Seeing Apple through rose-colored blasters

Seeing Apple through rose-colored blasters

Apple needs to fix their crappy designs and online services. I'm talking about green felt and iCloud sync. No, wait, I'm talking about brushed metal and MobileMe sync. No, wait again, I'm talking about pin stripes and .Mac sync. No... Come on, seriously, I've got this!

As much as recent complaints about heavily textured interface elements and problematic online sync solutions are important, and in many cases justified, they're not unique. "Apple has lost its way", is a variation of "Apple is doomed" -- both always true and never true. Apple does a lot of great things. A lot of visionary things. A lot of delightful things. But like any entity, they also do some some silly things, some destructive things, and some downright dumb things.

That's not new. Only the instance is new.

When it comes to perception over time, we often distort out own realities. We tend to forget a lot of the things that bugged us way back when, or at least remember them with far less visceral annoyance than what's bugging us now. We feel like the problems of the present, as yet unsolved, are worse than the problems of the past, many of which were solved just fine.

The current hope-meme is that Jony Ive, now head of all design at Apple, will bulldoze the iOS interface and re-finish it clean. The current rage-meme is that Apple needs to fix the too-long broken promise of Core Data sync.

He may and they do. Just as pin stripes and brushed metal are no more, green felt may likewise be taken out back and put down. Just like .Mac and MobileMe steadily got better over time, so too should iCloud.

However, as much as these things might hold our attention now, they're no more a sign of Apple losing their way than they were last year, or the year before, or the year before that, or the-- You and your stitched leather and back-to-my-Mac get the idea. (Yes, it would have happened then too...)

"Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses" means remembering past events more generously than they sometimes deserve. The consequence is perceiving present events more harshly than they sometimes deserve. And blasting them for it.

By all means be upset. Be powerfully, passionately upset. Advocate for change. Just keep it in context and perspective.

Jony Ive lending his considerable talents to software design is glee-inducing. Apple providing developers with sync they can count on is table-stakes. But they are signs of nothing more nor less than a company continuing to iterate and overcome challenges, just like it always has. And will always need to.

(Seriously, just wait until you hear the cries of monotony over bead-blasted aluminium and hear the screams for blood over busted Apple TV game sync...)

(And yes, that's a joke.)

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Seeing Apple through rose-colored blasters

34 Comments

It's the way of the world sadly. I agree, voice you concerns so Apple knows they are concerns, but there's no need to put Apple down because of a new thing. Now if it continues to stay bad then yes, voice more loudly.

Yeah Apple needs to fix and make the UI more consistant. Their apps are all randomly designed and it doesn't make a lot of sense. Even Google has been making strides in making their UIs mesh across their platform. Hopefully Ive does put his foot down and says enough randomness is enough. I guess time will ultimately tell. I'm not expecting anything overly changed in iOS7 but hopefully we will be pleasantly surprised.

It makes sense for orientation. If you're in the contact section of Game Center, you'll never mistake it for the contact section of Phone. However, the degree of texture/skin/theme is certainly something to consider.

Feel kinda strange poking around iMore, even more strange actually commenting. (I'm an Android fan -- don't hate me).

Rene, I actually really enjoyed this. And (surprise surprise) it applies to much more then just the past/current state of iOS. Perspective actually means a lot.

So quick question: Is this a "typical" editorial, Rene? If it is, I'm going to have to make it a habit of checking out your weekly editorials!

You're going to need a Utility belt to carry all of those phones at once, batman. :-) For what possible reason would you need all of those phones? Where's the only phone you should need? Where is the iPhone 5 in that mix? Your phone bill must be insane. :-D

Contrary to popular belief, not all iPhone users are "sheep" who will simply (blindly) follow wherever Apple leads. We have opinions an preferences and we don't always approve of Apple's choices. But, in those opinions, we have also chosen what we like best overall and what meets our needs. I can't stand Game Center or the fact that the iPod app has the finished chrome look but nothing else does. But, iPhone is what I like best overall for everyday use.

Well said. I flip-flop from Apple to Android. My first Android was a Droid X and with its shitty battery life, I immediately jumped to iPhone 4 (VZ) on Feb 2011. The problem with iPhone was the lack of widgets (i was too scared to JB) and the shitty battery life (not due to optimization, but Apple being cheap and not putting bigger battery inside).

