Thursday, February 9, 2023

2022 Six Colors Apple Report Card

Jason Snell (Hacker News):

Coming off the high of the release of Apple Silicon, the Mac has slid back for two consecutive years. There was plenty of praise for the M2 MacBook Air, but the delay to the M2 Mac mini and MacBook Pro—which didn’t get announced until January, when our survey was in the field—definitely led to the Mac taking a hit. Panelists also expressed frustration with the lack of updates to the iMac, the lack of a Mac Pro, and issues with the Studio Display.


Like the Mac, iPhone scores also slid for the second straight year. (Given the smaller updates in the iPhone 13 and 14, that’s not surprising.) Despite expressing some boredom about the iPhone hardware, the panel largely had praise for iOS 16’s Lock Screen improvements and the Dynamic Island, and the iPhone 14 Pro’s always-on display was generally well received. The iPhone mini being discontinued was also a negative. This is tied for the lowest score Apple’s flagship product has ever received in this survey, but it’s still a strong score, all things considered.


The iPad took a precipitous fall to its lowest score in the history of this survey. There was some praise for the iPad 10th generation, but even that product got dinged for its confusing Apple Pencil story—and the fact that its new features make the rest of the product line feel antiquated. A treading-water update for the iPad Pro and the rough introduction of Stage Manager seem to be the biggest culprits in the bad mood of our panelists.


Things are good in wearables land. The Apple Watch Ultra refreshed that product line, and AirPods continue to impress as well.

Jason Snell:

First up is a chart that drills down into the vote distributions across all the categories, so you can see which categories gathered a variety of votes and which ones were a bit more consistent across all 55 voters.

Here are my responses:

Mac: 2 The highlight of the year has to be the Mac Studio, which seems like a success except for the multi-month shipping delays that extended into the fall. Otherwise it was a quiet year for hardware, except that the new MacBook Air gained a welcome 24 GB RAM ceiling. That’s OK since the rest of the hardware lineup is still solid. After many years of waiting, we finally got the Studio Display. As a display, it’s great, albeit pricey, however the camera is extremely disappointing, the audio and USB hub have been unreliable, and the lack of a power button causes a variety of problems. macOS continues to deteriorate in terms of reliability, and in general it seems like Apple has forgotten how to design Mac software. Many apps feel like iOS ports, and the services apps just don’t work very well. Aside from its own efforts, Apple continues to get in the way of third parties making good software. The Mac version of SwiftUI still doesn’t live up to Apple’s pitch.

iPhone: 4 iPhone hardware and iOS seem to be in decent shape. I usually upgrade my phone every two years, but I skipped this one because there was no new iPhone mini, and the regular iPhone 14 got a relatively minor update. The Dynamic Island is interesting. Lock Screen customization is welcome but awkward and limited. The camera seems to be slipping a bit vs. the competition, and photos sometimes look too processed and fake.

iPad: 3 As always, the software seems to be letting down the hardware. iPadOS continues to feel limited. Stage Manager seems half-baked, and its system requirements are too steep.

Wearables: 4, Apple Watch: 3 Apple Watch Ultra and the watch hardware in general seem to be doing well, except that CPU improvements continue to be minimal. The software has had some problems, with complications broken for me for much of the year, the Camera Remote timer delay too short to be usable, and unexplained giant battery drains. AirPods Pro’s noise cancellation has gotten worse with software updates, and I’m now having regular problems with static that never occurred before.

Apple TV: 2 Apple doesn’t seem to know what to do other than add a faster processor. The software seems to be designed around Apple’s business needs rather than what customers would want. The remote still needs work.

Services: 2 I continue to have reliability problems with iMessage and Siri. The apps that go along with the media services just aren’t very good. Apple Maps is still not as good as Google Maps in the areas where I go, but it does seem to be improving.

HomeKit/Home Automation: No vote I don’t use any of this stuff, and looking at the Home app doesn’t make me want to start.

Hardware Reliability: 4 My Mac hardware itself has been very reliable, but I count problems with iOS and audio on the Studio Display under hardware reliability. Hardware can regress through firmware updates; my AirPods Pro’s noise cancellation doesn’t work as well as it used to. My iPhone’s battery seems to be failing after a little more than 2 years, though iOS reports it at 88% health.

Software Quality: 1 Most things feel kind of buggy, and the Mac is in a particularly bad state, with a large number of small bugs (many persisting for years) and some debilitating larger ones. I’ve documented some of them here.

Developer Relations: 2 Pretty much everything to do with the App Store needs work, as does the documentation.

Social/Societal Impact: No vote [This is such a sprawling category that I never know how to boil it down to a number.]

See also:


Update (2023-02-13): Nick Heer:

In 2022, I filed something like two bug reports every week solely against Apple’s own applications and operating systems.


Is all of that deserving of a lower score? Probably, but I have a hard time figuring out whether this is abnormally poor or merely worse than it ought to be. I seem to be living and working in a sea of bugs no matter whether I am using my Macs at home, the Windows PC at work, Adobe’s suite of products, or my thermostat.

