Mobile Technology

Apple alienation: These missteps could cost Cupertino its fanbase

New Atlas takes a look at Apple undertakings that have long-time fans questioning their loyalty
New Atlas takes a look at Apple undertakings that have long-time fans questioning their loyalty
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Storage headaches are common problems for Apple users
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Storage headaches are common problems for Apple users
The headphone-jack free iPhone 7
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The headphone-jack free iPhone 7
A questionable application of the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar
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A questionable application of the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar
The increasingly enticing Google Pixel
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The increasingly enticing Google Pixel
New Atlas takes a look at Apple undertakings that have long-time fans questioning their loyalty
5/5
New Atlas takes a look at Apple undertakings that have long-time fans questioning their loyalty

Few companies have inspired as much brand loyalty as Apple. But after a tepid 2016, we're wondering if the industry leader is on the verge of seriously alienating its fanbase. Here are the Apple foibles most likely to send long-time users running for Android and Windows products.

Removing the iPhone's dedicated headphone jack

Removing the headphone jack is not an inherently damning move. In fact, if you consider that the dedicated audio jack has been around for decades, it's practically an ancient artifact in the world of consumer technology. We expect to see more smartphone manufacturers follow suit over the new few years, but we take issue with the way the removal was handled.

For one, Apple failed to elucidate the benefits of removing the jack. Eliminating the jack makes more space, but how is that space being used? Water resistance? Battery size? At the iPhone 7 launch event, Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller explained the move in one word: "courage." Even considering the inflated language common in launch events, this explanation seemed smugly self-aggrandizing. If Apple better illustrated the tradeoff, it would have left consumers with a much more positive impression.

The headphone-jack free iPhone 7
The headphone-jack free iPhone 7

Apple AirPods were announced as an alternative to traditional cabled headphones at the iPhone 7 event. They were promised in October, but didn't hit shelves until December. They're also underwhelming, with their questionable fit, looks and lack of physical volume and playback controls.

In Apple's defense, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are bundled with Lightning-port headphones and a Lightning-to-headphone jack adapter, which lets you plug those Lightning headphones into your other Apple products. Still, it's impossible to listen to cabled headphones and charge the iPhone at the same time, and that little dongle is easy to lose.

A truly magnanimous move would have been bundling wireless earphones with the new iPhones, even if they weren't as powerful as AirPods. (Siri capability? Do we really need that in headphones anyway?) But we've been following Apple releases long enough not to expect any generous moves like that.

MacBook missteps

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is at top of mind for recent Apple disappointments. The company has never had a reputation for being inexpensive, but historically, it has been possible to defend the value of its products in the long run. This is not the case with the expensive Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro. The touch-sensitive shortcut bar is the biggest MacBook innovation in years, but it has largely resonated as a low-value gimmick.

The MacBook Pro also shares an unfortunate quality with other laptops in the lineup: a troublesome lack of ports. Despite its "Pro" moniker, it is missing expansion options that professionals need. We understand the need to evolve to new hardware standards, but some kind of transition period is necessary to save users from an expensive, disorganized hell of dongles and adapters.

A questionable application of the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar
A questionable application of the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar

The MacBook Pro has four USB-C ports, but no legacy USB 3.0, SD card slot or HDMI (the standalone MagSafe charging port is also gone, instead requiring one of the USB ports for juicing up). A better mix of built-in options would serve heavy-duty users better than ever-thinner builds or a not-necessarily intuitive touch interface. Even worse, the 12-inch MacBook has only one USB-C port.

It troubles us that owners of the two newest Mac laptops have nowhere on their laptops to plug in their iPhone charging cords directly. That type of incompatibility does little to please long-term users, and could be a sign of worse incongruities to come.

iCloud headaches

Storage in the Apple ecosystem is an issue, plain and simple. With historically low built-in storage levels and decreasing opportunities for expansion, Apple products are set up to push iCloud usage. However, iCloud offers only 5 GB of free storage, after which you run up against constant notifications urging a paid iCloud subscription.

Storage headaches are common problems for Apple users
Storage headaches are common problems for Apple users

Why is Apple trying to make its long-term users pay a premium for a reliance on its products? Compare the iCloud model to Google Drive's free 15 GB (and generous options, such as unlimited storage for "high quality" images, and unlimited storage for Pixel phone owners ) and it's pretty disappointing.

Ever-improving offerings from competitors

Sexiness has long been part of the Apple brand, even if it costs a premium. But its products are growing less attractive and less user-friendly. Increasingly alluring alternatives could seal the deal for many longtime Apple fans considering other options.

For instance, with the Pixel and Pixel XL, Google is on the verge of out-Apple-ing Apple. The search giant has created a hardware/software symbioses hitherto found only in iPhones, and to borrow a Cupertino phrase, "It just works."

The increasingly enticing Google Pixel
The increasingly enticing Google Pixel

Similarly, the Microsoft Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 are embodying a workhorse type of versatility that consumers asked for from Apple, but that MacBooks and iPads are failing to deliver.

