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Ask HN: Why has Apple's software quality steadily gone downhill?
83 points by whitepoplar on Feb 5, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 49 comments
I've been using Apple products since 2003, starting with the iBook G4. Since then, it seems as if Apple's software quality has steadily gone downhill. My iBook wasn't the fastest, but it was certainly the most steadfast and predictable Apple computer I've owned.

Now, on my 2017 MacBook Pro running High Sierra, I get random freezes, slow/failed wakes from sleep, kernel panics, strange APFS behavior, trackpad unresponsiveness, etc.

iOS 11 is even worse, freezing during calls and sometimes keeping calls active even when the display shows no trace of an active call.

What gives? What, internally (to Apple), causes this?

Podcasts is definitely worse in iOS 11

UI is worse, for example it takes more clicks to get to my podcast’s timeline of episodes. I constantly feel lost.

It’s buggy like hell, - Podcasts don’t update as well. Before, I could load the app, swipe the fist screen, and all my new podcasts would start loading (with the efficiency and reliability of Apps updates). Now, I walk out the front door and a plus icon jumps in and the podcast isn’t downloaded.

cloud/arrow and circle/square are more intuitive. plus just pops up to tell me I’m SOL.

Yesterday I clicked through on a download in listen now to the episode screen, started play, and I had a different icon/episode in the ‘playing now’ zone and a completely different file playing.

These issues infuriate me every time I use Podcasts. Don’t get me started about WiFi preference to pick the Cable Company’s WiFi hot spot over my home even when the phone is less than 4’ away!

Have you tried using alternative podcast apps? Like Overcast? I never used Apple’s podcast app from the get go so I can’t comment on it. It being bad and/or getting worse isn’t too surprising and definitely one reason I never tried it.

Yep, podcast app in iOS 11 is terrible. One of the worse examples of post-update brokenness I've seen in iOS.

I don't think iOS has ever been a half decent operating system, but that's an example of how a lot of the discussion in this thread might be subjective.

A glimpse into what's going on in my opinion can be seen in the long awaited new Pro line of Macbooks. Many point out these were not Pro, they are (exceedingly) under powered overpriced shiny Macbooks. Machines which are still outperformed by their predecessors. Apple has stopped focusing on the tech community because we are expensive hard to please customers.

So they focus their efforts making products for regular people, who might use the product once in a while. And by focus their efforts I mean they make products people want to buy but that aren't necessarily great. Software is one aspect of that. If you are not a power user you'll likely never run into any of the issues you mention.

e: Oh boo hoo

> Software is one aspect of that. If you are not a power user you'll likely never run into any of the issues you mention.

Most software I've seen is the opposite: consumer grade software has to work well, because a lot of times it's optional—if it doesn't do a thing well, users will just not use it. Whereas professional grade software is much rougher around the edges, because if doing a thing takes extra steps, users will take those extra steps. Because they need to accomplish their goal, they're a lot more forgiving of problems along the way, so long as they get to where they need to go.

I think the distinction between Pro and Consumer is a red herring in relation to software quality. Both groups want software that just works, reliably.

I agree with you that Apple's Pro products are lacking, but I think they're lacking for different reasons to different people. I couldn't care less about my next MBP having a faster CPU. Others need that. I'd prefer software that works, no Touch Bar, FaceID, a fantastic keyboard, and much longer battery life. Or a surprise benefit from Apple--I shouldn't have to come up with what I want. Apple's design/r&d team should make me gawk at it. That's their job, and they're failing.

I'm staying with my 2015 15" MBP (i7-4870HQ, AMD R9 M370X GPU, 16GB RAM) Still running El Capitan. I hear they have M.2 to Apple SSD adapters now too.

The High Sierra root bug was embarrassing, among other issues. But bugs happen...

I also don't like the newer and thinner MBP's. I would prefer for the "Pro" line that they had more USB and other ports, and I absolutely don't want a Touch Bar.

Not sure what I'm going to do for my next laptop. Try and keep this one going for as long as possible.

The new keyboard is surprisingly amazing but the lack of ports is just embarrassing. At work we have this "who brought the dongle to the meeting?" game. With my personal laptop I will wait for the next version.

I think the new keyboard is pretty terrible honestly. So many keys get stuck and no longer press down. I've had multiple friends who have had to get their whole keyboards replaced because of stuck keys and the genius bar couldn't fix it.

Agree. Not even considering durability issues, 0.1mm of full-scale travel on a keyboard key is just not comfortable to type on at all.

And they are unbelievably clicky, too. Worse than some of the mech keyboards in my office. I find them awful to type on and have an old Retina laptop instead.

