Help: Apple is making me lose my faith in other companies

Posted on 21 September 2009 by

I seem to be going through a sort of ‘gadget depression’. I used to see lots of cool MIDs and UMPCs get announced and was really excited for them. Lately though, I usually look at a device and see it as a poorly thought-out, half-baked, swing in the dark.

Before I begin this little rant, let me say that I’m not an Apple fan-boy. I’ve never owned an Apple computer. The only Apple products I’ve owned are the iPod Touch, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS.

From the perspective of mobile devices, I’m becoming increasingly upset at the inability of other companies to release solid, usable products. Apple has never made a phone prior to the iPhone and yet they come out of a left field with an incredibly polished package, and now everyone wants to copy them, but can’t even manage that. We all know that the iPhone does have limitations, it isn’t the end-all be-all device, but is the most complete and intuitive mobile device that I’ve ever used, and for that matter, the most enjoyable and probably even most useful. But this post isn’t here to praise the iPhone. To me it feels like there is something more to Apple than what we see with other companies. Some sort of vision that they stick to that allows them to made products that people really want.

What is it about Apple that allows them to make extremely usable products? Is it simply the fact that they have a ton of money to spend on projects? I find it hard to believe that if another company really dedicated their time to making a great product, they couldn’t achieve it. And yet I continue to see these miserable attempts copy Apple or launch a product that has a clear approach to its design and an actual vision about what it should be able to provide its user. Maybe it’s more profitable for a company to make a bunch of half-baked products and sell a few of each than to have one product that is great and sells well. I can’t quite say.

I realize now that this post is really about that fact that, lately, I have not been impressed by most mobile device offerings being released. Maybe it’s because Apple has set the bar really high and others are still working on catching up? Whatever the case, I can’t wait until I find a new device that I’m actually excited about, and I’m hoping that it won’t be from Apple.

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42 Comments For This Post

  1. Ben Lang says:

    New article: Help: Apple is making me lose my faith in other companies

  2. jkk says:

    .. hmm.. to me it looks like you have found a perfect devices for you… not for all of us

    .. i could never do stuff i do with vegephone

  3. chippy says:

    I agree with jkk. Youve found a product that works for you. Theres no arguing that Apple produced a superb package with the iphone.
    The question is, how would you like to improve it?

  4. Davide-NYC says:

    Have you tried a Palm WebOS based product? (currently only the Palm Pre but soon the Palm Pixie as well)

    I have lamented mobile devices for a long tie and the Palm Pre is not a perfect device, but WebOS is a very solid platform that I strongly endorse it.

  5. Silvio says:

    I’ve only recently become an Apple customer with the 3GS. I jumped ship from WinMobile phones, although now I kind of wish I would’ve stuck it out until the Android/WM6.5+ recently announce will come out. Anyways, I think what Apple does well is pick a few key features and focus all their efforts on those, then slowly add on. Look at the first iPhone. Looking back and comparing it to WinMobile or Nokia smartphones/PDA phones of the time it was a joke. Even now, my 3GS does not do anything my first HTC PDA phone could not do. In fact, my old Hermes could do a lot more and was far more “open”. BUT….the 3GS does things cleanly, consistently, and with good usability in mind. That’s why it’s such a great product.

  6. Vlad says:

    I agree, totally. As an example, recent Copy/Paste add-on. Users had been waiting it for a long time. And now it’s there, simple, and very easy to use. It just blown out competitors. End of story.

  7. freeman70 says:

    Lots of Apple products in the last 3 or 4 years have been lacking in features. For a while, the iphone had no video recording or cut and paste. It still doesn’t multitask. Some people have reported the color of the new iphone 3GS case changing because of battery overheat. Battery life is still a problem and lots of people have mentioned problems with dropped calls. MMS messaging is still only being slowly implemented. In addition, there have been lots of video card problems with Mac computers and even the recent release of snow leopard just got an update. It seems you are blinded by brand recognition. I contend that all manufacturers including Apple are releasing half-baked designs and then leaving the unsuspecting consumer to deal with the fallout.

  8. Ben says:

    It’s definitely not brand recognition that blinds my opinion. I feel as though I can safely and objectionably judge a device, and the iPhone happens to be one that is well thought out. As I mentioned, there are issues with the iPhone, definitely, but that are so small when you compare them to the short comings of most other devices. But anyway, this post is not about the iPhone, it is about the seeming inability for companies to release mobile devices that impress me.

