Apple has a software quality problem on their hands.
This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s used their products recently. While Apple’s products have never truly been perfect, bugs and issues have been much more pronounced since the launch of iOS 7. We spent the entire first episode of our podcast ranting about how bad iOS 8’s launch was. Marco Arment wrote a blog post about the steep decline in software quality a year ago that got a huge amount of traction in the community, and last week, long-time technology columnist Walt Mossberg, who tends to favour Apple products heavily, also wrote a damning post about how bad Apple’s first-party apps have gotten.
In an atypical move for Apple, Eddy Cue (SVP Internet Services) and Craig Federighi (SVP Software Engineering) made an appearance on John Gruber’s podcast, The Talk Show, to do some damage control, and it leaves me a little worried. While they do admit that there’s always going to be room to improve their software, they seem to fundamentally disagree with the notion that Apple’s software has become buggy, unreliable, and occasionally just badly designed, and that all metrics appear to be showing that product quality is better than ever.
No year of my iPhone ownership has been as frustrating as the last. iOS 9 was meant to significantly increase battery life across the board, a welcome improvement to a crowd frustrated by Apple chasing thinness over longer battery life, and even introduced a low power mode to get even more time out of it. It worked flawlessly for me during the developer betas, but then something randomly broke with the final version of iOS 9. Myself and many of my friends now experience terrible battery life on our iPhones, close to a third of what we were getting before iOS 9, and on top of that, the battery indicator is just wrong, with my phone randomly shutting off at 30% or so battery life several times a week.
Apple Music, as much as I wanted to love it, made its first impression by duplicating every track in my music library and then retagging incorrect album art on albums I’d already tagged with the correct album art. I feel like Jim Dalrymple’s writing is often too nice to Apple, and yet he wrote a blog post saying it was a complete nightmare and he was done with it.
The Apple Watch is a lovely piece of hardware, but almost nothing seems to work more than 30% of the time, which makes recommending the product to people very difficult. While we had originally hoped that the sub-par SDK available at the Watch’s launch was to blame, watchOS 2 has been out since the fall, and even apps that have adopted the new SDK don’t seem to be faring much better.
When people who have spent their entire careers being labeled as Apple fanboys are coming out and saying they’re routinely frustrated by your products, and you appear to dismiss their complaints about your products because your metrics are telling a different story, it makes me worry a lot. Ten years ago, Apple fans had to live with the stereotype that we were just suckers who spend too much on computers and prefer expensive, beautiful hardware to pragmatism. I’m afraid that stereotype will become reality if Apple stays on this trajectory. It’s time to stop bragging about all the things “only Apple” can do and start fucking proving it again.