It didn’t used to be like that.

John Gruber:

Resentment over App Store policies continues to build. Frustrations with the App Store review process seem unimproved. Apple’s goal should be for developer relations to be so good that developers want to create software exclusively for Apple’s platforms. The opposite is happening.

See also: TidBITS.

17 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I was genuinely surprised and dismayed at how many panelists didn’t take Apple to task for the slip in Mac-like software quality. A few even remarked something to the effect of they’ll let it slide this year and hope problems are fixed next year. As if this hasn’t been a years-long problem.

I totally agree on the software quality. Apple seems not to be able to handle all their responsibilities regarding software any longer. Maybe they have grown larger than they can handle?

I thought the same thing @Billy. Awful software quality overall and neglect of macOS seems to be ignored as long as there is new shiny hardware.

I also notice years of bad software quality coincides with constantly pushing Swift and SwiftUI. Prioritizing pushing a new shiny language and UI framework instead of overall software quality and bug fixes.

@Hammer And even with the focus on Swift, the Swift compiler still crashes every day and requires manual cache deletions to get correct results.

[…] More Fulsome 2022 Report Card Comments […]

The fact a compiler crashes is totally freaky to me. The main reason to worry about using a compiler used to be that it generated bad code (happened to me on a Modula 2 compiler some time ago for instance), but if you can't even get the compiler not to crash... well then it's a house of cards, and absolutely untrustworthy, but hey, we're rewriting Foundation in Swift.

We seem to be going backwards so quickly. Proving compiler correctness was a thing. Now, C & C++ compiler engineers use every undefined part of the spec to extract a little more speed, programmer intention and security flaws be damned.

The incentive structure in our industry is clearly screwed up.

I have a feeling iPad OS lost its way, Apple should pay more attention to the many users who love its simplicity rather than to (report-card) pundits that want to use an iPad for advanced use-cases where a Mac would be much better suited.

88% iPhone battery health is conspicuous. Mine too. Is everbody's like that?

@Hammer Swift and SwiftUI probably have a lot to do with Mac software quality problems.

When they rewrite an important app in SwiftUI (assuming it’s possible) and it bombs like System Settings maybe they’ll realize they made a mistake. But probably not. I can’t believe they write in the documentation to choose SwiftUI over AppKit for a new project. Are they just trying to get more Beta testers by force? Like…how about YOU test this stuff yourself, write your own apps in SwiftUI first and PROVE it worthy.

I wonder if the entire world is going to blow up, when they rewrite Foundation in Swift.

@Billy they don't bite the hand that feeds then

Regarding battery health. My iPhone 13 has 99,7% capacity after one year and 147 cycles. The stats are from the coconut Battery app on Mac. I never charge overnight and usually only top up the charge to max 80-90%. This suits my work from home habits but won't work when you spend the whole day on the go and need the full charge.

This is off course only anecdotal evidence (N=1). But according to many articles about Li-Ion chemistry this is the best way to prolong battery life significantly.

Another anecdote: I tried to buy a used iPhone 13 Pro last year in November. Most of the phones offered (at the time ca. on year old), had very bad battery stats. Range was somewhere between 80 and 90 %. These were numbers from iOS settings.

>88% iPhone battery health is conspicuous. Mine too. Is everbody's like that?

Mine is 89% with an iPhone 13 that I got around November 2021 and is heavily used. So, 11% in ~15 months. That tracks with what I've seen with previous iPhones.

Battery Maximum Capacity on my iPhone 8 Plus that I bought refurbished from Apple is 93%. I plug it in to charge every night, and t is set to Optimized Battery Charging.

@Old Unix Geek

> We seem to be going backwards so quickly. Proving compiler correctness was a thing. Now, C & C++ compiler engineers use every undefined part of the spec to extract a little more speed, programmer intention and security flaws be damned.

I agree it seems harmful to focus on performance if the resulting output is likely to have bugs. That said, the issue is with the language spec itself. We shouldn’t have to rely on the compiler correctly deducing programmer intention for undefined behavior, since it will never guess correctly 100% of the time, and even among compilers trying to do “the right thing” there will still be inconsistencies between different compiler’s output. I guess I’m not really bothered by compiler devs optimizing -O3 into oblivion, as long as the compiler is providing ample warnings.

(And yeah, I don’t write Swift but the fact that the compiler frequently crashes is… alarming!)

"Pretty much everything to do with the App Store needs work, as does the documentation."

For the documentation, a first step would be to make sure that we don't have to look for bits of the documentation in the headers, other bits in the online documentation and the rest in the transcripts of WWDC sessions.

@Billy et al agree 1000%. Software quality *does* matter, especially on macOS, where it's really, really bad especially in those awful iOS ports.

Re C/C++ compilers, well it would help a great deal if it wasn't design-by-committee dominated by industry heavyweights and the standard was actually free to access. You shouldn't need to look at other peoples' implementations to see what the expected behaviour is, nor make guesses based on second-hand information. Mostly I'm just resigned to the fact that it's no longer really about engineering excellence but mysticism.

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