumers which will require loss of quality.

      3. Though I will agree that Apple is a much larger company, the range of devices their core software has to handle has not grown as drastically. With Apple’s quote of ‘We have dedicated software teams across multiple platforms. The effort is as strong there as it has ever been.’” I begin to wonder if that just means the software department hasn’t grown to keep up and remains the same size as it was years ago.

  3. It’s funny. We’re asking for a Tick-Tock strategy, but Apple’s already doing that. OS X gets features one year, then they work their butts off all year tweaking things, and then they release a ‘polish’ version a year later, and things are still messed up.

    iTunes, man. iTunes.

  4. For the most part, Apple’s apps do work fine. The odd hiccup sometimes. The only issue I have noticed is that calendar will not display exchange events. This may be something with the host exchange system since every time I open mail I have to put in the password. I may have to delete the mail account on the mac and make a new one.

    1. “the odd hiccup” is on a several-times-weekly basis for me, it’s not Windows-crashing-regularly bad, but it’s annoying and a departure from the stability of several years ago. After troubleshooting various problems the most common answer seems to be doing a fresh install of your OS. This is annoying, time-consuming, doesn’t always solve the problem, and risks data and settings being lost.

      Ironically the least buggy Apple experience of late is the iOS 9.3 Beta which is the first Beta software I’ve installed. No problems so far and I’m enjoying the “night mode” along with F.lux on my laptop. This feature should have been added years ago.

  5. I fundamentally disagree with the premise that Tim has his eyes off the ball or that they just don’t care. I have had Bluetooth connectivity issues with my Nissan Murano since iPhone 4 but never anywhere else. Is that the iPhones? On some European wi-fi networks it takes forever to put the network I need up on the list but elsewhere never. Is that the iPhone’s fault? Safari used to crash or give me pinwheels constantly where Flash or Java were used. Was that Safari’s fault? I actually think the software is sometimes too good for the crap it has to interface with. Flash updates as often as I change underwear. Most software developers aren’t competent enough to write for Apple. Is that why iTunes would crash? I don’t know. Sometimes I think Apple engineers have to dumb-down the software to work properly with things. Today, Exchange isn’t working well with Mail and Calendar but yesterday all was fine. Is that an OSX issue?

    Things are so much more complex now than when Steve was alive and iOS 1 had its issues as has every OS. Our expectations have changed as well as the complexity they need to interconnect with the world.

    Yes, we like perfection but I’m not experienced no a deterioration. There have always been issues with Apple in a mediocre Linux/Windows world.

  6. I thought that many of the changes in Pages were completely unnecessary. They changed the interface so that it was different but not better. If this was the work of Ive then he needs to get his act together. Ditto some of the ITunes changes. While I don’t have any problems my wife found it hard to understand the changes and it slowed her down. Change for change sakes never a good and in fact takes away programming resources which could be better used elsewhere.

  7. Apple developers are NOT working the butts off. That period ended with Steve. Its a more relaxed “politically correct” puffy unicorn liberal dance now.
    Need proof? Articles like this one.
    The problem is there isn’t a “fight” anymore. Same situation as with Scully. The MAN [Jobs] is dead. The Apple hath fallen from the tree and is rotting on the ground. A new CEO ass kicker will not fix things, he/she would worsen things. Apple needs a true visionary, one that employees will work hard for, as a team. It just will never be Tim Cook. Many of the employees [statistically speaking] are disgusted by him. These employees will never follow him, and probably, subconsciously are making things worse. Employees could be “mad” at Steve Jobs for calling out their failings, but that anger did nothing but improve Apple. The state that Tim causes obviously means that there are many, many employees that just do not give a crap about Apple, and are just pulling paychecks till something better comes along.

    1. I suspect that you are right, and I suspect the same problem is going to eat several Silicon Valley companies, among them, Mozilla and Alphabet.

      However, few people will speak the truth, and those who do, will be reviled. You can’t have quality and be in a group hug all the time. It’s one or the other, and sadly, I think Apple has chosen the latter.

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