I decided to ditch my iPhone for Droid Razr Maxx; however, I had major problems with it. Either due to Android OS, or simply just Razr Maxx..I had apps opening themselves constantly in the background. It would get so bad that I had to task kill every 5-10 minutes. Horrible experience.

Went back to my iPhone 4; Jailbroke it, and I only look back in envy with LTE/Battery. iPhone 5 brought LTE, but battery went up...10mah? Feels like a giant fuck you from Apple due to there is no removable battery.

Whether I'll stay with iOS or Android will depend on Google X. If it fixes my problems, I'll probably give it a try. Hopefully it will be CDMA as well as GSM.

I suspect part of your problems with the Razr was 2-fold
1) A friend has the Razr, (the original, not the maxx) and she had no end of problems as well until she got the update to ICS (4.0). That improved things somewhate
2) Android is far less user-friendly compared to Android. It "just does" because Apple -- for good or bad -- has decided what is best for you as a consumer. Android allows far more tweaking and "playing", but the tradeoff is that my Galaxy Nexus can do almost anything I need it to, short of doing the dishes!

iOS has always had better battery management as well. If you built 2 identical phones, one running iOS and one running Android, the iOS device would absolutely have better battery life.

This was happening before ICS. I have no idea why, but after about 5 minutes or so from booting the phone on, I had games like Angry Birds, or Google Maps, or Text Messages, or other games and apps. This would put my phone in 75-85% RAM usage and slow it down until I task killed. My phone would take like 2-4 seconds to load the home screen.

Well said for sure. Not everyone who uses Apple products does so blindly. Yes there are some just like some use Android, Windows and BB blindly but there are a lot of us who use it because we think it's the best even with it's minor flaws.

I started out on BB then came to iPhone then to Android and now I'm back on iPhone. The most enjoyable experience I've had has to be on iOS/Apple products. They are just easy, they work extremely well and have great battery life for me. Plus the ecosystem and the quality of the apps in the ecosystem blows anyone else out of the water. I don't care how many apps Android has now the overall quality just isn't there unfortunately.

On one forum (forget which) I actually have "proud to be an iSheep" in my signature. While the sarcasm drenching the statement can not be felt online, it is me embracing that, for me, Apple products provide the best experience. When that stops, I will not blindly follow. But when I look at Windows 7, or 8, or Android, there just is no better alternative for me. So I embrace what other system fanboys use as a derogatory term.

They dont all blindly follow what apple does, but if not, they often just mindlessly follow whatever the blogs are complaining about. Do you honestly think that half the people bitching about skeumorphic design realized they didn't like it, or even knew what it meant 6 months ago? A guy I work with claims to hate clutter, be a minimal design fan, can't wait to jony ive to clean up iOS, yet his macbook air desktop is completely filled with icons and useless apps.

I have a feeling if a lot of these people get their supposed wishes, the very next complaint will be how boring and uniform everything looks.

I know there was an old quote from someone along the lines of "The public doesn't know what they want"

I agree that it seems like it's always something, and that's usually the case with big companies. But the majority of fan boys and girls don't understand the true history of the company and think Apple has always been great. The last time Apple lost this much market share (in computers) was after they fired Jobs and went there own way. Now it's happening again, first with the lawsuits and now with a complete lack of artistic growth in iOS (buying Siri from someone else and making it worse does not constitute innovating).

Apple seems to be at a real crossroads with their UI. People are content with their solid hardware, but are seeing their friends with Android UI's that are pushing the envelope with Cloud systems that sync a lot more smoothly is making people twitch a little. The fact that Gmail is the largest email provider in the world and Apple refuses to play nice with them is just brain-dead stupid when they don't offer a product as reliable in exchange (pun intended). I continually bring up a MS comparison because MS rested too long on their software income and got left behind, scrambling to play catch up. They never actually stopped innovating, creating some of the first tablets but never bringing them to market, and that table top touch screen device they had was insanely cool. But they didn't have that fire to continue to stay on their A game and Apple stole the reigns as industry leader with the iPod and later iPhone and iPad.

