Monday, February 7, 2022

2021 Six Colors Apple Report Card

Jason Snell (tweet, Hacker News):

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.


John Siracusa said, “Every new Mac Apple introduced in 2021 was a hit. The new MacBook Pros have rescued that product line after years of decline and dysfunction. The multi-colored 24-inch iMac is a breath of fresh air after nearly two decades of white and gray models. Though the transition is not yet complete, all the new and existing Apple silicon Macs are great: quiet, cool, reasonably priced, and fast, fast, fast.”


Adam Engst said, “The big hole in Apple’s Mac lineup is an affordable high-resolution display to give the laptops something to connect to and to let iMac users expand to a second large screen.”


Rich Siegel said, “Many of the ill-conceived UI and visual design decisions that were introduced in Big Sur are still in Monterey, although fortunately things haven’t really gotten much worse.


Guilherme Rambo said, “I think there’s still a lot of work to be done on Mac software. I’ve had numerous issues with macOS Monterey, especially related to Bluetooth, which keeps breaking with every major OS update. Not to mention the awful state of the Shortcuts app, which has been improving with the new point releases, but is still far from what I would call production-quality.”


Brent Simmons said, “I always believed Apple would draw a line at outright lying — but they continue to lie about what selling software was like before the App Store. They lie about what the review process does and about how developers are treated equally. As a developer, I find this profoundly disillusioning.”


Paul Kafasis said, “I think Apple’s App Store policies are having a real, negative impact on the world. It may not matter to most consumers, but it matters to me as a developer, and as a user who can see that we’re surely losing things due to their heavy-handedness.”

Federico Viticci:

The greatest compliment I can pay to Apple’s renewed approach to the Mac is that, for the first time in a decade, they got an iPad user like myself interested in the Mac again.


Speaking of software holding back hardware, there’s no better example of this predicament than the latest generation iPad Pro with an M1 chip.


If you were to ask me to recall what’s new in tvOS 15 off the top of my head, I don’t think I’d be able to answer that. The ability to see HomeKit cameras on the big screen maybe? The redesigned video player?

None of this matters for me because Apple did the one thing I wanted to see in TV hardware, and they did it extremely well: they redesigned the Siri remote and brought back physical buttons.


At this point, it’s fair to say that Apple is merely the maker of a HomeKit API and aggregation dashboard (the Home app). If Apple wants to compete with Amazon and take back control of the home from the Echos of the world, they need to make more hardware, and they need to make it fast. And that’s not even to mention the clunky and outdated design of the Home app, the lack of interactive HomeKit widgets on iOS, or absence of Home complications on the Watch.


Update (2022-02-08): Matt Birchler:

This graph really stood out to me, too. For a company who very much sees themselves as a group trying to do good in the world, this narrative feels like it’s getting away from them.

Nick Heer:

There were big problems: MacOS Monterey bricked some Macs, a software update overheated some HomePod models to the point where they stopped working, Siri is still Siri, and Shortcuts shipped in an unusable state across all platforms. But there are little things that also do not work correctly that are as aggressively grating. On my Mac, every Quick Look preview flashes bright red. When I use CarPlay, audio sometimes does not initiate and I have to reconnect my phone. Nine of the bugs I filed in 2021 were about scroll position not being maintained in several high-profile applications. Searching Maps still returns locations thousands of kilometres away, even when there is a matching result around the corner. Apple’s Podcasts service became a mess. Mail does not return accurate search results for my inbox, let alone any other folder. Album artwork does not sync properly to my iPhone. If I resume playing music I have paused on my Mac, it will sometimes play with no audio, and I have to change tracks to force it to re-download. iOS’ autocorrect changes “can” to “can’t”, which is an open problem with “more than 10” reports. Media keys do unexpected things in MacOS. Dragging tracks to the bottom of the play queue in Music reverses their play order. There are a hundred more problems like these which I have reported in the last year.

I am sometimes running beta releases, but my main Mac is almost always on the latest public release. Right now, Music often crashes when switching between Apple Music, local library, and search views — on the very latest released version. A common response is that Apple needs time to fix bugs after release but, even if these operating systems mostly stabilize by about February, it is not fair that even typical users on the public release track have four or five months of frustrating bugs every year.

Even then, stability is not a given because of major new bugs introduced in maintenance releases.

Dan Masters:

What’s even the point of using macOS anymore? I recently switched to a Mac for work, and I’m astonished at just how unreliable it’s become.

My MBP kernel panics at least daily while sleeping. Other times I can’t even wake it, as many report here.

Tom Bridge:

We need better relationships between MDM developers and Apple, with more give and take, more conversations, more impactful input, and a better cadence for partnerships. I know that my take is different than many, but I’m a different sort of developer in my day job than most. When it comes to the App Store, Apple has some hard choices to make, lest they risk having the whole thing slip right through their fingers in the form of federal regulation of their spaces.

See also: Josh Centers and TidBITS Talk.

Update (2022-02-16): Jason Snell:

This year I’m happy to present a few charts from Six Colors member, Duke University professor, and data-visualization expert Kieran Healy that take the initial Report Card scores and slice them in a few interesting ways.

Nick Heer:

One reason I gave Apple’s software quality a score of two out of five in the Six Colors report card is because every time my partner wants to open the same PDF in Books on her iPad, it “cannot be opened” until various incantations are performed. Maddening.

John Gruber:

Resentment over App Store policies continues to build. Rip-off apps continue to appear in App Store.

See also: The Talk Show (tweet), Upgrade, Jeff Johnson, Kieran Healy, Steve Troughton-Smith.

Update (2022-03-09): Matt Birchler:

I wanted to add my takes, so consider this a write-in ballot.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

Apple software quality and UI design, particularly macOS, remains dismal, disappointing, and rage-inducing.

Copy that. Also their social outlook, in lieu of the first. You'd never guess that VoiceOver users can't actually use iBooks to read, or that Braille support is basically broken across platforms, as of this moment, for instance. Their priorities are all wrong. But of course you don't get to be a $3T company by being ethical ...

> "The big hole in Apple’s Mac lineup is an affordable high-resolution display to give the laptops something to connect to and to let iMac users expand to a second large screen."

Not the Mac Pro? Or is 3 years between updates still considered pretty good for that product line?

Heck, I'd say even the long-rumored "xMac" is more of a hole in Apple's lineup than displays. You used to be able to get an entry-level tower Mac (with expansion slots!) for under US$1500. Now it costs US$6000 to get any (internal) expansion at all. Us plebeians no longer get to touch our RAM, disks, GPUs, or even batteries.

I don't need a display from Apple. Lots of companies make displays. Only one company makes Macs.

@Sam The Mac Pro is a hole, too, but I think the situation with displays is worse. There are very few options for Retina.

The big hole in the Mac is the stability of the Apple software it’s stuck with. It is scary how utterly unstable the platform has become. Today's issue: can't trash emails without a restart. Must be difficult getting new wondrous apps to function correctly.

But hey, another new and wonderful MacOS is around the corner and we can add to today's woes with more new one's. Tim needs to go. The sooner the better.

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