Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Apple Services Experience Is Not Good Enough

Benjamin Mayo:

Apple’s services tick the boxes, and they mostly do what they promise. However, nothing comes close to the quality of experience I expect to have from things branded with the Apple logo. When I am using these apps, I am not filled with confidence that striving for greatness was a top priority. Far too often, meeting revenue goals and business objectives seem more important to their creation.

They are built to a passing grade, but nothing more. Basic features found in services from rival companies are either lacking altogether in Apple’s apps, or implemented half-heartedly and performance is sluggish. Browsing in Music and TV is painful, with an over-reliance on the infinite scroll. New content is just tacked on the bottom of already long lists. Meanwhile, the navigation bars are blank when they could include simple shortcut buttons and filters to help users navigate and explore. Moreover, these apps feature too many loading states and too much waiting around. They are akin to janky web apps, rather than richly-compelling responsive experiences.

The services apps are all frustrating to use. In may ways, they feel worse than Web apps. I cannot believe how Apple has let them regress so much. I miss iTunes from 15 years ago. Looking through movies in the TV app the other day: there is no way to see a sorted list of titles. There’s no way to search my list of purchases, nor even to jump-scroll by letter. There is no way to mark a movie on my iPhone so that I can easily find it again on my Apple TV. I guess I could start playing it for a few seconds to make it appear in Up Next? But I don’t want to download it onto my phone, and the sideways scrolling Up Next list is hard to work with and also includes the things that I’m currently watching. Why does it scroll sideways? I guess so that the rest of the screen can be used to promote Apple TV+ content.


Update (2022-05-13): Craig Grannell:

  • Going into Albums view in Photos on iPhone and dragging up to prompt photos to actually upload
  • Regularly force-quitting bird in Activity Monitor to get iCloud docs to sync
  • Restarting Music to get streaming to play

Becky Hansmeyer:

There is downloaded, on-device video content in the TV app on my kids’ iPads that they literally cannot access without an internet connection. I have to tether their iPads to my phone in the car to get their library to appear. Otherwise it just shows an empty state.

Mike Rockwell:

I maintain an old Mac Mini that runs El Capitan and an even older iMac that runs Snow Leopard. iTunes is so much better on those older machines than the current state of the TV app, Apple Music, and Apple Podcasts.

My current pet peeve is the Podcast app’s lack of OPML export or import. What a terrible, user-hostile omission.

Update (2022-05-24): Nick Heer:

Apple’s native apps on these devices simply are not good enough, and that is bananas. The company’s whole thing is that it makes the entire widget, so hardware, software, and services can work seamlessly together. But they do not. They feel brittle, like I am using prototypes where any deviation from a golden path is a risky endeavour.

Update (2022-06-06): Jacob Svensson (via Hacker News):

There is no other software that I use and pay for that can compare to Apple Music when it comes to severe bugs and annoyances. The worst of the Apple Music clients is that on macOS.

Update (2023-07-26): Scott Anguish:

The iTunes movie app (and the Tv app for that matter) are a nightmare to use when you have almost 900 movies.

Let me make playlists so I can group sequels
Let me see how many times I’ve watched something
Let me make a queue of things to watch that I own
Let me have a smart list of movies I’ve never watched
Let me categorize them (apple’s categorization is not the greatest)

Louie Mantia, Jr.:

I’m gonna say it— this app is poorly designed. That the content you are actively interested in is below this enormous ad is unconscionable for Apple. It is against their very ethos as a company, and I wish they would reconsider what the “Watch Now” tab really should be doing.

The amount of advertising for content I do not care about in this app is astoundingly high.

I do not give a fuck about Lionel Messi. I don’t care about the MLS. I don’t care about Hijack. There’s only two things on this page that I want to exist, and those are the smallest things on the whole page.

Sometimes, the Watch Now tab will even use that enormous space up top to advertise a show they know I have watched in its entirety, like Ted Lasso.

Steve Streza:

Deeply frustrating that “buying in to the Apple ecosystem” turned into an effectively abandoned set of music apps that exist now only to upsell you into yet another rental.


Update (2023-12-08): Joe Rosensteel:

I tried Apple News, and Apple News+, and both suck. Mostly the app is trash. It’s weird to think that LAT, a struggling newspaper, has a better app than one of the most profitable companies to ever exist. Things like forcing you to see stories from publishers you’ve blocked, because of some weird editorial desire to appear objective and fair. Completely irrelevant listicles from third-rate content farms.