This business is all about "what's next" and Apple sitting there bragging about hundreds of billions in the bank doesn't inspire me that they are focusing on innovations as we've seen from iOS. Can Jony Ive help keep them relevant? I hope so, technology is always best when there are two juggernauts pounding away at each other like Nikon and Canon are, and Nissan and Toyota did, and Ford and Chevy before them. No matter the outcome, if Apple gets crushed under Android or the new kid on the block that none of us see coming, or they continue to be dominant, it's an amazing time to be a tech fan; it's hard to imagine that ten years ago the Motorola Razr was the shit, and ten years before that, only d-bags with gigantic hair plugs and Beemers had briefcase sized cell phones.

The whole story is spot on

The wailing and gnashing of teeth over cut and paste and lack of mms are all but forgotten while everyone obsesses over the currently perceived short comings.

Most of the time these are mountains made of mole hills, and quibbling over design decisions.

Only a fool announces the DOOM of Apple. Which reminds me, it might be time for me to jump back into AAPL stock, since I bailed when it was at 700+ and you can't expect it to stay at these levels for long.

Agree.

Re: "Most of the time these are mountains made of mole hills, and quibbling over design decisions."

For every strident uber-geek-wannabe wailing about multitasking or notifications, there are 100,000 consumers asking them "WTF are you talking about?" then telling them "STFU already" if they don't STFU already.

That's the biggest problem with technology. The "geeks" if you will think that the vast majority think what they do, when that's simply not the case. Case in point everyone thinks stock Android should be on every damn phone. Well the majority of the world doesn't care about stock Android they want customizations. Same as with iOS. Some of us choose to JB to add more and even more love it for the way it is. Tech people need to realize their opinions aren't facts and most of the people who use the products probably won't know what you are talking about or agree with you. Apple is doing just fine and won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

Exactly. Everything can always be better, for sure. But Apple (and to some extent Google) need to hit the big fat middle of the bell curve: the average consumer demographic.

Rene - great, thoughtful article, glad to see stuff like this posted on Applecentric websites.

You bring up a great point about the Apple rage-meme. We expect innovation to be churned out every 5 minutes, by Apple. We look back on what they have done in the past 15 years, and automatically assume the iPod, iPhone and iPad all came out in rapid fire mode. You are absolutely correct that we look at their past with a positive bias, one that colors the present with a slightly more negative tone. This is exactly what happens with sports fans, as well.

Extending this to beyond Apple and technology, this rage-meme has become prevalent far and wide, across all corners of the internet. I think there is an interesting sociological context behind this rage-meme. There is a subtle flavor of entitlement beneath the surface, and the hyperventilating fanboys need to take a deep breath, and focus on other areas of their lives other than what Apple can do for them. Apple will innovate, they will introduce great products, with impeccable design. It just won't happen every month.

Thank you for a great perspective.

I've always voice my concerns. I believe that's the only way you can get things changed and for Apple to produce products that you like. It's good to share your opinion. This is what help apple to grow and become more innovative.

La vie en rose, eh?

It seems like there have been two deeply entrenched UI fashionista factions at Apple. Long ago, when the Earth and OS X were still forming, it was the Brushed Metal Mafia vs. the Gum Drop Gang. And I strongly suspect that Steve Jobs himself was the leader of the Brushed Metal Mafia. I mean, why else would you jam little brushed metal chunks-o-UI into OS X just here and there, with the rest being all simulated striped plastic plus "lickable" shiny gummy worms and dots? Because the boss liked brushed metal. Gotta be.

Now, with iOS, it's a war between the Shine and Gradients Purists and the Cloth and Leather Clan. And I believe we all know that Jony Ive is a Shine and Gradients Purist, while unlamented Scott Forstall was a Cloth and Leather Clannist. So I'd expect all that faux leather, faux stiching, faux felt, faux wood, faux torn paper edges, and other faux pas to recede into the mists of time.

You'll notice that I never mentioned the S-word. Skeuomorphism.
Because mere texture doth not skeumorphism make.

