Apple Services, iCloud Drive, and the User Experience

In the most recent episode of The Talk Show, John Gruber argued that in order for Apple to maintain a strong stance in regards to services, Apple need not necessarily be the best at services, it only need ensure that it remains a platform that third parties want their services to be on. The implication was that iOS, as it is today, is such a platform.

I would generally agree with such a sentiment. Today, Apple is such a platform. However, I think that Apple is passing a pretty hefty strategy tax on to the third party service provider, as well as to the end user experience, by frequently prioritizing its own services over those of third parties in the UI.

For me, the most frustrating example of this is the iCloud document picker. Specifically, I mean the part of the interface where you choose which storage provider you would like to use.

As the service stands today in iOS 9, the user cannot set a third party document provider as the default in the document picker (the one on the top, and the one that opens first when you open the document picker) without completely disabling iCloud on the entire device.

As far as I can tell, there is no technical reason for this limitation. If the user disables iCloud entirely, she can set Google Drive, or OneDrive, or Documents as the default file management extension by dragging it to the top after the user clicks “more”. I believe the only reason iCloud Drive perpetually sits at the top is because Apple wants to promote iCloud Drive over competing storage services, a frustrating strategy tax. I am only more convinced in this because my understanding is that in the enterprise, IT departments are not saddled with this limitation.

In this instance, at least, I believe Apple is letting a desire to promote its services detract from the experience of using its devices.

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