I am a case in point of a long-time Apple user ready to jump the shark: I adore the Pixel phone, and am teetering on the edge of making the leap to Google's phone. Perhaps one more marked Android convenience I discover will do the trick.

For more Mac musings, here are the steps we think Apple should take to get back on top in the coming year. You may also appreciate the following how-to guides:

18 comments
RachelRosen
your message bubbles will be grey or white on stock android :)
Grunchy
I used Apple macintosh back in 1994, prior to Windows 95, because that's what they provided us in the research park. Wildly overpriced, but Apple did take pains to make sure the little Banana Jr's worked. For me Apple was unnecessary once Win95 was working ok, because I'd rather assemble my own pc to suit my own needs- Apple doesn't do that. The only time I've been an Apple user since 1994 is when the company replaced blackberry with iPhone 5. Pinch my nose, ugh, ok. I'm still using the same iPhone 5 in fact, but I had to face the battery replacement issue. With Samsung: that would be no problem, you can do it in seconds. With this stupid Apple iPhone, it's a massive huge undertaking during which you basically ruin the phone, then rebuild it (hopefully) back to operating condition. No memory slot = I will never be a customer. That's fine with them and it's more than ok for me. Steve Jobs was a maroon !
ChrisStanton
The main difference between Android & Apple is that Android phone manufacturers [apart from Google] want you to buy new phones every year instead of updating the software whereas Apple will continue to support old phones up to a point. Samsung are pretending to be Apple & have removed removable batteries from their Models, so phones just die [the software will be out of date]
Onix
I've been a Mac booster since the Mac Plus. I've only ever purchased one Windows computer (but worked on many) but that's ending. Apple has become so focused on their internet appliances (iPhones and iPads) that they've relegated their computers to the back burner. They destroyed their iWork suite, which used to be a reasonably powerful resource but is now gimped. There is an over emphasis on "Design" and not enough on function. They've ignored their traditional user base that got them here for the new iPhone crowd. Even the "It just works" motto is questionable these days. New MacOS releases are cranky and slow. They stutter and fail more than I remember in my history of Mac use. After a year, a Mac is considered obsolete and you can't use it anymore on the Apple ecosystem. I used to be able to use a Mac for five to ten years. There's no reason to pay the premium anymore if the product is just as unreliable as the competition and doesn't last as long.
Bob Stuart
I had wanted a Mac for a long time, and finally got one eleven years ago. The features were sparse, and Apple Care under warranty was so bad that I've boycotted the company ever since. Then the hardware turned out to be far less reliable than even cheap PC stuff. Now I run Linux.
DennisHancock
Yes - dealing with this now as I am in the market. Currently have an older 13" Macbook pro and a newer Macbook air - both have different charging cables and now if I go with the new Macbook I will have yet another new charging cable. The new Macbook doesn't have the magnetic charging cables which I LOVE on my current versions and the idea that I can't pass a USB key to a client in a meeting without special adaptors is mind boggling. I can't imagine sitting in the boardroom development meeting at Apple where they put a list of things that current users love that differentiate them up on the whiteboard and then voted to cut it out? Grrr....
Stradric
I had to use an iPhone because my Nexus 5x died and was getting repairs (poor me right?). There are a ton of little things that are very annoying on the iPhone compared to a Nexus or Pixel device. I could enumerate them, but it would be boring. The most egregious is how Apple forces you to use their apps in many instances (see Android Auto vs Apple CarPlay). You either do it the Apple way or you're screwed. It's frankly rather insulting because many of the Apple apps (like Podcasts for example) are just incredibly inferior to competitors' offerings. It's always going to come down to personal preference though. @ChrisStanton: Who are you kidding? Apple definitely wants you to buy a new iPhone every year or 2. iOS updates are typically optimized for the latest and greatest. There are plenty of reports of Apple using iOS updates to slow down older devices to make you inclined to buy new.
zr2s10
Ditch Apple. They've always been cocky, and say, "This is what we're making, deal with it, because we're awesome." And people pay a premium for that treatment. No thanks. You can't even arrange your icons the way you want, correct? That's BS. Go with a Pixel or a newer Motorola if you want Android, and get Textra for messaging, you can customize the heck out of your text bubbles, and make them any color you want. Samsung is nice, but too much bloatware and TouchWiz should be called LagWiz.
MichaelHart
fine, take away the headphone jack, but add wireless charging FFS. My work provided blackberry has it, and I charge it on my bedside table lamp from Ikea, that has wireless charging built in, and a usb port to fumble with every night when i put my iphone on to charge. so far behind the curve it's glaring now. If Microsoft can out ipad you, you need a design and management shakeup, and a change in philosophy. Tim Cook and Eddie Cue's interpretation of Jobs' recipe for success is stale and overly salty.
Omen
I have been using Macs since they existed and, as a captive of software, I still do, but I grow increasingly annoyed and restive with the cavalier manner in which Apple treats its customers. Overly expensive upgrades that require the wholesale purchase of new software will lead me to a Chromebook as soon as it can run Endnote or, more reluctantly to a Surface Pro. Sooner or later, I'm outa here.