It's that time of year when Six Colors has released their annual report card on all things Apple.
Their report card is calculated by talking to a lot of people. Mine is calculated based only on my own experience. In many ways I agree with their assessment. In others I disagree strongly (they gave HomeKit a D+, which I thought was incredibly generous given the shitshow it is).
But anyway... here we go...
Apple must be doing something right, because their latest round of MacBook Pros were sweet enough to convince me to upgrade after only one year (thanks to their trade-in problem, which is not great, but so easy and better than nothing). For most things... like email and web browsing and the like... there is virtually no difference with the new M2 MAX chip. But for the actual work I do? 15% to 20% faster is absolutely worth it. Less time waiting on renders and stuff gives me more time to do other stuff. I was a bit surprised that the iMac is still stuck at 24" and the M1 chip... and there's still no MacPro, which is getting increasingly embarrassing... but I am fairly certain all that is forthcoming with the advent of Apple's new 3nm chips, coming soon to a computer near you. Though it's kinda a bizarre flex for a desktop machine when the true miracle of dropping to 3nm is the power savings, so I'm guessing it must have one heck of a performance bump. 2022 was pretty much a stop-gap year to the Next Big Thing, and how 2023 pans out will largely depend on just how big that Next Big Thing ends up being.
If I wasn't on the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program track, I would have likely skipped the iPhone 14 Pro. It just wasn't much more significant than the 13 Pro it replaced. All the improvements were mediocre and far from sexy, which is a real head-scratcher. Maybe now that we're in 2023 Apple has something more spectacular planned... a better camera would be a great start... but I have to wonder if there's nothing but low-hanging fruit from here out. I'd like to think that the "Dynamic Island" isn't the pinnacle of iPhone innovation, but it's really starting to feel that way. If I were still with my iPhone 12 Pro, I'd likely be none-the-wiser, and that's a very bad sign for Apple. Still, their phones are really nice (and still my favorite), so grading them lower than a B seems criminal.
I love my iPad Pro, but there has been zero reason to upgrade it after three years. There's nothing going on with iPad, which is a shame, but it's still the best tablet on the market by a country mile. And, as Apple-savvy as I am, I have no fucking clue which accessories work with which model, which is an absolute disaster for a company that bills itself as the easiest and most user-friendly option.
Apple Watch: B
Another product that just doesn't seem to be going anwhere... no revolutionary new features or ideas here. At least with the base model. A very notable exception is the Apple Watch Ultra, which is amazing on every level and bumps my grade from a C to a B. Problem is that it's very narrow in focus, as big as a Buick, and has a limited audience. And yet for those who need it, the thing is a game-changer. I am still waiting for a blood glucose monitor before I upgrade again. My 3-year-old Apple Watch is just fine. Even then, my "ancient" tech is still far more appealing to me than the newest of the new when it comes to other brands.
Holy shit. What the fuck is it going to take before Apple gives us a user interface that's worth a shit? I just raged about this fairly recently, and if I start in again I may not be able to stop. Just about every other TV interface on the market that I've seen is better than this crap, and the fact that Apple does nothing about it just means I'm not investing in any more of their bullshit. I don't care how good the remote is.
I am so meh on everything Apple is doing in the Services arena that I am finding it difficult to even comment. It's all still too expensive for what you get. The plans don't have enough options so that people can get exactly what they need, so they are either paying for more or less than what they would otherwise like. Apple TV+ is okay, but I don't watch enough on it to really care (until Ted Lasso returns). I don't give a crap about the fitness stuff. I switched to Apple Music when I dumped Amazon Prime, but it's not that different and costs more than what I was paying, so I honestly don't care. I don't have time to play their games. I know Apple is making a metric shit-ton of money off Services... I wish I could say they earned it. Right now their bundles aren't worth it to me, so I am paying for iCloud Drive, AppleTV, Apple Music, and iTunes Match all separately. In order to get an Apple One bundle, I'd still have to purchase an iCloud Drive upgrade because what comes with it isn't enough. Let me build my own bundle with a calculated discount and I'd likely upgrade my score to a B. That's for flexibility, not value.
