Apple is the world’s richest company and among its most loved brands (though it can’t keep growing forever). But recent headlines make us wonder: is Apple finally losing its sheen? Are the fanboys disappearing?
Journalist Walt Mossberg explains the phenomenon of Apple’s legions of followers in a post titled, “It’s Not a Church, It’s Just an Apple Store“:
The biggest tech religion is the Church of Apple, with countless blogs defending its every move, regardless of whether it’s a good one.
Apple cultists are often quick to question not just the judgment, but the motives and personal character of anyone who dares to question the company’s magic touch. And, because they can’t see any other way of thinking, they assume that if you praise or use an Apple product, you must have signed up for the whole religion.
Our own Dave Parrack had predicted Apple’s decline after Steve Jobs stepped down. While the reasons Dave cited might not be the same, there’s a case to be made that in the post-Jobs era, Apple’s most loyal followers aren’t as enamoured by it as before.
The Case Against Apple Software
Marco Arment, the developer of Instapaper and a self-confessed Apple fanboy, recently wrote an article titled “Apple has lost the functional high ground”, in which he criticizes the Cupertino-based company for focusing on marketing instead of good software. He has since written that he regrets the original article for its sensationalism, but not the base sentiment in it — that Apple’s software isn’t as good as it used to be, and especially not as stable. Arment says:
“It just works” was never completely true, but I don’t think the list of qualifiers and asterisks has ever been longer. We now need to treat Apple’s OS and application releases with the same extreme skepticism and trepidation that conservative Windows IT departments employ.
In the article, he cites another long-time Apple fan, Geoff Wozniak, who shifted to Linux after increasing frustrations with Mac OS X. There are some OS X annoyances you can fix, but the problems are deeper than these. Wozniak has since removed the post, but you can still view a cached copy.
In a discussion at Hacker News about this article, user brianstorms sums up the frustration of the loyalist: “It feels like Apple is abandoning its longtime users, the master users, the users who’ve climbed the pyramid, who’ve achieved a lot of game levels. It’s just going after that huge base of newbies and midlevel people who don’t notice or complain about all the changes that really, truly are not improvements.”
Journalist Glenn Fleishman, another long-time Apple supporter, echoed Arment’s concerns, but went into the details of each Apple software or service that needs to be fixed.
The Case Against Apple Services
It’s not just the software, though. As a company, Apple has been at the forefront of innovation and delivered fantastic services time and again. A great example of this is iTunes, which started off as a super-simple music player that made it easy to buy music. However, despite hacks for improved functionality, iTunes is losing its fanbase.
NPR reports that 2014 saw the largest drop in sales — 14% — as users shifted to subscription services like Spotify. Users view Spotify as a simpler service, and long-time iTunes users have switched to Spotify premium for $10.
“It’s so much easier to use”, said web designer Jason Mosley. He’s not alone: our own Harry Guinness reckons Spotify is the end of iTunes.
Paul Stamatiou, a designer at Twitter, said Google’s services are what made him switch to Android. He calls Apple’s Photo Stream garbage, says Chrome and its browser sync is great, doesn’t use an iCloud email address (who does?), and is generally not relying on Apple’s services. “Most services I rely on daily are owned by Google,” he writes. “My world revolves around GMail and Google search. The list of Apple products I use daily largely amounts to OS X and Apple hardware.”
It’s too early to talk about it, but not many seem impressed with the new Apple Pay, which lets you buy things with your iPhone. Technology is meant to make our life easier, but Apply Pay’s problems make it a more frustrating experience, says Owen Thomas of ReadWrite. As Forbes puts it, Apple Pay is a solution in search of a problem.
The Case Against Apple Hardware
Finally, for a company that prides itself on its drool-worthy gadgets, Cupertino has dropped the ball lately. Take the recent launch of the Apple Watch and the iPhone 6 Plus.
The Apple Watch is not yet out, but it already got some weird and wonderful reactions. In our poll, 48% said they have no interest in this novelty item. It’s really not about whether the Watch will be good or not, it’s about what fans are expecting – and expectations aren’t high.
TUAW’s Victor Agreda Jr. writes, “My faith in Apple’s Watch launch is at an all-time low, but that’s largely because I look upon the glittering mass of issues the company has yet to address in a meaningful way and think, ‘So we’re just going to add to this mess, are we?'”
Meanwhile, the iPhone 6 is a great phone, but some consumers think Apple has lost its cool factor with it. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 16% of respondents thought Apple has become less cool since Steve Jobs left. Users cited a lack of originality, claiming the company’s only new idea seems to be changing the size of its existing products.
Jim Jackson, a 55-year-old survey participant, thinks the iPhone 6 Plus is playing catch-up with the Samsung Galaxy Note series: “Apple is following Samsung at this point in terms of design. A couple of years ago they were making fun of Samsung because Samsung grew big and now they’ve gone big.”
Apple polarizes even tech journalists. Chris says there are five reasons to choose Android, and Tim counters with five reasons to choose the iPhone. But our own Apple fanboy James Bruce puts across the reasons his next phone won’t be an iPhone.
The End Of The Fanboy?
It’s too early to say that the Apple fanboy is disappearing. Indeed, it would be near impossible and there’s nothing wrong with it. Every tech brand has its group of core followers, be it Android, Linux, BlackBerry or anything else. But the growing voice of dissent among loyalists is louder than before.
What’s your take on Apple and its fans?