Article: Areas for Growth

by on May 30, 2012

For personnel evaluations in a lot of places, the word “weaknesses” is being replaced with “areas for growth”, something I always felt was a sugar-coated, soft way of trying not to hurt feelings. Although I find what Apple has to offer quite satisfying at the moment, I don’t disagree with Marco Arment’s statement that Apple needs to take a long, hard look at software.

As such, I’d like to offer my own pre-WWDC list that Apple hasn’t gotten entirely terrible at, but could use some repairs for the software side of things in Cupertino, adding to prior suggestions of a refined Music app and Apple ID management.

Media Management

I’ve been complaining for awhile about the bloat of iTunes and how it’s a necessary evil for anyone using iOS devices. What used to be a lovely, simple audio player, is now a bloated, do-everything-with-mobile resource hog. Give me something that operates more like iOS 5: separate player and purchasing apps. However, I find the synchronization components to be far more infuriating. Even though I rarely sync my devices and my Mac, I still have to to make sure my photo library matches, and loading ringtones. I’d probably use it a lot more if I didn’t have the privilege of giving Apple $25/year for iTunes Match. I will say, once the initial bugs were worked out, it has been a very good system for keeping my music and playlists synchronized across numerous devices.

Some of the things that I have seen or have tried to “fix” on iPhones for people I know have been non-synchronized album art on both iTunes-purchased music and music from other sources and the spinning activity indicator with the Music app (iTunes Match enabled), but there’s no new music being downloaded/streamed/cached. The fix has usually been a restore.

On the topic of restores, I hate how it’s an all-or-none thing. Let me set up my phone as new, but bring over a set of app data files (I want a clean phone, but would not like to start from scratch on Angry Birds).

App Store Migration

I both love and hate the Mac App Store. I love it because it does work as simple and seamless as the iOS App Store. I hate it because existing apps that existed outside the App Store prior to its launch (iLife, iWork, Pixelmator) that are on my machine have no way of being linked to my account. While I assume the next versions of the Apple-made apps will be App Store only and this will be a moot point, I’d love to lose my discs now (I assume the biggest reason for avoiding this is possible piracy).

Speaking of iWork, there should be official iCloud support months ago.

Explanations Necessary

I would like to see better feedback from the system in general. One such example is the iCloud data usage in regards to backups, although it gives a lot of information, and even allows control over what gets backed up, there can sometimes be mystery usage (an iPhone backup shouldn’t be 3GB, especially if the person isn’t a power user), but you have no way of knowing why.

Another example I saw was on my Apple TV—it was struggling with Netflix streaming, yet I had a 13Mbps connection. Switching to my TiVo was fine, but obviously a less satisfying experience while navigating. I’d much rather have an error than the activity spinner and a paused picture every 2 minutes. This is probably a Netflix problem, but the lack of feedback is an Apple issue.

In other words, tell me why so I can fix it.

Major Releases

Mountain Lion needs to be the last OS X version for awhile. Although something new and fresh is fun, it sucks from the standpoint of getting developers on board (have Adobe, Microsoft, and others even started supporting Lion?), and I’d much rather see Apple finish features before moving to a whole new OS release. There’s a reason why people love the final release of Tiger or Snow Leopard—they were about as far as Apple could take that operating system and were stable. Even though it’s been pretty good, I suspect users won’t have that same sentiment about Lion in a few months.

One of the issues with the different, frequent releases is fragmentation. It’s a bit annoying if you’re working on something and want to share a file with someone who hasn’t gotten on the upgrade train (or can’t), as one example of no way to bring a GarageBand file from iLife ’11 file to GarageBand in iLife ’09.

Not Worried…Yet

For the most part, I trust how Apple is run and how they develop products. I think the whole shift from a Mac as your digital hub to iCloud is still in its infancy, and a lot of issues are simply growing pains. I’m still excited about iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion, but I’d like to think that someone at Apple is thinking about ways Apple can keep users happy by following the “It just works” mantra more closely in the future, and slowly come together to be just as reliable as the earliest iPod/iTunes/Mac software combinations.

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