I Kinda Miss The Apple Ecosystem?
Thoughts on 5 months without an iPhone
I never thought I’d write an article with this title.
As much as I loathe the term, in the realm of computers I’m probably a Power User.
I’ve been using computers since I was a tiny guy. My first operating system was CPM. I really dove in when the DOS prompt was the primary way of interacting with a PC. I wrote programs in QBasic. I’ve built a ton of computers. I regularly install beta builds of software and operating systems.
Heck, I’m installing a new preview build of Windows 10 on my other computer as I write this.
I even dabbled with Linux for a while. That was a thing.
But unlike some folks, this never blinded me against using Apple products. I spent a lot of time with Apple computers throughout school, starting with the classic Apple II. What a cool old machine! I remember when my elementary school first got some Power Macs with CD-ROM drives. That was a momentous day.
My college filled a couple of computer labs with the colorful iMacs for some reason, and I was one of maybe five people that thought the hockey puck mouse wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
I didn’t own a Mac till last year, when I went crazy and bought a 2016 12-inch MacBook and a Mac Mini. The MacBook is great and I use it for several hours a day.
The Mac Mini…now sits in my living room as a media device.
But in the world of phones…I’ve pretty much always been an iPhone guy. I had one Windows phone, and recently I’ve been using an S8+…but outside of that it’s been iPhone all the time. I’ve owned the original model, a 3GS, a 5C, and a 6 Plus. And a couple of iPads, too.
For about 8 months I had an overlap where I was using an iPhone and a MacBook as my main computing devices.
And now I miss that.
Handoff is great. It seems like it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I think it’s the thing I miss the most. I used to text people with my MacBook constantly. The amount of time I saved being able to look at one screen and not dig my phone out of my pocket every time I had to reply to a text was immense.
Sure, it probably also meant that I was spending more time overall texting people and less time being focused on work…but that’s beside the point!
Handoff feels like a magic trick the first time you use it, and within a week my brain had started to take it for granted.
Okay, I think the iTunes interface is kind of a gangly nightmare…but it was nice to have all of my media in one place whether or not I was listening portably. Plus, I think the Mastered for iTunes initiative has a lot of merit to it even if I couldn’t tell a difference on absolutely every album I tried.
Google Play Music has a better interface and lets me upload my own audio, and the sound quality is mostly fine. But the app is a little laggy sometimes even on my Android phone. I have a regular glitch where I have to wait about 7 seconds for the app to even attempt to load after I’ve clicked on it.
THE APP STORE
Apple’s iOS App Store is much better organized, and still gets more exclusives and wider software support and optimization than the Android platform.
This is probably because it’s more locked down than the Android store, and because it’s harder to pirate iOS apps.
For most of the software I use, this hasn’t been a problem. But I sometimes notice the weird lack of optimization. It feels like my S8+ is brute forcing its way through tasks that my iPhone kind of just sailed through. Heck, even the Starbucks app crashes about once a week on my newer phone.
Obviously, the Starbucks app is not very demanding of the hardware, and is instead staring into the reality of Android needing to run on a million different phones.
To be clear, I’ve never owned a pair of W1-containing headphones. In spite of wanting to buy AirPods at launch, they’re still backordered where I live. Granted, it’s not a six week delay like it used to be….but it’s a bummer that I can’t just go pick them up.
I’ve considered getting over myself and trying out the Solo 3, even though I still think that it’s a slightly underwhelming product.
So why even bring this up then? Battery life, ease of pairing, and device-to-device portability.
If you happen to use all Apple devices, and you own W1 headphones, they will seamlessly pair and switch between your devices. As someone who frequently uses a MacBook in a coffee shop with my phone in my pocket, and sometimes needs to take a call on that phone…I can easily see how this would save me minutes every week.
Right now, whether I’m wired or wireless, any time I get a call I am sent scrambling for buttons and/or cables to try and switch my headset over to the proper device. My skills at doing this have improved…but it’s still super annoying. And again, like with Handoff, I know I’m complaining about something that’s ultimately a convenience feature.
Which is the heart of all of this, really.
CONVENIENCE IS A NIGHTMARISH TRAP
It seems like Apple has lost their way a little bit in the last few years. They’ve slightly expanded their product lines in an effort to compete with the likes of Samsung…but muddled their efficient simplicity in the process. They’ve refused to combine their Mac and iOS ecosystems. They’ve pitched the iPad as a replacement for the MacBook. They’ve championed the versatility of Touch ID by adding it to the MacBook Pro…then removed it from the iPhone X entirely. And yes, they’ve referred to Apple stores as Town Squares.
Apple still has an interoperability and overall convenience to their system that is tremendously enticing.
Sometimes it’s nice to have stuff work together, and to be able to seamlessly switch from device to device without having to think about the hardware.
As a (Shudder) Power User, I actually love to think about hardware…for a while. Then the novelty wears off and I have to actually do some work.
I love the customizability of Android…but beyond the first few weeks, I stopped fiddling with it. I didn’t want to change my screen resolution anymore and I settled into a collection of sounds and visual themes I found appealing.
I love being able to set graphics settings in mobile games…but I miss the smooth optimization of those same titles on iOS and its Metal API.
I like being able to NFC pair with multiple non-Apple Bluetooth products…but I miss the exceptional speaker quality, DAC/Amp quality, and general sound performance of my iPhone 6 Plus.
But all of this is a weird dark trap.
It was designed to make me miss it. It was designed to keep me enthralled so that I wouldn’t buy any non-Apple products. As long as I keep using a MacBook every day, that siren’s call is going to be there, asking me to come back.
“Hey Alex, wouldn’t it be nice if you could open up that messages app and text your friends and family without looking at your phone?”
“Hey Alex, wouldn’t it be great if you could switch your headphones to your phone without touching anything?”
“Hey Alex, wouldn’t you love to sync music to your laptop and have it automatically show up on your phone without the slightly laggy Google Play Music app?”
Yes. All of these things would be nice. They’re not essential. But they’re nice. And they would save me real time.
And so the endgame is either that I inevitably go back to iPhone…or throw all of my Apple products into the nearby river.
I still haven’t decided which one I’m going to do.
(Obviously I’m not going to throw computers into a real river. It was a joke. I love rivers).