Being a technology enthusiast, I have always been fascinated with everything new that comes out in this space. Most technology companies, including both software and hardware companies usually follow industry trends and build products that make the best out of available technology. Apple is usually on top of this as well, since they get credits for starting some trends that basically changed the whole industry and moved them forward, some examples being TouchID, good cameras and MacBook Trackpads. Even with all that, Apple sometime tends to make some decisions that keeps everyone wondering why they did that.
One of the biggest examples of that is when they removed the 3.5mm headphone jacks from iPhones. They got a lot of backlash from users and technology enthusiasts and journalists all over the internet. How did the whole thing end? Well, it set a trend and made a lot of other manufacturers remove the headphone jacks from their devices as well. Apple has some sort of weird power that allows them to basically do whatever they want and not just get away with it but also make others follow their actions. Just look at their removal of all USB 3.0 ports on the new MacBooks or even the new notch on the iPhone X, everyone on their right minds would think Apple is crazy for doing those, right? Well doesn’t matter if that is right or wrong, Apple does what it does and gets away with it, and drags the industry along with the trends it sets.
For the longest time, I have not been a big fan of Apple or their actions, till now. I have come to a new realization about why Apple does what it does, and it’s very complicated in a way.
You might think Apple is a hardware first company, but I’d say they are a experience first company. Unlike most other technology companies, Apple does not care about the latest 10 core processors or bazillion gigabytes of ram or anything a technology enthusiast would praise. They care about the end user experience.
That iPhone you are using to read this on is the best example of it. It won’t let you customize your homescreen or lockscreen or the button on the side, it won’t let you use multiple windows or some fancy crazy eye tracking thing that scrolls your page when you look towards the bottom of the page, but what it will do is give you the best user experience you can get from any smartphone on the market. Yeah I know what I said is very controversial and I am probably going to get an army of Android fanboys (trust me, I prefer Android too) in the comment section telling me how the Pixel or Note 8 or whatever the latest Android flagship is better, but that does not matter because if you take an iPhone and the other best smartphone out there and give them to an average Joe for a month, 8 out of 10 times he is going to say the iPhone was a better phone.
The thing is, Apple does not engineer iPhone or iOS, they engineer a user experience and then turn that into hardware (iPhone) and software (iOS). No, im not crazy for saying that, think about it this way: most other smartphone manufacturers start with the hardware first, lets take Samsung for example since theyre Apple’s biggest competitor. They grab the best processing chip out there (SnapDragon 835), most amount of RAM they can pack on a device (6GB), best display (Super AMOLED), best charging technology (Quick Charge, Qi Wireless Charging), best camera sensors (Sony IMX 333) and pretty much the best of everything available on the hardware side. Then they package that up in a nice looking device (Note 8). Then they create firmware and software for it, then they ship it to the users. Nothing wrong with this approach right?
Apple first designs the experience, they figure out what a user should be able to do with their phone. They think in terms of how the users would use the device: to take photos, to make phone calls, to check notifications from different applications, to use social media, to play games etc. Then they design their software and hardware around that, so they can provide the best experience while using the features they intended to provide. The difference between this approach and hardware first approach is that every Apple device comes out tailored to provide the best end user experience for the features it provides, whereas for most other manufacturers its mostly about what they can make out of the available hardware. Think of it like this, Apple’s approach is like going to the grocery store to buy specific ingredients for the dish you are trying to cook, and other manufacturers approach is like trying to make the best dish out of already available ingredients in your fridge.
Obsessiveness over attention to detail is one of the things Apple shows on everything they make. Just look at the trackpad on MacBooks, even today, there is no other laptop out there that even comes close to the trackpad experience you get on a Mac (yes, I’ve used the XPS 15, best of Lenovo and many other manufacturers). Or iOS, it may only do 8 out of 10 things your Android phone does, but it does those 8 things 10 out of 10 times properly, whereas your other device might do it 7 out of 10 times. Apple only puts something out when they are 100% sure that thing is ready for prime time. Look at NFC for example, all Android phones have had NFC for a long time now, but how many people do you see using NFC tags or other NFC things everyday? Not a lot right? iPhones have had NFC for a while too, but they were limited to Apple Pay only which is what most Android users use NFC for as well (Android Pay in this case). Wireless charging is another good example, they waited till they were sure they could provide good experience while using it till they released it, when most manufacturers wanted to be the first ones to the race and released it in the early days where wireless charging was buggy and slow.
Do you know why Apple does not let you do split screen apps like on Galaxy phones or customize your homescreen like on any Android device? It’s because they simply don’t care about that. They do not let you change your homescreen because the experience they are trying to provide is being able to use apps, so by not letting you customize the home screen it lets you focus on the apps and the functionality you get from them instead of letting the operating system be a distraction. Unlike Android where every homescreen looks different, they want the homescreen to be something that you forget about and take for granted so your main focus goes on the app. When you use someone else’s Android phone, you have to figure out how their lockscreen and homescreen is set up, hunt down the app, then finally use the app. This takes the focus in your head from the app you are trying to use to the lockscreen, homescreen, and back to the app again, which is a distraction even if you do not notice it. With iPhones, since the lockscreens and homescreens are the same on everyones device, it becomes muscle memory to navigate just like you don’t think about pressing the gas pedal, steering etc when you are driving, which lets you immerse more on the app you are trying to use. The same philosophy appplies to Mac operating system as well, with full screen apps and desktop workspaces. Apple does an app first approach so that the operating system almost becomes invisible to the user.
This does not mean Apple gets everything right either. Just look at iOS 11 bugs, recent battery drama, buggy first generation Apple Watch and a lot of other things. Even with a lot of attention to detail, some things slip through sometimes, and its just the nature of being in tech industry, if things can go wrong, they will probably go wrong.
I know this article sounds like it’s written by an Apple fanboy to justify Apple’s actions, but that is not my intention. I just wanted to explore the philosophy behind Apple’s actions and pour my thoughts out. Android is still my favorite mobile operating system (although I can’t say the same about Windows for desktop) but I have realised why Apple purposefully limits features. So next time you go device shopping, make sure you take all these things into consideration. Feel free to leave your thoughts on the comments section below, and Happy New Years!