The Real “Toxic Hellstew” is Apple’s Software Quality

Chris Pirillo
Nov 15, 2015 · 4 min read

Apple may very well be proven an industry leader by many measures, but I only see it now as the least of all evils. That’s not a compliment — it’s quite the opposite.

Being someone who has already taken Apple to task for the extreme lack of software optimization, it should come to no surprise to you that I find the iPad Pro experience — with iOS 9.1 out of the box — inexcusably sloppy.

The hardware alone? Epic.

The software features outright? Worthy of initial attention.

The capable hardware being unable to keep up with the software? Baffling.

They’ve seemingly perfected the hardware manufacturing process — if only they could apply the same level of detail to software matters that are equally as (if not more) important. The irony of holding onto an iPad Pro with rounded corners is that the lack of platform polish cuts into me at every opportunity.

  • Minor inconsistencies (like horizontal rules) between default apps are more prevalent on a larger screen
  • Feature layout / spacing in apps (like Messages) seems like a complete afterthought
  • Icon / text misalignment in spots (like Music) seem to further indicate that Apple’s not adhering to resolution independence
  • Suffers from dropped frames in certain transitions / animations, namely during task switching
  • Not only are the folder icon pops more prevalent, it seems that the app icons themselves pop on exit, too!
  • Skips in scrolling seem to hit when graphics are loading (in apps like Music or News, for example)
  • Scrolling takes a frame rate knock in spots (like Game Center), assumedly “too many” items to deal with
  • Could be that the refresh rate throttling causes motion blur in certain animations (folder in / out transitions)

It’s as though not a single Apple software engineer had an iPad Pro to play with before it was released to the public.

This is on top of the existing iOS slop that’s been pointed out before — specifically, with default apps / features / experiences that appear to be managed by independent teams working for different companies… that have absolutely no guidelines to adhere to… in order to create a cohesive experience for their collective users.

And “tech reviewers” keep playing into the delusion that the only thing worth paying attention to is the features outright — not the implementation, which is where the truer value lies.

Great feature? Siri, a voice command bot which works part-time all the time. “Will Siri Understand What I’m Asking” is not a game of chance I love to play. More than anything, it still wastes my time compared to using more consistent paths to task completion — like trying to pick up a piece of fuzz with my toes for five minutes instead of bending over and picking it up with my fingers in less than five seconds.

What’s the point of a feature that doesn’t work every time? Eventually, I brush such frustrations things aside and find other solutions.

Apple’s been failing at Apple’esque software implementation ever since the release of iOS 7. If they wanted to abandon skeuomorphism, they should’ve replaced it with something that was demonstrably better, stable, and insanely consistent.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a memo circulating internally which outlines a game plan for every release along the lines of: “Get our hardware out the door, but keep the software working poor.”

Poorly. Think different.

Nobody in any position of perceived importance seems to be talking about it. I can’t be expected to make a dent, either; I don’t work for some fancy-ass publication that gets invited to all the events and gets all the exclusives and has all the right people working for it.

Apple won’t get around to fixing a problem that they don’t perceive as a problem, though. Software appears to be a second-class citizen (proven time and again with every new hardware release in recent years).

This is not a discussion over missing features that would be nice to have — it’s about glaring omissions in perfecting the features that are currently in place (designing a usable product from top to bottom, hard bits to soft bits). The shortcomings may never be addressed simply because it doesn’t seem that anybody at Apple has an eye for software detail, anymore.

Software performance and polish are extinct with Apple today.

Think I’m off-base to assert that Apple stopped caring about software and that their quality control is borderline non-existent? Think again:

http://mjtsai.com/blog/2015/11/12/no-one-minding-the-store/

If that doesn’t wake you up to Apple’s new devil-may-care approach to how software is handled throughout its entire ecosystem, nothing will.

When I claim that Apple has been falling behind in its ability to craft a series of cohesive, usable, clean, intelligible designs:

http://fastcompany.com/3053406/how-apple-is-giving-design-a-bad-name

What’s truly crazy isn’t pointing out that Apple is clearly missing the mark on critical non-hardware fronts — it’s believing that they’re not.

Hardware is worthless with software that wasn’t developed to keep up with it.

Apple has done better. We need Apple to do better.

Toxic Hellstew? Before Apple slags Android again, they should take a hard look at how Google is schooling them with their Material Design ethos in Marshmallow.

[Thank you, as always, for following me across social — and for listening to my daily tech perspectives. If I can do something more for you, don’t hesitate to ask.]

Chris Pirillo

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