The latest keyboard is attractive and an improvement over the original thin keyboard. Still, the keys stop working if dust goes in underneath them.

Experienced the issue trying out typeracer.com in a few apple stores to get a feel of the new keyboard - some keys just don't work on current MBP models.

So much so that Apple has created an official guide on how to correctly clean the keyboard, instead of making a keyboard that didn't need this new feature.


I really do hope the keyboard issue is resolved, eventually my MBP will have to be updated.

I agree about the keyboard but I don't understand the dongle game at all. I bought 1 dongle with a USB, HDMI, and DVI out and I just keep it in my laptop bag. I've literally pulled it out twice to use for the DVI port. My biggest use case is, by far, the HDMI port but there's never any game with it. I don't get how people are so baffled by this. All my other stuff is now USB-C and I think the convenience of multiple ports far outweighs any mild irritation from needing a dongle in a few edge cases.

At my work we have a comprehensive Zoom integration. We hit the “Share Screen” button and it goes to the room’s projector, as well as all the remote participants. Dongles are available, but discouraged, as the screen is then only available within the room.

At my desk it’s no problem to leave dongles attached to the monitors.

As usual, Apple has removed a standard before the industry is quite done with it, but as usual, there is a better way to get the job done.

Apple's history has been to drop one standard at a time. With USB-C, they've dropped all of them at once. Now it's the only port to do anything on a computer. When they adopted USB, there were still other I/O options like Firewire, or when they adopted Mini-DisplayPort you still had USB ports because they didn't affect anything else. Now, it's literally USB-C or nothing. I keep a drawer full of USB-C to USB-A adapters for this reason, and the Apple official HDMI adapters are not 100% reliable. So annoying.

that's clearly silly. the correct thing to do is tether all of the accursed things to the conference room table :D

Regarding High Sierra I’ve been telling myself that maybe Apple is is secretly busy with The Great Rewrite to migrate from Objective-C to Swift. Or maybe they are rewriting stuff to get it on the path to the one, unified OS. I really hope this is the reason because otherwise it is really, really sad.

There is still a UI bug that I must file because seemingly no one but me deactivated LCD font smoothing and discovered that text is printed in bold if it contains non-ASCII characters. It’s infuriating that it is still not fixed as apparently no one has noticed since the release of High Sierra. I stopped reporting bugs because often it’s a duplicate and gets closed which is demotivating. But I can't know beforehand because their bug tracker is closed.

What’s worse than closed is that it doesn’t correlate your closed as duplicate bug, with the bug it is a duplicate of. If they correlated them so you could see the status of the “parent” bug, then it would be miles better. I might even start logging bugs again myself.

You can ask for the status of the parent bug, I've gotten answers before.

For example, I filed a bug report for Continuity not supporting TouchID/FaceID, so that you could unlock macOS from your iDevice. It was closed as a duplicate, and when I asked for the parents' status, I was told it was it was closed as "Not to be Addressed".

The worst is Apple's closed bug tracker. You cannot see bugs reported by other users, and if yours gets closed as a duplicate, you cannot see the original report's progress or be notified when it's fixed. A colleague reported a number of Safari bugs that he was quickly locked out of as duplicates. He stopped bothering eventually. Held up our automated testing for weeks.

Wow, very sad, obscure bug lol. I think your right that nobody turned off font smoothing, although i really don't see any reason why you would.

Wow, just earlier today I tweeted:

> @tim_cook, What is Apple doing about the increasing bugs across Apple's software?

I still remember pulling hair out because of Microsoft's bugs and just being able to get stuff done on Apple's software. I used to joke that PCs forced people to become experts because of bugs, whereas it was just fun to get stuff done on Apple products.

Today's Apple UX on iOS is just broken in so many places—friction everywhere. On a daily basis I encounter bugs.

What happened?

I never tire of pointing to Apple's organization structure and how it impedes working on many things simultaneously with adequate focus and quality. It's much better explained here. [1]

Without a bigger change in the organization, these problems just cannot be solved. It's not about money, which Apple has a lot of (and even without tax benefits of repatriation, can borrow very easily). It's also about the top management's reluctance to change how the company works.

[1]: https://stratechery.com/2016/apples-organizational-crossroad...

Apple seems to have taken the direction of optimizing their experience to create beginners before supporting advanced users or pros.

There'e way more customers who are beginners, than advanced or expert users present.. until they all become more skilled.

Apple's products, and software aim to just work in the most basic way for the greatest number of people. Anything that is too far our of the range for basic users is either killed (Server.App), or sufficiently neutered.

If we start looking through the lens of creating customers who start out as beginners with Apple and grow with them...