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

My two pet peeves:

1. Safari on Mac no longer allows the address bar to fill the available horizontal space. You can remove the "Flexible Space" but the address bar doesn't expand.

2. The horizontal poster art in the TV's app's purchase Library, whether on Mac, iPhone, or Apple TV looks so bad compared to the traditional poster art in iTunes. Not the end of the world but just another thoughtless decision.

“ There is no way to mark a movie on my iPhone so that I can easily find it again on my Apple TV. ”

Tap and hold a movie, then choose Add to Up Next.

@Me That only works in Watch Now, not in the Library view.

I’ve just completely given up on using Apple Music on Mac this year. Somehow it has managed to go from bad to worse, despite the supposed partial AppKit rewrite. Good thing I’m using a Sonos speaker, so at least there’s the definitely not great Sonos app.

John Robinson

Apple Photo in Monterey since 3 versions back does not allow dragging images beyond the screen. I have to stop, scroll, drag, stop, scroll, drag, within any photo album i create. Neither do they allow us to number the image for sorting numerically. It’s a stupid application that is thrown at us as if its useable. I have sent feedback since they broke Photo app several systems ago.

The Music app is frustrating, buggy and slow.

The TV app doesn't seem buggy and slow, but it is frustrating. Somehow in their quest to square the circle of "make shows you've been watching prominent" and "also, keep you subscribing by making additional shows and movies prominent as well", they've managed to accomplish… neither? I'm baffled by how to find anything in this weird mix of horizontal and vertical scrolling.

Disney+'s app is similarly baffling (and overall feels like a lesser design in things like typography), but is slightly better in some areas. For example, if you tap in Apple TV while watching, you get a generic playback controller and a button to exit the video. If you do so in Disney+, the top left isn't just a button to exit, but a label that gives you, gasp, the context of what you're actually watching right now. Maybe the developers of Apple TV need to talk to the ones who came up with UINavigationController a decade and a half ago.

I don't know to what extent incentives are the problem, vs simply Eddy Cue not being the right person to head the software aspects of these apps.

As an aside, the ATP folks are also quite critical of the Photos app, and I don't really get that. It seems, both feature- and quality-wise, to be a perfectly fine in-between of iPhoto and Aperture, which seems to have been the goal. It hasn't really frustrated me much on macOS or iOS, and I think some of the progressive enhancement in the UI (in adjustments, say) works quite well. It doesn't excite me in the way iLife did ca. 2003, because that seemed to be a step ahead of everyone else, but I also wouldn't call it mediocre.


I may be oversimplifying, but I feel that the worst parts of Apple have always been those under Eddy Cue. Don't know much about the guy, but I get the sense that he's most comfortable negotiating licensing and content deals and dreaming up new ways to charge customers recurring fees.

But the man seems to have no interest in delivering great user experiences or reaching for high quality standards. He seems like the opposite of Steve Jobs' carpenter story.

They recently broke the "playing now" functionality in the Music app. It does not take you to place in the list of songs. It opens a new view that does not really show where the current song is in relation to everything else.
Even plain scrolling a list of songs is buggy, as it jumps to random places at random times.
These are all new regressions. As if they have a deliberate plan to slowly torture users of the Music app.

When I migrated from Mojave to Monterey (iTunes to Music) it *destroyed* the integrity of album cover art. Carefully curated cover art for a lot of concerts (614 Grateful Dead "albums" / nearly 13k songs; 260 Phish "albums" / nearly 5k songs; ETC ETC ETC). I now have many hundreds of albums with the same cover art.

Then I purchased the CD of the recent Red Hot Chili Peppers release, and ripped it into Music. It couldn't find the artwork -- one of the biggest bands in the world, their most recent, hot/popular, release, has the cover art of their greatest hits album from years ago. Infuriating.

Let's not talk about how bad the UI / UX is -- why, pray tell, do we need to hide the time remaining in the player? You really want me to move my mouse up there just to see that I have "-4:19," rather than glancing up at it? All that empty white space for nothing. The number of problems with Music, compared to iTunes, are probably uncountable. Some of the worst software Apple has ever released.

I agree with the comment above about Eddy Cue -- has there been any software out of his organization that is amazing?

Apple, please: DO LESS, CARE MORE.

Is it unfair to pin this all on Eddy Cue? Aside from the not-entirely-terrible original content they’ve produced for TV+, can anyone cite a great product or service headed by this guy ever?

Sadly I fear that we’ll see more, not less, of this sort of crap from Apple in the future. White their hardware teams have been knocking it out of the park, their services and software UX have been trash for quite some time and it all seems somehow intentional.

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