The disappointingly boring Apple

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 11:30 PM | comments: 0

People on Facebook are apparently tired of me mocking Apple and some of its most recent "innovations." I've been quick to point out that iOS's use of flat colors and multitasking looks an awful lot like Windows Phone, and now with the release of the iPhone 5C, it looks a lot like the Nokia Lumia 900 that was released a year and a half ago. Through much of 2010 and 2011, I complained that no one was making nice phone hardware other than Apple, and now they just appear to be copying others.

I'm not an Apple hater. Swear. I've had three Mac laptops since 2006, and they're my favorite machines of all time. My previous unit even lives on in the hands of one of my friends. I bought the original iPhone two days after it was released, and felt pretty fancy that I could look at a Web page from anywhere, any time. I loved my 3GS, too.

When I switched to Windows Phone, since it was free, I was disappointed with the hardware, but loved the OS. Live tiles and the ability to light it up with all of your digital life before you left the store, just by entering various account credentials, was like magic. When Nokia finally started making great hardware two years later, I felt like it arrived, even if its market share continued to be mediocre.

But in that time, iPhone (and frankly the iPad) didn't go anywhere new. The OS wasn't evolving, and the "icon grid" UI seemed dated and not useful. Even with iOS 7, it hasn't truly evolved. The hardware decisions have been strange, too. The iPhone 5 is visibly beautiful, but because of the edge-to-edge glass, even on the back, one drop and it's prone to breakage. You can't get away with not having a case.

Apple lost me on the phone front. The camera ability of my Nokia 920 alone is worth it, and the 1020 would be a huge slam dunk.

The tablet story is a little murkier, because I'm not a huge tablet user. Or at least, I wasn't before. The iPad is a beautiful piece of hardware, but again, iOS fails to excite. What I like most about it is the LTE without contract. The crazy thing is that the cheap, $159 Kindle Fire HD fits my tablet use case far better, because it's smaller, it does Kindle books and Cloud Player music, has a small form factor, Facebook, Twitter and a browser, for a fraction of the cost. The UI does kind of suck, but when it's that cheap, who cares?

At the laptop end of things, Apple still has me. The MacBook Air is a total engineering triumph. Even with the relatively low resolution of the screen, I love doing development work on it. It's light and fantastic for travel. It's so fast. The newer models also have ridiculous battery life, which compels me to upgrade.

But even there, it's not an iron grip on me. Samsung and others are making some really remarkable machines now. The Surface Pro 2, and the rumored specs, are the most compelling version of a tablet-laptop hybrid yet.

Putting my Windows bias aside, the real threat to Apple is Android. The truth is, they're eating Apple marketshare because these cheap Android phones are "good enough" for most people, and it's a commodity world. Apple has always been a premium product, and the growing market easily offsets the share, but that won't last forever. Blind fanboyism won't last forever either.

Competition is good, but I don't want to see Apple get stagnant. It's too soon.


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