Apple makes the iPhone so easy, it's like a feature phone. The tough App Store rules - to ensure the most stable experience for the majority of beginner and basic users.

Apple could design AppleTV off the charts - but we still have those largely basic menus, so basic that anyone can use an AppleTV easier than a cable box.

iPad Pro's could support mice for advanced users to use that amazing horsepower? No, let's go out of our way to remove it.

Mac Mini updates? Delay it until the average home is ready to have a new iHomeAutomationHub server once.

iMac Pro Updates? Probably have to sell them for $18K ea to start making it worthwhile.

Underpowered Macbooks, or Macbooks Airs? Perfect for selling lots beginners to intermediates.

MacOS, too, has fallen behind in it's UI innovation and polish. Apple's revenue largely comes from mobile, so rumors of MacOS going the way of a consistent iOS interface might not be too crazy.

What to do while the world levels up their digital skills?

We can wait, try to manage it ourselves, or switch to currently more innovative gear at the expense of other things.

MacOS has so many basic UI tweaks to install that one has to buy an app like Bartender to hide the icons. There is lots of work completed under the hood, no doublt, but not in a day to day way that we touch or use.

The main reason I'm still on Sierra is I can't handle the 4-6 month trauma of having a current OS like High Sierra that beyond the forced APFS snags, appears flaky. This is after experiencing every upgrade breaking with Panther, Tiger, leopard, Lion, Mavericks, El Capitan. Only Sierra was smooth.

It's just easier to wait to buy a mid cycle Macbook pro with the OS rattlesnakes having bit everyone else for a few years first.

There’s also a difference between advanced users and power users. You can be an advanced user like people I know but not have lots of apps and thus icons installed. So no need for Bartender to hide them.

I do need Bartender like you seem to. But I’ve seen I’m the exception amongst my beginner and advanced friends vs the norm.


There's also a problem with every app thinking they're at the center of one's existence and should start on bootup, desktop icon, and status bar icon. But that's likely aimed at beginners, and not advanced or power users.

Isn't it most likely that the codebase is just like any other huge one. It gets to be a house of cards and getting all the bugs out becomes an impossible task, so you have to do the best you can. Would be nice if they would repatriate some of that overseas cash and increase their QA efforts but that doesn't help revenue in the short term. Also their competition is far worse in this area so nobody's breathing down their neck.

Would be nice if they would repatriate some of that overseas cash and increase their QA efforts but that doesn't help revenue in the short term. Also their competition is far worse in this area so nobody's breathing down their neck.

If Apple just made their QA efforts a minuscule fraction of the size of their efforts to get an edge in mobile chips and supply-chain logistics -- they could easily start to appear godlike again. Bad QA can be debilitating. Mediocre QA can be an anchor around your neck. Awesome QA is some kind of overpowered buff multiplier! It's exactly the sort of competitive advantage that a company like Apple would want to cultivate! So many of their competitors would fall sway to the cultural issues that go against QA getting the power to work to its full potential, making it an advantage that's very difficult to replicate.

I think if Apple could do something like this, this alone would redeem them in the eyes of its customers -- Make it Just Work Again! (Please don't walk around in that hat!)

I've observed this in more than a few places — teams treating QA as the de-facto tester and gatekeeper that has to find all the bugs, while developers just write code to satisfy their interest in writing code, and not spending a lot of time testing it. I wonder if this is the case in Apple too, where developers just write something without a lot of testing before handover to QA, and QA is pressed for time and/or doesn't know enough to test it well before a release.

The aging codebase may be one part of the problem. The other, as alluded to in another comment, is the fact that some newer versions of the apps are not necessarily improvements. I agree with the commenter stating that the new Podcasts app is quite crappy. The old one was great in my opinion.

I filed a bug to Apple regarding an issue I found with carplay. They didn't attempt to reproduce it and asked me to generate debug logs. I found this ridiculous, as a customer, I have no energy to gather debug logs.

C'mon, I love to rag on Apple as much as the next person, but if you've got the motivation to find Apple's bug tracking app and submit a report, it's not much to ask that you include some logs as well.

I once filed an easy to reproduce bug and was asked to provide sysdiagnose. I did that and then they came back saying that it was intended behavior. For real???

If it's CarPlay integration related, perhaps it's involving car integration and not to ridiculous to ask for your debug logs (if you have them) as they might have the exact car or ECU firmware SDK you are testing with?

the actual bug is this,

if you play podcast while driving and meanwhile, the alarm is triggered. After you have dismissed the alarm, the audio won't come back. I suspect this is unrelated to my car, to be honest. As I disconnected my phone from the car, the issue was still there, no podcast audio.

I've got a 2016 15" MBP (touch bar) and have had zero problems with the hardware and software for a year and a half of heavy daily use. Well, maybe one weird hang.

