Dear Apple, I think I want a divorce

April 20, 2018

Dear Apple,

It’s been a while. Quite a bit of time, actually. Maybe really close to 31 years, actually. We’ve been together through a lot of things. That awkward stage where all of your hardware was beige (hey, it was the thing to do in the 90s!), through all of your Mac OS iterations. I was with you, as passed down through my family, at risk of sounding like a total hipster, before you were really popular. I was a fan of yours, going in to Circuit City and other hardware/software stores looking for the four titles that were available on Mac… Breakout, Super Breakout, Photoshop… I even attended a MacWorld Expo years back with a friend I was slowly converting into Machood. Remember when… Remember OS 9? Haha, I think it’s funny to think newer Mac fans probably don’t even know that Mac OS X is literally called that because it is the 10th iteration of your OS, and Mac OS 9 was VASTLY different. Remember when you adopted Mac OS X? And the availability of applications for Mac was so limited and valuable that for years we could run an emulator (called “classic”) to run OS 9 applications until eventually the catalogue was good enough again you could remove it? Remember VersionTracker (Now MacUpdate) as being the go-to source to get apps before the invention of the iTunes store? Remember all the old startup chimes? Remember the rainbow colored Apple logo? Remember TinkerTool? Remember Aspyr Media (the only one that was actually trying to port games to work on Mac)? Remember ClarisWorks/AppleWorks, now Pages?

You know what was fantastic? When you started getting popular! It was amazing! For the first time ever I could buy Mac products in stores. I attended the opening of the Apple store near me (I still have the t-shirt to prove it!) and meandered around back when your logo was a gooshy blue Apple with a drop shadow. I treasured my Pismo PowerBook G3 (Yeah, they were called PowerBooks before they were MacBooks) and upgraded late to a titanium PowerBook G4, then eventually up to a MacBook Pro in college… So yeah, I definitely hang on a bit. Went from the blue TV-style iMac, skipped the lamp version, got a white plastic iMac, and then an aluminum one. I never got the chance to have an iPhone… Sure I wanted one when they first came out, but you were locked to AT&T at the time, and then by the time they were available on my carrier I was deep in with Android. I had iOS on my iPod Touch, which constantly crashed and made me not want an iPhone. Plus, you know, no expandable storage and no ability to replace my own battery. Deal killers when you hold on to tech until it’s dead like I do.

But here’s the thing. You got popular. You got really popular. It was great… For a while. They when you started asking insane prices for hardware you expected to have a stranglehold on repairing, and you really only wanted to work for a year or two, you really started rubbing me the wrong way.

I have a right to complain about Apple, I believe, because I’ve been through it all, and I see the flaws, and I also see the writing on the wall. So let’s talk.

The reiterations/poor design/bad design/nothing new

Oh boy, how excited are you for the new iPhone? Is it another reiteration of the same iPhone only with a slightly better processor, slightly bigger, slightly thinner, maybe it’s got some design quirk it stole from someone else (ehem, Essential Phone did the notch first. Fight me). This technology is stagnant. Apple isn’t pushing for anything new at this point, they’re just cashing in on people who are so used to the iOS environment and who have invested all of their stuff in the Apple environment (more about this after) that they can charge $1,000 for a phone that has features Android has had for years. Because of the brand. Because it is Apple. And we’re letting them. The people who don’t know any better are spending $1,000 and getting these phones, just because it’s the latest and greatest from Apple. Samsung is trying to work out a way to creating folding fucking smartphones, and Apple’s over here doing this to their wireless rechargeable mouses:

YEAH. That makes TOTAL design sense. Your mouse dies and then you can’t use it anymore. Period. Awesome. Good work.

Once an Apple Genuis in the Apple store asked me what he could do to get me to convert to iPhone from my Android. I said, “expandable storage and a removable battery” and he nodded knowingly and said “touché.”

The passing of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs did plenty of both terrible things and great things, but everyone can admit he was a fantastic visionary who managed to pull his own company out of the garbage. Personally, I believe that if Steve Jobs were alive, we wouldn’t have any of these ridiculous things Apple is doing. For example, Apple pushes out the “Apple Pencil”, but Steve Jobs said way back when:

“Who wants a stylus?” Jobs said while introducing the iPhone. “You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em. Yuck! Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus.”

It’s also my thought that Steve Jobs (and whatever level of management he had) probably had a lot more of a higher expectation of quality control. It is very doubtful to me that Steve Jobs would’ve allowed updates to be pushed such as:

  • The Mac OS X update that kept causing intermittent pausing on all machines
  • The iOS update that kept autocorrecting “I” to “A”
  • The iOS update that kept resetting iPhones

Those are just a few I can think of off the top of my head. There’s also you know, the special arabic characters that crashed iPhones, or the special messages that crashed iPhones, or… Or…

On top of feeling like I am constantly thinking “Steve Jobs would have never”, I also think that:

Since making the OS free, OS updates are garbage

For those of you who don’t remember, Mac OS X used to be a thing you went and bought at a store. We’d go out and purchase a copy of Snow Leopard (or whatever big cat it happened to be named after at the time) and then install it and you’d usually get a really solid OS out of it. That’s because something needed to be polished enough to be physically released into the store. It makes sense that once someone stops being required to pay for something that the thing that was once paid for would drop in quality, but the drop is drasticThings that once worked don’t anymore, or don’t work as expected.

