Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Has Apple Jumped the Shark?

I used to love my iPhone. From the design and the interface right down through how well it flowed when you used one feature or another, only to see how it linked logically to the next step in a process. But, not so much anymore.

These days, the design, the software, and interface flow seem more like they were designed by a committee of parrots. It's like a Hollywood focus group was brought in and they said, "needs more explosions, more action". Many aspects were bad with iOS 7 and they've only gotten worse with iOS 8.

The other day I opened up my calendar in order to plan for something a couple of months in the future -- not what I would consider an uncommon task. Instead of seeing a list of months and days, I get a list of all of the things that I have scheduled. I look around a bit, a couple of clicks -- I've got a list of the calendars that I can show, but still no basic month by month calendar interface. I gave up.

Same sort of experience with the camera. I took a photo with the camera then clicked on the photo roll to view it in detail. Instead of the picture, I get dropped into a menu tree showing all of the photos that I have in my phone, cataloged by year. Each of the images are a thumbnail, probably no larger that 7 pixels by 7 pixels. WTF?! I mean really, what am I supposed to do with this interface on my phone? Celebrate the beautiful colors and the elegant red lines connecting the years? After a series of random clicks, I found something that approximated a view I could use.

But I'm Not The Only One...
In the days since the iPhone 6 launch, I've had a number of chances to talk to people about the iPhone 6 and the plus. Every conversation has centered around the same topic -- the size -- with the general consensus being big and too big. When we went into the store, I hear the same thing. I saw something from the sales numbers that point to the same story. You have 'that's big' and 'seriously?'.

Over the past few months, we've seen story after story about how consumers want phones with bigger screens. I wonder what they'll say when the iPhone 6 plus sales turn out to be significantly less than the 6? Will it be the same as what happened with the 5c -- the idea that everyone wants a cheaper, color phone, only to see sales of the 5s run significantly higher? It all reminds me of how they used to say that Apple needed to make a Netbook because everyone else was making them and consumers were eating them up.

What's changed since way back then? Well, perhaps Steve Jobs passing is a factor, but I'd like to think that there's more to it than that. I think that part of it comes from the perceived competition from Android and from Samsung. Take the Apple Watch as an example. Before Apple had anything on the drawing board -- beyond rumors -- Samsung and some other competitors were releasing products. And while the Apple Watch may be a far more elegant version of a Watch than anything that any of the competitors have introduced, it still seems like -- at best -- an accessory. And that, historically, has felt like something Apple let their ecosystem do. It's not that they don't have the capital to fund the development, but it doesn't seem like it's laser focused on a very defined future in the Apple universe. 

If that seems more philosophy that marketing, that's probably true. But perhaps that's what's missing from some of the product direction right now -- the mission, the philosophy, the ideology. Perhaps that is what I miss. Instead, it seems like we have now have a goal of being the market leader. Have we jumped the shark?

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