  9. bap says:

    To freeman70
    1 Apple products now use off the shelf PC components – and the reliability has suffered.
    2 many of the recent hardware issues affected PC’s with the same components as well, e.g. video cards.
    3 I was an AT&T customer before the i{hone and had the 2G and now the 3GS. Most of the “phone” related issues are related to AT&T and were present with my prior phone, in fact the iPhone got better reception.
    4 There has never been a release of an OS without a need for an update. The percentage of people with Snow Leopard problems is said to be less than for Leopard before it. I personally try to avoid upgrading system software unless necessary as I use a lot of old software that may not be compatible. I used to be a programmer and found that if you followed apple guideline, then you rarely had issues. All of my programs worked until the switch to Intel. By the way, Intel will finally be catching up to Altivec in 2010 or 2011 – expect a big jump in speed.

  10. iquanyin says:

    Help: Apple is making me lose my faith in other companies

  11. Affes says:

    “Apple has never made a phone prior to the iPhone and yet they come out of a left field with an incredibly polished package, and now everyone wants to copy them, but can’t even manage that”

    you CLEARLY havent used the Palm Pre for any length of time. i only thought my iPhone was advanced until i tried the Pre (then eventually switched carriers for it). Palms WebOS UI is light years ahead of the iPhone, now even going back to my old iPhone feels like a dinosaur. WebOS gesture based navigation, wavebar, multitasking, really makes the iPhone feel “stiff” by comparison.

    plus the iPhone hardware has gotten boring. while Android is going to have the best hardware selection very soon, Google needs to seriously mature that OS before it can compete with the iPhone & especially Palm products.

  12. Sean says:

    And I can think of 70,000 reasons the Pre comes up short. Not to mention the very poor build quality. My best friend bought one and has returned it twice for repairs.

  13. xemone says:

    The Palm Pre is trying too much to look like the iphone that’s it’s first mistake. It’s an iphone with a slideout qwerty! That was the first thing I thought when I first saw it. Aren’t there any pioneers out there? Make something new!!!

  14. patrick says:

    I think you are actually commenting on the ability of steve jobs and not Apple. The problem with most modern products is that no one takes full responsibility for what the customer gets. Even with the iphone AT&T directly effects what the user experiences on the phone. With all other phones you get a network, chip design and an operating system that are made by third parties. Steve Jobs genius is his ability to see what is being left out of the market because there is no proper integration of software and hardware. The ipod was just another mp3 player until apple rewrote the book by supplying itunes and the online music delivery. It is this ability to see what we are missing that makes apple products so compelling. Who knew you could have a phone that would surf the internet and recognize phone numbers or email addresses from any text source? Visual voicemail answered the most basic frustration of every cell phone user: I don’t want to waste 20 minutes of my day listening to useless messages just to get to the one really important piece of information I have to have right now. If you have followed tech news you will know that Nokia is working on a version of linux to power their phones. I think Samsung is doing something similar. It will take time for these other companies to catch up. Steve started making os x in 1989 as Next computer. He has a huge lead over the competition and he is not going to squander the opportunity to use it to his best advantage. Intel may well regret apple’s resurgence as much as Microsoft already does. The real future of computing is in performance per watt, and the ease of writing multi processor aware software. Apples ability to design its own processors (custom ARM processor designs) and software(os x) at the same time may well be its greatest advantage yet. It is not hard to imagine that a system with a thousand processors would have specialized heterogenous hardware designs that require an order of magnitude more integrated software. In fact, we already know that this is what evolved in living organisms (brains evolved from neurons).
    As far as your complaint about the quality of other gadgets I expect that you will be even more disappointed in the near future if Apple continues on its current track of innovation and integration. Why don’t you just sit back and enjoy the ride?

  15. turn_self_off says:

    Makes one wonder how much apple will flounder ones jobs leaves for good (just watch the late 80’s to early 90’s for a indication).

  16. UMPCman says:

    Patrick – agree strongly with you. Apple has the unique ability to control the hardware and software, which allows the two to mesh as efficiently and reliably as possible. They seem to have designed the iPhone from the ground up, whereas HTC, Samsung, and Nokia working with WinMo or some Linux-based mobile OS have to deal with all the legacy software issues.