YMMV, but it would seem like there's something wrong with your system that's not just run-of-the-mill.

Same here in terms of stability. I've been using a touch bar MBP 15 for several months and its been rock solid (still on Sierra though).

That being said, I HATE the keyboard and the touchbar is just dumb. The battery life is worse as well (although still way better than my Windows laptops). I wish I just had my old machine back to be honest.

That keyboard though.... ass

Add me to the list. Three separate Touch Bar MBP's (work, play, spouse) and all 3 have been solid as can be. My personal one might just be my favorite MacBook of all time. I also really love High Sierra. The only thing missing for me is iMessages in iCloud. Everything works well for me and, as a developer and musician, I rarely have issues doing whatever it is I want to do. People complaining about bugs because they read about the root issue and whatnot must have an axe to grind because I don't know a single Mac user that would have experienced a problem as a result of those bugs (and I know a lot of Mac users) and it was fixed within a day or 2.

YMMV but I'm having a great time here.

a few years ago, switching to android would have been unthinkable for me. preposterous.

now? I am so annoyed by my iphones persistent buggy problems performing normal phone-like operations (texting, typing) that I will probably switch. ugh.

few other anecdotal observations: their genius bar reservation web page literally redirects to an error page half the time! and not like a "planned" error page with a cute whale or something, but one with weird server logs that obviously are not meant for the end user

half the time i try to use the app store or sync apple ID I get an inscrutable error

i'm not sure if I gave up on apple, or they gave up on me! end rant

Shipping iOS and macOS updates while simultaneously shipping new hardware every year is like never ending Cylon attacks in BSG.

It’s relentless. It takes insane amounts of work. And you’re on a fixed schedule.

Aside from MacOS/iOS native software, IMHO Apple software for Windows has become unusable.

I tried using iCloud for Windows, but the sync behavior is unreliable, and I found myself without critical files on more than one occasion. This is not to mention the absurd background CPU usage.

iTunes on Windows is even worse. The built-in updater seems to fail on every major release, i.e. for 12.4,12.5,12.6 etc. Even under normal use, there are times when iTunes just refuses to launch. The background processes are running, but there’s nothing on my screen.

I’ve resorted to delaying my iTunes software updates until absolutely necessary, and then doing a clean install of iTunes. This is not to mention the myriad issues with authorizing computers to download previously purchased content, or the fact that iTunes will quite literally prompt you for the same password multiple times, with no UI notification telling you that you’ve entered it correctly or incorrectly.

Previous thread only once mentions iOS 11 in nested comments which I’d find more interesting to hear about because I don’t see many people complaining about it. Far more people are active on iOS 11 than High Sierra too. I personally have no issues with it beyond any other iOS.

I dealt with Apple Care recently for about 2 months of daily phone calls, store visits, and chats.

My MacBook had initially started restarting when it encountered any significant load. I got the logic board replaced and instead it started sometimes not waking from sleep correctly, producing "MCA data" kernel panics.

In the end, it got narrowed to the fact that I had an external monitor attached whilst closing the lid of the MacBook. This issue had been introduced earlier than my initial repair, but had only started happening for me post-repair because the repairer had taken the liberty of updating my software and exposed me to the bug that Apple had introduced.

My first Mac was he Titanium PowerBook, loved it really, but eventually the hinges developed cracks and caused screen flickering.

Mostly now I’m happy with the hardware still using mbp for development, iPad Air, & iPhone; but have noticed the degrade in software stability on all devices.

OS updates make me nervous and don’t address the issues I run into : general performance, responsiveness, Bluetooth device connectivity and hibernation.

I like tqkxzugoaupvwqr’s theory - maybe Apple is more focused on a swift rewrite and unified OS. In general all software and os releases feel rushed and incomplete.

I haven't experienced this with my macbook (Early 2015 also running high sierra), it's been stable. (but why isn't it possible to sort video's based on size in the photo app or icloud photo webapp?..)

With my iphone se it's a completely different story. Decided to contact Apple customer support because my iphone was frequently freezing up in the past weeks. Got told I need to replace the battery for 30euro (which to be fair is a decent price), but the battery still seems pretty good to me and the phone is less than 2 years old.

I miss the simplicity of the old Music app. The "redesigned" music app is an eyesore and a clunky experience that managed to kill my love of listening to music using Apple devices since the iPod days. Now, I'm using Spotify and heck even Amazon's music player is way better. Sigh.

On my side with the new Macbook and iPhone X no issues whatsoever so maybe this was just your system?

Honestly my iPhone 7, iMac, and MacBook Pro have all held up great. I've had no issues.

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