I jumped to HomeKit when Insteon folded the first time. This involved a lot of expense on my part, as most all my switches and devices had to be changed out. And what did I get for my money? A horrendously fucked up system that barely works. And it just keeps getting worse. All of a sudden half my shit will just up and stop working. HomePods will refuse to issue commands. I've woken up to find that my garage door mysteriously opened at 2am for no reason. And despite everything running on the super-speedy Thread technology now, Automations are slow as shit... when they bother to work at all! At the rate that I've had to unplug and plug back in my HomePod minis in an attempt to get things working again, you'd sure as hell think that Apple would make a plug on the mini itself so I don't have to go moving the fucking furniture every time I need to unplug to reset my network. HomeKit is HomeShit more than ever, and there's no end in sight. Just more "architecture upgrades" to slap lipstick on a pig. Fortunately most of my devices are Matter compatible, so I'll be looking into going that route. Hopefully it will allow me to use Siri since Apple is in with Matter, but things will actually work once I transfer.
Hardware Reliability: A-
Software issues and OS stupidity aside, the hardware is always on-point. Although I am dropping them from an A to A- because of the afore-mentioned wired plug on the HomePod mini. Now that the MacBook Pros offer an SD card slot and an HDMI port instead of forcing me to use dongles, I'm thrilled (a
Software Quality C+
Even with HomeKit removed from the equation, I still have numerous problems with the way Apple software functions (or doesn't function as the case may be). Apple Mail is a fucking travesty and one of the biggest piece of shit apps I have ever used. And Apple doesn't give a fuck. Features I use are stripped out of their software for no reason other than they want it that way. Bugs are rampant and pop up in the strangest places. It's almost as if nobody at Apple is using their own apps, because the same bugs never seem to go away. One day maybe Apple will start giving a shit. Until then? Still the best option, faults and all.
Developer Relations N/A
As I am not currently in the Apple Developer Program, I don't really have room to comment. Except to say that the World Wide Developer Conference always seems like a fantastic step in keeping things right with those developers on their platform. As a consumer, however, I can say that their App Store is a pile of shit. Which is a mystery because they get a cut of every sale. You'd think they would want it to be a top-tier experience. But instead apps you are looking for are hard to find, update options are weird, AND THERE'S NO FUCKING WAY TO FIND ONLY GAMES THAT DON'T REQUIRE IN-APP PURCHASES! And speaking of in-app purchases... maybe they wouldn't be as annoying if they weren't so damn expensive, but since Apple takes such a huge, huge cut of the money, expensive they will remain. This is such a problem that it's entirely likely Apple will be forced to allow customers to "side-load" apps and bypass the App Store. This would be a disaster because affordable apps wouldn't come with protections. And it's all on Apple and their greed.
Societal and Society Impact B
They are one of the most accessible platforms in existence, and trying to make sure that anybody can use them regardless of any physical or mental challenges is pretty incredible. Where they fail is with their employees. And it's some pretty heinous failures. They need to do better.
Customer Service B+
This is a category I added on my own after my heinous experience with the iPhone Upgrade Program (I returned my old iPhone at an Apple Store... Apple said I never returned it... and I spent TWO MONTHS trying to get it straightened out). I have to say... exchanging my iPhone in the mail? Flawless. The trade-in experience with my MacBook Pros? Flawless. Actually getting support? Not so flawless. Apple makes it incredibly difficult to get the help you need, instead letting you use Google for support (see: HomeKit). That being said, they did exchange my faulty keyboard with hardly any trouble, so hardware is not the issue it used to be, so there's that.
Overall, Apple is still doing more right than wrong. It's why I'm so loyal, because other brands are pretty awful. And yet there's always room for improvement, and Apple has more than a few things that need improving, so here's hoping.