    Less wasted memory cycles, partially used chips, and most efficient use of available CPU power make for a more effective and more reliable device.

    I’ll never buy an Apple product – any company that locks me into their software will never see my dollars – but I do find myself jealous of my tech-ignorant friends whose iPhone “just works”, while I can do anything they can, but it’s more hassle and less reliable.

    The recent advent of GPS mapping software on the 3G iPhone is going to have a huge impact on that device. I see everyone (i.e. my tech ignorant friends) using it already, practically overnight.

    Garmin, TomTom, and the like are dead-men walking.

  17. turn_self_off says:

    legacy, what legacy? winmo may have some legacy, but linux, if it has any legacy its the same as whats powering the iphone (unix).

  18. wkeller says:

    I fully agree with Ben, having used many WinMo devices for long time and now the iPhone 3GS. What a difference! NB. No experience with Palm Pre or Android, really hope they are in the Apple league wrt usability.

  19. turn_self_off says:

    here is a funny thing, the iphone is more featurephone then smartphone…

    or to put it in other words, if the iphone is a smartphone, so is my sonyericsson C702.

    why? from the simple reason that both focus on a couple of built in features (iphone, media playback. C702, photos) with the ability to run “apps” on the side (iphone, proprietary. C702, j2me).

    have anyone here had some time with the recent opera mini beta on a j2me enabled large screen touchphone?

  20. Corticalsam says:

    There is absolutely no doubt that iphone is popular but I believe the reason is the good follow up and support. The features (software wise) were not the best at the time but apple was smart enough to motivate programmers to make money for apple and for themselves but the main profit went to apple. I wish Microsoft could stop making so many new products and make 1 OS for PCs and 1 for smartphones and do it properly.
    I’m sure google in this equation will have a huge impact. We have to wait and see.

  21. Vit says:

    I maybe in a minority here, but I don’t share all that excitment about fruitPhone. Yes, I own one, yes it looks nice, and yes it locks some features, in fact, very important ones. But it is sad to see how people claiming to be objective a ready an willing to forgive Apple for its ‘limitations’ but ready to smear and mix with a dirt Microsoft product! It sounds funny that someone claiming not to be apple fanboy owns 3 apple products that pretty much overlapping each other. Recently I became an owner of ‘misarable atempt’ by HTC to ‘copy’ fruitPhone called Touch Pro 2. I don’t understand how anyone can compare these 2 products. They are completetly different animals! The only thing they have in common is that both called smartphones. Compare them is like compare house cat to a lion. And frankly everyone has his/her own needs and demands to mobile device. I own iPhone 1gen, Google’s G1, and HTC TP2. For me TP2 is a winner. The only complain I have is a stiff price.

  22. Ben says:

    I said I’ve ‘owned’ an iPod Touch, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS, maybe I should have clarified that I’ve only ever owned one at a time, and I upgraded in that order.

    I didn’t direct this post against any particular company, and I’m not saying that there aren’t any out there capable or producing good products, but I’m saying that the vast majority seem to make products that don’t really deliver the complete package; it feels like they don’t have good quality control and don’t test their products to the same extent to make sure that they make sense for usability.

    I’ve had my hands on plenty of devices, from many companies, both good and bad, I really don’t look at brand as a factor, I use these devices and feel the experience that they offer. Some don’t deliver and don’t impress. The iPhone has. But again, away from the iPhone, Apple seems to have simply well designed products and this is from a number of reasons. Am I really being condemned for saying that I wish that more companies would release solid products that delivery obviously well-thought user experiences, and are very practical/useful?

    This is mostly targeted toward MIDs that have so far failed to take off, and also poorly designed devices like the UMID.

  23. RobM says:

    Well, I have an iPhone 3GS, and had the ‘pleasure’ to use a HTC Magic Android-phone this weekend. The Magic was terrible! Small crappy icons, very jittery transitions from app to app, very unintuitive UI, strange browser operation. It might be a smart phone, but it was not easy to use! Android will replace Windows Mobile at the lower end of the market. Apple will dominate the high end . where the money is!