What happened to Front Row, a fantastic app that let you control your computer via remote and watch all your movies, photos, and listen to your music, essentially turning your Mac into an entertainment center (a lot like Plex, which I have adopted since losing Front Row functionality)… Something that is heavily valued now with the advent of smart TVs and consoles as complete entertainment options?

Why doesn’t Finder work as expected? The name is literally Finder. It was originally meant, as the backbone of Mac OS, to FIND things. What is Spotlight and why the hell do I need it? Why can’t I hit command + F, type in the file name I am looking for, and then have the thing show up? Why doesn’t it work? Why do I have to specify “file name” first before results come up? It doesn’t make sense. The file name is the FIRST thing anyone would search for!

And then:

Additions of “features” no one wants, removal of features people DO want

Mission control? Launchpad? Who wants these? Who uses them? Expose (It’s Spaces now, right?) I guess makes sense, but then there’s other things that you’re just scratching your head over. Why do I want websites endlessly sending notifications to my computer? And can’t I make the nagging messages about updating my OS/Pages/Numbers/whatever software go away (I can, but it’s convoluted)? The answer is you’re bloating your OS with things that people don’t want, and then you’re removing features that people DO want.

Look, I get it. Apple is trying to drive everyone to iOS. They’re trying to bring the desktop version of Mac OS as closely in line with iOS so they can merge them, but listen… If you’re using a desktop machine, chances are you’re doing things that require more functionality than a streamlined operating system meant for ease-of-use (usually dumbed down) on mobile devices. YEAH, I want to be able to use my computer as a server — WITH FTP and SFTP! You’re deprecating features that people who are running servers need. But I guess all you really care about is iPhones and iPads, right? As long as you’re selling those, screw the desktop users.

Back to bad design

Everyone was up in arms when Apple got rid of the headphone jack. Then, everyone was even more up in arms when Apple reduced the ports on their MacBooks to a singular port. I was one of those people, but I was also hoping they were going to revamp the MacBook Pro to include all of the ports that people needed, thus driving more sales of MacBook Pros. But they didn’t. Instead, MacBook Pro users are expected to use four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports and one headphone jack… For everything. Forget about ever needing to jack into your router with an ethernet cable, or ever needing to use a phone port at any point. Everything else requires a dongle. Everything standard USB you’ve been using for years? Screw that, right? There’s no period of warm handover  to convert you. You’ll need tips and dongles! Thinner! Who cares about usability?!

If I’m expected to pay $1,300 to $2,800 for a MacBook Pro, I want to be able to use it for everything I need it for like any standard high-end computer. My MacBook Pro is a thing I need to tote around with me to get the job done. I should be able to jack in, do the thing, and then leave. But nope, gotta mess with dongles now. Dongles for everything.

Lack of support/No repair options

Yes, I admit I hang on to my technology until it dies. That’s because, historically, Apple computers are made to last. If I still had my PowerBook 5300, I guarantee it would still work — it’d be slow as hell and clunky, but it would boot, assuming the hard drive hadn’t mucked up. Items produced before Steve Jobs died honestly seem to last nearly for-ev-er. It’s great. But I guess not so great for Apple’s bottom line.

But what happens when something does break on your Mac? Apple doesn’t design items that are made to be repaired, it’s as simple as that. They’re not meant to be pulled apart, and really Apple only supports you replacing the RAM in your machine, if even that. Apple’s ideal world is you buy a computer from them, it breaks, you throw it out and buy a new one. It’s not environmentally responsible by any means, considering technological waste is piling up in landfills around the world.

Here’s how Apple’s repair model works: You buy the machine, something happens, it breaks, and if you’re within the one year warranty (or three year Applecare period) they may repair it for you. If you’re out of that repair window? Guess what? You’re totally screwed. You can either pay something to the tune of $900 (I broke my MacBook Pro screen and that’s what Apple quoted me to fix it) or… buy a new one! Might as well if you’re going to be spending $900 on a repair, right? This is one of the ways how they can trap you into just buying a new one.

Yes, there are third-party repair centers you can go to, and they often do high quality repairs for much, much less than Apple would charge you. But Apple does not support Right to Repair, and actually tries to scare and muscle small third-party repair shops into not doing Apple repairs on their products. On top of that, they try underhanded OS tactics to make it so users won’t seek out more affordable repair options to have their devices repaired, such as making it so the ambient light sensor does not work if a screen on an iPhone is replaced by anyone except an Apple repair shop.

