Archive for January 30, 2021

Saturday, January 30, 2021

2020 Six Colors Apple Report Card

Jason Snell:

It’s time for our annual look back on Apple’s performance during the past year, as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple.


The iPhone is Apple’s most important product, but given the seismic changes in the Mac in 2020, the panel was a bit more restrained with its praise—though the iPhone still managed an A grade.

I was a bit surprised by that, as I think the iPhone 12 lineup is strong across the board, and the iPhone 12 mini is my favorite iPhone in a long time.

John Gruber said, “This one is easy. The M1 Macs mark the best moment in Mac hardware history. Apple silicon is that big a deal.”

John Siracusa said, “If you’re not going to give Apple top marks now, then what are you saving your praise for? Daring new Mac designs will have to wait for 2021 or later, but for now we can all rejoice in the unmitigated good of the M1-based Macs. Hallelujah!”

I gave a 4 for Mac hardware because, although the M1-based Macs are the best Mac hardware news in a long time, they came at the end of the year and have not yet spread throughout the lineup. 2020 was another year of the 16-inch MacBook Pro having poor input devices and no matte display. Apple doesn’t sell a Retina display for normal people to connect to it, even though it degraded non-Retina text rendering and icons. And pricing remains a problem in general.

Brent Simmons said, “Apple’s software quality should be so very much better. They’re meant to lead the world in software quality — they should be showing us developers and the rest of the industry how it’s done. But there is so much disappointment here. Whenever I contrast with the brilliance of the new ARM Macs I want to cry.”

The general consensus seems to be that Big Sur is more reliable than Catalina. I’m not sure whether that’s the case. It certainly introduced its own new issues, which I spent much of the summer working around and much of the fall helping my customers with. Rosetta 2 is good but less reliable than Rosetta 1, in my experience. The Mail data loss bug remains unfixed and continues to ensnare new users. There may be scattered improvements in Big Sur, but I don’t see any evidence of turning the corner towards focusing on quality. The general pattern is that each year more stuff breaks, and most of it is never fixed. Structurally, the yearly schedule is unchanged, and there remain multiple parallel systems to maintain (AppKit, SwiftUI, Catalyst, iOS apps on Mac, Apple Silicon vs. Intel). July 2019 is long gone, but the Catalyst apps still aren’t “really good.” SwiftUI on the Mac is more a frustrating promise than a reality.

Myke Hurley said, “Yes the 15% cut exists, but what a terrible year for developer relationships. If we would’ve said the cracks were showing before, I think things are starting to crumble. It has been a year of uncertainty, bad decisions, and bad PR management. 2020 has started a new trend of issues that are now bleeding into antitrust.”


Marco Arment said, “Apple seemed to dramatically ramp up enforcement on their draconian in-app-purchase rules this year, possibly to boost services revenue, and made unnecessarily offensive statements about developers in the press and legal filings. Later in the year, the reduction of the 30% cut to 15% for many small developers was unexpected but welcome relief, even though it was probably only done to politically defend against mounting pressure from large developers, regulators, and lawsuits.”

The Small Business Program is, for some developers, the best App Store news in a long time, but it was overshadowed by the unprecedented number of App Store–related scandals in 2020.


Update (2021-01-30): See also: John Gruber, Nick Heer.

Update (2021-02-05): Colin Cornaby:

I’m kind of surprised software got rated so highly. Normally I’d say iOS is holding that score up, but this year the initial iOS releases and tvOS have been not very stable.

Also surprised to see Big Sur as better than Catalina. For me it’s been some new bugs, some fixed.

Meek Geek:

I would corroborate this. In the past, Macs seldom kernel panic, nor degenerate to a point to where you reboot to fix problems. Sigh, Federighi-era macOS.

John Gruber:

If I had it to do all over again, I’d change this grade from a B to a C. At the time I voted, I was thinking only in terms of reliability and bugginess, and I do think 2020 was a decent year for Apple on that front. But as I revise these remarks today, I’m reminded of all the UI and interaction designs and changes in iOS and MacOS that are just bad. There’s a real sense that Apple’s current HI team, under Alan Dye, is a “design is what it looks like” group, not a “design is how it works” group.

Negative Robinhood Reviews Deleted

Jay Peters (via Slashdot, Hacker News):

Google is actively removing negative reviews of the Robinhood app from the Google Play Store, the company confirmed to The Verge. After some disgruntled Robinhood users organized campaigns to give the app a one-star review on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store — and succeeded in review-bombing it all the way down to a one-star rating — the company has now deleted enough reviews to bring it back up to nearly four stars.

Robinhood came under intense scrutiny on Thursday, after the stock trading app announced it would block purchases of GameStop, AMC, and other stocks made popular by the r/WallStreetBets subreddit, and some users have already replaced their deleted one-star reviews with new ones to make their anger heard.

It currently has a 4.2 rating on the App Store, so presumably Apple has also removed lots of 1-star ratings, though I do see some recent ones calling out Robinhood for blocking people from trading.

Google and App Tracking Transparency

Christophe Combette (via Nick Heer):

Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy will require developers to ask for permission when they use certain information from other companies’ apps and websites for advertising purposes, even if they already have user consent. Today we’re sharing how Google is helping our community prepare, as we know that developers and advertisers in the iOS ecosystem are still figuring out how to adapt.


When Apple’s policy goes into effect, we will no longer use information (such as IDFA) that falls under ATT for the handful of our iOS apps that currently use it for advertising purposes. As such, we will not show the ATT prompt on those apps, in line with Apple’s guidance.