Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Do Consumers Put Up with Apple?

Back when Apple failed in the mid-1990s, there was an odd phenomenon that was widely noticed. It seemed that no matter how badly Apple treated its customers, no matter how ridiculous the pricing, no matter how buggy the software or how bad the hardware, there was a large group of people that were convinced that Apple had just delivered the greatest thing ever. As Apple grew worse and worse, long after the vast majority of people realized they just weren't that great anymore, large numbers of these Apple fans would anxiously await the latest Macs and would line up at the stores overnight to buy them. After a while, only these Apple fans were buying and you would see huge sales in the first few days of release, then sales would trail off to tiny numbers.

Well, it looks like it is happening all over again. Apple has made it's worst iOS release ever and combined it with phones that at best are boring. Yet, if you go over to an Apple fan blog, like AppleInsider, you would think Apple had actually done something well. AppleInsider is particularly odd in that it seems to think that Apple's ridiculously high profit margins are a good thing.

Below is a summary of some of the problems in iOS 7. These lists are far from comprehensive, they just list the most commonly reported problems.

iOS 7 Major Known Bugs

  • A locked phone can be used to make a phone call.
  • The "Find My iPhone" feature can be disabled without a passcode.
  • Various things like photos and email can be accessed even though the phone is locked.
  • Major battery issues. Numerous reports on all models.
  • Many users hitting a problem that requires them to reset the iPhone's firmware.
  • Many users hitting Wifi problems.
  • Problems sending Group messages.
  • iOS 7 sometimes switches off the ability of users to send and receive text messages.
  • Numerous reports of lost contacts.
  • This article has at least 5 items not on this list.

iOS 7 Most Hated Features and Stupid Design Decisions

  • Almost no one likes the desktop parallax effect. It is often the first on the list of things to turn off.
  • Numerous reports of animations for things like apps opening and closing making people dizzy.
  • Generally less intuitive.
  • Forbids the use of cables that do not come from Apple.
  • Apple does not allow you to downgrade, even though they already have a mechanism that would allow you to do this. This feature was used by iOS 7 testers and developers to change their phones back and forth between iOS 6 and iOS 7, Apple disabled it shortly after release.
  • Many of the icons are simply incomprehensible.
  • Font text is too thin.
  • White background is blinding.
  • New multitasking works poorly.
  • The new notification system is so poor, most are recommending you switch back to the old one.
  • The upward swipe to bring up the control center interferes with games that need the same gesture.
  • Needed 3gb of storage free to be able to upgrade.

And of course none of these listed things even begins to cover the hideous UI design in iOS 7:

See: if you want to see a huge list of problems with the iOS 7 UI.

If you check out places like the #ios7 twitter feed, it is easy to believe that Apple may have permanently alienated 25% or more of their customers.

And remember that the "twitter" feed is probably not representative of most iPhone users. In my mind I picture an upper-middle class professional that is busy and has no idea of iOS 7 is. The request comes in to update the operating system and they click yes. Imagine their reaction when the iPhone transforms. Few will have a positive reaction. Even if they liked what they saw, the bugs and unintuitive interface will quickly change that opinion.

And I guess what is most amazing to me, is that Apple has done a worse job with iOS 7 than Microsoft did with Windows 8. In both cases, the companies ignored huge amounts of feedback from testers that they were on the wrong track. But at least Microsoft didn't ship a terribly buggy product. The level of bugs in iOS 7 is breathtaking.

Many Other Things

  • The $29 "Lightning" cable that probably costs less than $3 to produce.
  • The low-end iMacs contain a 5400 rpm hard drive. Apple in fact frequently uses lesser hardware in their premium priced systems. They seem to make the assumption that their customers won't understand.
  • The new, unexpandable Mac Pro is useless to pretty much everyone. The people that used to use Mac Pros needed expansion.
  • The iPhone 5S and especially the iPhone 5C are significantly more fragile that the iPhone 5.
  • The iPhone 5S uses a 64-bit chip, which due to new techniques (not its 64-bitness) is faster than the chip in the iPhone 5. However, the speed really doesn't make a difference in real world situations. The 64-bit chip does however waste a significant portion of memory and cache. And sadly, if Apple had simply shrunk the iPhone 5 chip to the new chip process, it would have significantly improved battery life, something an iPhone actually does need.
  • Apple Stores have hideously inefficient customer service. It is impossible to do simple things like walk in, select an item you already know you need and check out.
  • Apple insistence that they already have the "perfect" design. For example, their refusal to make iPhones with reasonable-sized screens. Their long standing policy that a one button mouse is best.

Why do people keep buying Apple products?

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