On top of that…

Apple releases and does not try to fix deeply design flawed products

I have a 27″ 2010 iMac and a 15″ 2011 MacBook Pro. Almost all users of the 2010 iMacs have stated that there are display issues, and I can confirm this. Dark blotches have appeared on the LCD panel and do not go away — this is not from “burning in” or dirt. Other users report the same. There has never been a recall or anything done to address this issue. Luckily, it’s annoying, but you don’t really notice it… You know, unless you’re doing drawing or design work on the same machine.

And then there’s the 15″ 2011 MacBook Pro. If you know anything about this machine, you will know it is a failure of a machine. The design is so deeply flawed in this machine that the GPU will fail on it due to the temperature getting so high in the machine that the parts literally separate from one another. I had the GPU fail once, which was covered by a recall sent out by Apple… But Apple replaced the logic board, they didn’t actually address the issue, so ultimately the GPU failed again (January of this year), conveniently out of Apple’s recall period now. I spent a hefty amount of money on a new (used; there is no such thing as a new board for these machines) logic board on eBay (almost $400), which failed within two months, probably because it was already on its way out when it was sent to me.

So what are my options?

  1. Get a new MacBook Pro. I don’t want to downgrade my screen size, so I’d be spending closer to $2,800. Also I need all my ports, which the new MacBooks don’t have. Buy a dongle? Sure.
  2. Spend another $400 and get another board that will probably also fail.
  3. Go to a repair shop and spend around $200 and hope it also doesn’t fail again (and also that they’ll consider even working on it)
  4. Have Apple “recycle” my “vintage” machine. So kind of them!
  5. Get a different kind of laptop, ditching all of my Apple-centric software in the process.

The thing is Apple knew both of these machines were deeply flawed, the MacBook more than the iMac, and they didn’t do anything to fix the problem, only replaced the part that made the machine dysfunctional at the time. Maybe most people don’t hold on to their laptops for 7 years, but some of us do, especially when it’s doing its job just fine.

Let’s talk point #5 in that list.

Apple has a stranglehold on your stuff

If you’re an iOS user and/or a relatively new Mac user, chances are Apple has a stranglehold on all of your things and you don’t really know it. Moved all your files to iCloud so you can access it anywhere and free up space on your Mac? Sounds great! Until you realize no other devices except Apple devices can access these files now. So all your photos on the cloud are there, and they’re going to stay there, ensuring you keep buying Apple products.

Yes, there are roundabout ways to get through anything, but Apple, who has always been plug-and-play in the past, is now known for not playing nice with anything else. It’s difficult to plug my Android in, which is just a glorified flash memory hard drive with some OS on it, and use it to get or receive files… But for some reason I can use Google Drive options on everything and anything and move things in and out as necessary? It’s annoying.

Think about this: as an iPhone user, if you want to buy an Android instead, how do you get your contacts over? They’re usually locked within Apple’s stuff, right? Do it manually the old fashioned way? There are workarounds, as with anything, but it’s sad that I can port in contacts from Google onto any variety of Android device (including Pixel) or Apple. It just plays a lot nicer.

The price

We all know that Apple products are expensive, but they don’t really feel like they have a right to be so anymore. The most expensive PixelBook is $1,000, and offers a lot more features than the MacBook. Honest! The only thing it’s lacking is the software, which will hopefully and quickly catch up.

Apple is charging whatever it wants because it keeps selling things to people whose files and software are locked into Apple’s propriety or who want to keep using the Apple environment. Does $2,800 for a laptop sound outlandish to you? It does to me. And then to have Apple’s bad design make it moot or “vintage” in a year or two? You’ve either got to be rich to afford Apple products or you’ve got to have it gifted to you, like I did with my MacBook Pro from my college.

Will Apple change?

The Apple fangirl inside of me wishes, desperately, that they will. I wish they would be more on our side in terms of repairing our items and listening to the thing users want — especially hardcore Apple users who are now migrating away in droves. I really, really do want it, but honestly I think they’re just going to keep beating that dead horse until they’re forced to drop the price because they’re simply not innovating. How long have I wanted a MacBook 2-in-1? So long I have wanted that, or even just a touchscreen enabled MacBook. These are things they already have the ability to do but they’re not experimenting, just hacking away at that niche.

Instead, I’m looking to Google and Samsung to pick up the slack. The PixelBook, as mentioned before, is looking mighty nice, and I love the idea of a foldable smartphone. For now, I’m going to be sitting on this MacBook Pro paperweight, I guess, until I can hash out my final thoughts, but I’m thinking Chrome OS might be calling my name…

Aimee Cozza is a freelance illustrator out of Southern New Hampshire. She graduated from the New Hampshire Institute of Art in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in illustration. Since then, she has been working in a variety of ways completing various illustrations for clients, friends, and for herself.

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