  24. turn_self_off says:

    “very unintuitive UI, strange browser operation”

    in other words, it did not behave as you where used to on the iphone?

    as that seems to be what unintuitive and strange often boils down to:
    “it did not behave as i was used to from what i have previously used, so it must be bad”

    not that is was worse in any objective sense (if that can really be stated about a interface) but that it was different from the habits one had built up over time…

    thing is, i used to hear similar complaints when people went from a nokia phone to some other brand, mostly because they could not bother to take the time to “unlearn” the habits that had built up over maybe years of using nokia…

    here is a interesting article/blog/rant on the topic, even tho its aimed at windows and linux, not iphone and android:

  25. Kevin Payne says:

    Sharing: Help: Apple is making me lose my faith in other companies: I seem to be going through a sort of..

  26. Tamina Sanada says:

    Help: Apple is making me lose my faith in other companies …

  27. tino says:

    I haven’t been able to interest in any new phone in the last 1-2 years. The last new phone I used was the iPhone 1. I agree none of the new phone impresses me. If I am going to spend the money now, I probably will get a new iPhone with a battery case.

    However, the new Motorola motoblur thing did excite me for a bit. I look forward to new phone that have revolution features.

  28. iphonerulez says:

    Apple probably doesn’t use tech-savvy people when it comes to trial-testing their devices. Tech-nerds are always complaining about how dumbed-down Apple products are and calling them nearly useless compared to X and Y cellphone. Tech-heads are always saying you can do this function and that function with WinMo, Android, Palm, Symbian, etc. and that Apple is crippling its own platform for users. Tech-savvy users, maybe, but Apple is designing their UI and hardware for people that know little about using smartphones. All these users want is to do things easily and get good customer support. At least the people I know that own iPhones say that’s all they really need.

    Tech-heads are so impressed when some device has 50 functions even though 95% of users won’t be able to figure out how to use 45 of them. That’s one reason why most of those other platforms are losing customers and market share. The other is that many of those smartphone companies have such lousy customer support.

    More owners are more than satisfied with Apple products than not as most surveys will indicate. Tech-heads are in a minority when it comes to buying electronic devices, so it’s best not to target them at all. Don’t depend on tech-heads to give you any decent advice on what to buy. You’d better just go to the Apple store and try the device for yourself and see if it’s easy to use.

    Most tech-savvy users are saying the iPhone platform will be dead in a few years due to Apple’s restrictions. I think they are wrong, but tech-savvy people always think they know best how to run a company but they usually don’t know anything about business or what people want. Their whole life is basically about cutting-edge hardware and lots of features and that’s what they think 95% of the population wants. They’re wrong. Dead wrong.

  29. fab says:

    apple..i like them too, but not the granny smiths. they’re too sour… oh, there are phones and computers too? haven’t seen them in schlecker…

  30. Joe Anonymous says:

    Most of the responses are missing the entire point. The article is not about whether the iPhone meets your particular needs or even if the iPhone is better than the Pre or Android.

    The article is about Apple’s ability to endlessly produce one high quality product after another. Look what they did the the portable MP3 player industry. Look what they did to the phone industry (whether Pre or Android is better TODAY is irrelevant. 3 years ago when the iPhone was introduced, it was revolutionary). Look at the build quality of the MacBook Pro against the cheap garbage that most vendors sell.

    The proof is in the pudding. Look at virtually every reliability survey ever done by PC magazines, Consumer Reports, Business Week, etc. Apple cleans up. Always. (even though Mac bashers insist that they’re no difference from generic hardware while there clearly is, given the results).

    The nearest equivalent is BMW. Look at year after year of car magazine reports. BMW is always at the top of the list for performance, build quality, and drivability (yes, there are complaints of bias, but when BMW wins over and over again from every magazine, it’s not bias).

    There is no one simple explanation, but it mostly boils down to focusing on quality rather than on cost. Apple’s customers have historically been people who want something that works and who are not looking for the cheapest product. The focus is on usability, usability, usability – even when it costs a bit more to do it right.

    Look at the components they use. They don’t use cheap, generic RAM, but rather better than average RAM – to the point where there are countless reports of systems working well on Apple RAM, but failing on generic RAM. They design their own motherboards with high quality capacitors instead of the junk you see on most motherboards. Their cases are far more durable than industry standards in most cases (MacBook Pro machined out of a single block of aluminum, for example).