Sure we can wait for them to iterate all they want. They had years to fix the iPhone UI, to modernize it. They chose not to, they chose to just sit back and cash in. Now my money is going elsewhere. I want something from 2013, not from 2007. Thanks but no thanks any more.

Human nature. We have short attention spans. Come out with some awesome new gadget and the people will swoon over it and do anything to have it. After a few months and the gloss wears off, those same people will be pointing out the flaws and clamouring for an update. Do you realize that most of the phone companies release a new, upgraded model at least once a year? The rate of advancement that is expected or demanded from the public is crazy. Innovate at amazing speeds or be lost in the latest wave of commercial crap. And if your latest gadget is not leaps and bounds "better" than the last one, you will be chastised for putting out crap or being lazy, feeding off of fan boys who will be willing to blindly purchase the latest and greatest thing. Up until 15 or 20 years ago, product release cycles were measured in years and the engineers given time to innovate. Today release cycles are measured in months. Public expectation that any phone manufacturer is going to fix everything perfectly in the next release, without issues and at the same time they are going to improve the UI, features, etc by at least 100%... are these expectations reasonable? In the end I think it comes down to human nature... short attention spans, unreasonable expectations and occasionally blind loyalty. Sometimes I wonder if this crazy pace can be kept up or if it should. Moore's Law seems to lend credence that it will continue... wonder if I will live long enough to see the answer. Who knows, perhaps I'll end up with an iHeart or iLung to keep me going even though it has that dumbed down UI. Or maybe I'll go with Android products for my Android body. Haha. Ok... I need another coffee.

PS - Happy Easter Everyone!

I enjoy this discussion because of its length alone. I wonder if this impatience with new technology and/or upgrades is a sign of our inability to attain an attention span longer than the life spam of a nat. Perfection never was the result of the swoosh of a magic wand. We are in a period of flux which Apple and its competition are living through. I for one will sit back with my beautiful iPhone 5 and watch. As a previous Palm user I know things will change and for the better. We must keep this conversation going and hope Apple et al are listening.

Rene, I really enjoy how on top of the Apple news and editorials, you frequently punctuate them with images from comics (House of M, in this case). Just to make the site that little bit geekier. :-)

I am interested in seeing Apple NOT introduce a new gimmick or even a new design (with the exception of the large Ipad) for a product. I want them to perfect their existing services and then see if they can continue to compete - I suspect they can and will.

I don't care about textures. I can't get worked up over skeuomorphism (sp?) when notifications are killing me softly.

Sorry to pull out the Palm Pre degree but seriously, I am STILL missing notifications because there is no persistently visible method of displaying notifications. I sometimes forget why I held so tightly to my beloved Pre. One reason was that, receiving ten notifications didn't mean I'd be unaware of the first five. I have been told that Android similarly displays icons denoting outstanding TYPES of notifications, etc. Great. But I have an iPhone and I'd rather not switch, again.

I sent the same text message to 7 people. While waiting on it to be sent, I started doing something else on the phone. An hour later, I happened to swipe past the messages app icon and noticed that it had an exclamation on it. SERIOUSLY?

So yeah. Get your ui straight but focus on functionality and, what I hope the phone is still primarily used for - communicating with others (and the user).

While many of us, myself included, would like to see some changes in the platform, hardware, and iOS design, the fact remains is that this is the only smart phone and tablet I've owned that were not laggy crash proned pieces of junk. I've only rebooted my iPhone 4S a hand full of times and that's usually been after iOS updates. It otherwise runs 24/7 to insure that my alarms sound off the next morning. I have no complaints about my iPad that a new iPad mini wouldn't take care of (smaller size, one hand operation. That's it). So while there are certainly Apple can do to improve their technology and out innovate the others, the prevailing consistent thing I see in the Apple technology I own is reliability. Who else can touch that? But then, Jobs had his hand in the execution of the Apple tech I own.

They can't win. I would like it to have a lot of nice new features but I want them all to work well out of the box. It doesn't need a super new look, I don't think.

As a WP user, I'm currently crawling my way around the iOS side of the internet, deliberating as to what my next device will be... but I've got to say, it's editorials like this that keep me coming back here. Very well written, beautifully articulated, and fantastic food for thought.