Apple and Services: The Joke’s On Somebody

And they want to build a car.

Everyone is excited. WWDC 2016, Apple’s developer conference, is just around the corner. There’s promise of new hardware with rumors spanning two entire years of iPhones. New displays, new MacBooks. Yes, sir, everybody’s excited about lots of hardware things. Fun fact. We won’t see much if any of that at WWDC. But no matter, the talk is that Apple is finally going to knuckle down and figure out Services, which of course means the Cloud. Did you hear the one about Republicans and conservatives all over who swear/hope Donald Trump is going to start acting like a grown up candidate any day now? It’s the same joke.

Apple has been promising to get serious about the Cloud and its services since the MobileMe fiasco. It’s as much of a running joke as Google promising to crack down on Android phone OEMs. Apple has gotten better, but improving on a complete collapse only means you need to be able to stand up for a bit before you fall back down.

And that’s the problem. Apple offers fits and starts. Things feel like they are improving, then the same problems resurface. Before I get to a list of software and service sloppiness let me say this: For my money Apple makes the best hardware available on the market today. While others may be closing in on the iPhone, Apple’s laptops, desktops, and tablets are better than anything else I’ve seen or put hands on. Apple’s operating systems are also quite good when you consider the alternatives on the various platforms.

But when it comes to the glue that makes that hardware hum, Apple hasn’t found the right tune. It has reached a point of embarassment. The only reason Apple’s mistakes and missteps haven’t crippled the company is that its competitors can’t seem to figure out how to do better; even if “doing better” is graded on a sliding scale. So much of what Apple does it does so well that it seems almost incongruous that Apple can’t fix these problems. Many of Apple’s philosophies regarding security and privacy, health issues and green initiatives add attractive value for so many. But that value diminishes with so many ongoing nagging issues.

Here’s an incomplete list of Apple software and services that continue to fail and flail on my devices and those in my family that I support.

Photos: Syncing photos between devices is a hit or miss proposition, often resulting in having to reboot Mac(s) in order to see something other than white blanks on a white background. The marketing slug line “All your photos. Always with you and picture perfect” needs work around the “always” part. HINT: Rebooting a machine is not a solution to a cloud syncing issue.

Contact Syncing between Devices: Contacts that I have labeled as Favorites so that I can sync them to an Apple Watch as “Friends” mysteriously come and go. When I say “mysteriously” I mean there is no rhyme or reason to it. I’ve rebuilt those contacts more than once. HINT: Rebuilding Contacts, reinstalling Friends, or Repairing an Apple Watch is not a solution.

Reminders: Apple’s Reminders need a reminder on how to work. Schedule a recurring reminder and the only thing that consistently recurs is that the reminder will forget to remind you. Sometimes the time an alarm is set for will just change to 0:00. HINT: Deleting and re-setting up Reminders is not not a solution, especially when you have to continue to do so over and over again.

Maps: Apple has certainly improved Maps. But, for once, actually just once, when I choose a route to a new location, send it to my iPhone, then go get in the car and bring up Maps and select the notification that is waiting for me, I’d like the Maps app to start with the route I just chose. HINT: Changing the route is not a smart thing to do once you start driving.

Apple Music: The Apple Music UI is so bad, it is like Apple decided to hire people just to screw something up. It is so bad, a major overhaul is being talked about one year after its release. It is so bad, well, I paid for 2 months after the trial and just gave up. At least I didn’t lose any music they way some have. HINT: Simple works. Simple, Apple Music is not.

App Store: The place to go to purchase and update Apps. When it works. When a download actually completes. Trying to find something in the store? Well, does anyone do that anymore? HINT: I have no hints to offer here. When your major retail operation fails as much as this one does, you’ve got problems.

iOS Updates: I used to look forward to these. Now I look forward to the few days after the release of updates to see if and when the coast is clear to actually install one. HINT: Too big to fail used to refer to banks that destroyed the world’s economy. If you’re too big to fail when it comes to releasing updates for your operating system, even with extensive public betas, someone is not doing their job.

iTunes: Let’s just say this. iTunes. The piece of software that many associate with Apple. It’s a piece of software that has become Apple’s biggest joke. It’s a piece of software that brings in untold amounts of money to Apple. It’s a piece of shit. Not only is it rotten to the core, that rot is being to spread to other areas of Apple.

Don’t forget. iTunes is a part of the solution when something goes wrong with an OTA update to an iOS device. It’s a go to solution. It’s a go to solution that fails more often than it doesn’t. I watched an Apple Genius throw up his hands in despair once when using this solution wouldn’t solve the problem for a client.

I hear lots of Apple fans say that fixing iTunes would be hard because things are so complex. Aww. The most successful, richest tech company on the planet can’t find a way to fix the piece of software most associated with its brand because it is too hard? That’s not a joke. That’s negligence.

And that’s the larger issue: small things matter.

Apple continues to thrive, even though it is going through a rough spot of late. Perhaps a part of going through that rough spot is that it isn’t paying attention to the niggling details that drive its customers up a wall. What’s hard is explaining to a non-techie user of Apple products that the richest company in the world can’t squash the bugs in their software because they don’t prioritize doing so. When customers see a very wealthy company hint about pie in the sky products that no one will see for a few years, if ever, instead of fixing a problem on the excellent piece of hardware in their hand, there’s a disconnect. No joking.

And they want to build a car.

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