    Aside from the components is the culture. They simply test the heck out of things with the premise that any failure is unacceptable. Sure, it adds to the cost, but look at the results. Snow Leopard was probably the smoothest OS upgrade in history – and almost all of the problems were caused by third party haxies. That’s why Leopard, for example, had something like 90% user satisfaction rate while Vista was in the single digits.

    No magic bullet, just a dedication to providing the customer with a great product even if it might cost a little more. Read about Toyota’s culture for another example of this philosophy in action.

  31. turn_self_off says:

    i swear, most youths that kill themselves or others in traffic, use a BMW…

  32. TokyoRob says:

    Joe you have been drinking way too much kool-aid ..
    As a engineer i know they are built with the cheapest parts they can lay their hands on ,this shows with logic board problems and LCD issues

    I have owned 2 powerbooks and 4 ipods and everything has been repaired/replaced with the powerbooks being the biggest bags of junk

    Just pray that you don’t have a Macbook air and the hinges break because that’s a 400 USD repair

    A lot of the times apple don’t admit to the problems and they will delete comments on the support forum about issues

    The only saving grace is that Apple Service is better than most (but a little clueless at times)

    Remember If you get a Macbook get the 3 year cover because you WILL need it

  33. DavidC1 says:

    You can say Apple is what devices are supposed to be and others, well they plain suck. But I have come to realize maybe that’s not always the way to think.

    How about thinking that others are how “normal” companies do products and Apple is EXCEPTIONAL!! Innovation is hard since once you innovate and become the household name, that becomes the norm.

  34. Joe Anonymous says:

    One more analysis that comes to essentially the same conclusions from a different perspective:,2817,2353010,00.asp

  35. Ben says:

    One of the things I notice about Apple is that they don’t announce their products 10 months in advance then bring it to market, and this actually serves to increase buzz because everyone wants to know what they are up to. While other companies announce a product many months in advance to try to get everyone excited, but generally fail to do so.

  36. xemone says:

    First, I think that apple (as a company) is able to concentrate their efforts; something very few other companies are able to do well. In laptops, they’ve got the macbook lineup and nothing else so they perfect that. And they do the same with their only smartphone and it’s phone-less twin (iPod Touch), and also their only HDD-based media player and it’s flash-based twin. They never do too much at once. This helps them perfect their products so-to-speak and it also doesn’t confuse the shopper. In comparison, other companies have 4-8 different notebook lines while apple has one.

    Also, apple is always thinking outside the box. Anything apple does is always from outer space; both hardware and software. Titanium notebook chassis, multitouch, unibody, full-face touchscreen among other things. In a way they own all of this stuff so anything else automatically comes off as a clone or wannabe. This doesn’t always work out well though – think the Apple TV. But even with all the omissions in the iphone and macbooks, one thing keeps customers coming back – aesthetics! Let’s all admit it Apple’s got the looks. For looks, you’d rather be seen rocking an iPhone over say a HTC Tilt.

    There’s another company though that I think may have the same boldness to leap out on new ideas (like apple does). Asus! First with the Low cost netbook now they rule netbook sales worldwide. Next, rumors are they’re prepping a dual screen netbook/color ereader thingamabob! We’ll see. But in their own way. They’re the apple of the PC world.

  37. Carl says:

    There are two elements that make a device compelling;

    1. It Just Works.

    No fiddling, no having to compile or hack, no crashing, confusing behavior or illogical UIs. Just turn it on and do your thing without thinking.

    2. It Does What You Want It To Do.

    It has all the programs and features you need, and allows new programs and features to be added as one’s needs change. It’s open-ended.

    The iPhone/iPod Touch does one of these things very well, but the other not so well, even though there are many applications for it. Apple’s unwillingness to address the closed nature of iPhone OS poses a problem for it in the long-term if another OS manages to develop its ergonomics to the point of competition.

    Personally, I’ve never found the iPhone to be an attractive proposition because of this, despite using a Mac as my desktop computer since the days of System 7.1.

  38. Realty says:

    I think it has to do with Apples tight integration of software with hardware. Because they control both, they can tweak either to constantly improve the user experience. People forget that the first Iphone had issues and there have been multiple system upgrades to address these. If you are another phone manufacturer and you use WinMo. How do you get a quick upgrade? Your trapped by the fact that Microsoft cant customize there operating system to be optimized for a single phone. It needs to work on hundreds of different manufacturers phones. Thus the compromised user experience. The same is going to happen with Android phones. As more manufactures with different hardware configurations try to make generic Android work on there machines, you will see a degredation of user experience. Interestingly this means RIM and Palm who still control both the hardware and software have the best chance of matching and beating Apple in usr experience.

  39. teh.sean says:

    Ben’s post strikes me as odd for two reasons:

    1. This article seems like it should have been a forum post instead. The message that contributors to the site prefer one platform to another sends the wrong message to visitors. One of the things I really appreciate about UMPCPortal is that for the most part, device reviews and content is objective. This article dances on that border to me.

    2. For a company (Apple) that has not released a single device in the UMPC spectrum, I think it’s a little strange to compare a 3rd generation phone to the likes of any 1st generation UMPC computers. Also consider this: Apple is a US company developing a product based on in depth market research in the US. It comes as no suprise that they have a product that fits the market. Look at most UMPC and MID manufacturers, who develop products based on Asian trends and try to fit a device into that market. It’s no suprise to me that a device like the UMID would not appeal to a lot of people outside of that market. It’s no different than e-dictionaries, a device which flourishes in Asian markets but has virtually no presence outside.
    This comparison is also unrealistic from a support standpoint. How many of these devices must be imported through channels such as gmarket, or if you are lucky import companies like Dynamism, Conics or Mobilx (just to name a few). My point here is that comparing support for a company serving its primary distribution to companies that are supporting devices outside of their normal sales market is unrealistic.

  40. Thomas S. says:

    There is no comparison between the IPhone and the Pre. Nor the Iphone and the G1. Nor the Iphone and any other 1st gen UMPC.

    The comparison is should be between Iphone and something else that’s a third or fourth gen gadget. Take the Nokia N900. Both the Iphone and the N900 have had two and three tries to get the hardware and OS right. Now which one came out in the end, of course the Iphone. Which one is more useful, of course the N900.

    But Iphone is an Apple product, it has the name. It’s over-simplified, which some people like. It works the way you expect it to, which some people like. It has downfalls but it has strengths that are built in, which some people like.

    The N900 is a Nokia MID, which some people like. It takes some getting used to, but the UI is more useful once you do, which some people like. It’s takes a bit of work and downloading apps to make it the best it can be, which some people like. It does a lot of things a computer does, but not as smoothly as a real PC.

    If you are willing to take the time to learn about, work with, and download apps, the N900 would be a better device. If you want something to just work the second you get it, the Iphone is the better device. It’s a subtle balance between Simplicity and Usefulness.

  41. Thomas S. says:

    I guess what I’m saying is…

    Apple knows what it’s audience wants. Which is simplicity and smoothness. It’s not shooting to be the most advanced, or the most useful. or anything else. Apple is good at what they are good at, and they know it. AUDIENCE REALIZATION IS THE KEY!!!!!

  42. Tim says:

    whoa! the iPhone’s nice and all, but to say that Apple has set the bar really high, you might need to lay off the kool-aid. It’s incredibly polished packaging, when Apple provides its user a featurephone and call it a smartphone. That’s just plain false advetising, and that’s something everyone shouldn’t want to copy. You consider the iPhone, the most complete and intuitive mobile device that you’ve ever used, then, I consider my RAZR v3m, the same: light to carry, access to my hotmail & yahoo mail, VZ Navigator, song ID, automatic phonebook backup, ability to take videos when I got it years ago. I bet if I jailbroke it, it’ll probably wash dishes too. If it’s products, people really want, Nokia sold 122 million phones in 2008, and I think, none of them had the iFart app. With the marketing blitz Apple mustered, 10 million iPhones sold in 2008. More RAZRs were sold when it first became available, than iPhones when it first became available. Focus on one product that is supposed great? Whatever happened to giving customers choices? If Apple ever comes out with a smartphone, it’ll be happy with the profit it makes on its miniscule fanboy market share, while either, Android or WimMo or Nokia or RIM or Palm or who knows, dominate.

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