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My 2018 Apple Report Card (daringfireball.net)
30 points by tosh 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments



Gruber is way too generous with Apple here. I like Apple products a lot but there are too many problems to love them:

The throwaway design of the products should downrank environmental to a C. I'd give them a D but they show real efforts in recycling and ethical material sourcing.

iPhones are getting too expensive. They give memory size options they can use to upsell, rather than what customers need, and there are no options for people who want smaller handsets other than buy outdated devices or switch to Android. They don't ship features like Smart HDR on their 1 year old (!) device, to create artificial USPs.

Even the D on the Macs seem generous when you consider they still act like they did nothing wrong with the Macbook keyboard, the Air/Mac Mini price increase mirrors the iPhone's and we've never heard again of the new Mac Pro, while they STILL sell the trash can.

The watch is fine, should've gotten an A imo.

Apple has gotten better with services, but a B is undeserved. Apple Music is still worse than spotify, iCloud is OK at best and Siri still sucks.

Apple could rule gaming but for whatever reason choose not to. That should've been graded and get them a C.

I have a lot more points and nuance, but these are the points just came to my mind.


The throwaway design of the products should downrank environmental to a C. I'd give them a D but they show real efforts in recycling and ethical material sourcing.

Doesn’t the fact that the iPhone 5s from 2013 still getting updates in 2019 kind of contradict that? You can still get battery replacements and screen repairs for it.

iPhones are getting too expensive

Apple sells more than just the $1500 512GB iPhone XS Max. You can buy an iPhone 7 for $450 and still have a faster phone than most Android phones and probably get updates longer.

the Air/Mac Mini price increase mirrors the iPhone's and we've never heard again of the new Mac Pro, while they STILL sell the trash can.

The $499 4GB Mac Mini that Apple sold was a computer that no one should have ever bought. $699 was the cheapest of the former Mac Minis that anyone should have bought. The $799 Mac Mini has an extremely fast SSD hard drive, thunderbolt 3 ports, etc.

Apple said during their round table that the Mac Pro wouldn’t come out until this year and they reiterated that when the iMac Pro was introduced.


Yes I probably agree with most if not all you said. The throwaway design was more geared towards the Macs and the hardware side. Also the fact that repairs are very expensive. Former Mac Minis had great upgradability for a cheaper price. They didn't change the design so what's the reason? iPhones are worth their money, which is why I continue to buy them, but the improvements from X to XS are minuscule, compared to the price increase.

As I said I could've written a more nuanced criticism, I just wanted to point out that Gruber was too generous. I'm inclined to say he didn't do a proper job.


Mac Minis are far more upgradable than they have ever been thanks to TB3 and USB-C. You couldn’t upgrade the graphic performance before for instance. The only things that you could upgrade before were RAM and storage. You can upgrade the RAM on the newest ones and there is no performance penalty from using an external drive with TB3 and probably not one with USBC. You can also add more higher resolution monitors.


I bought a bunch of those entry level Mac mini’s and swapped out the HD for an SSD.

Filled an office with them, they’re totally great for team members that don’t have heavy data or graphics needs.


I’m sure Spotify is better than AM with discovery, but I never used that feature of Spotify. Being able to upload my own files to Apple Music (got a lot of music not in streaming services) and play it anywhere is a killer feature for me.


I know everyone says Siri sucks, but I use it hundreds of times a day now and it's just... working. Though my use consists entirely sending messages, asking to play artists or music tracks, and making reminders

I get that as a trivia and knowledge service it's pretty sucky, but as a voice assistant it's doing a good job


Yeah I use Siri for Homekit, reminders etc. too and it works great. But that's because I've learned what not to ask and that sucks. Checking for restaurants, shop opening times, cinema schedules works so well with Google assistant (in Germany). With Siri it's a game of chance. Asking basic questions about what distance two cities are turn into a game of how to pose the question so siri understands me.


Absolutely. I wouldn’t rely on Siri for those things either. But I have come to realise that I use it hundreds of times per day to do messaaging, music, weather and reminders. So I’ve gotten some significant value out of the service


When I tell Siri to message my girlfriend she misunderstands the name and wants to send a message to a person that I have never messaged before, who has a last name that sounds similar to my girlfriends first name.

When I ask Siri to show me the route to somewhere, she'll invariably send me to a place hundreds of kilometers away, because the place in my city wasn't an exact match or something.

The only thing that works reliably is setting timers.


Hah, I’ve had that problem with Siri. Friend with a similar first name to the last name of a person you never message

Definitely seems like they could use some context here to improve contact selection (time of day, message regularity, name similarity)


I also use Siri all the time for voice dictation and it's pretty good.

The only reason to actually type a message on an iPhone, instead of voice dictate, is if you're in a place where speaking will bother other people or violate your privacy. Otherwise, press the microphone button and dictate what you want to write!

It's also completely free, for unlimited use, which is worth keeping in mind.


I did a test with both Siri and Nuance’s app on my iPhone. I set both to listen to a podcast playing on another device. Nuance’s app did far better with dictation.


> They give memory size options they can use to upsell, rather than what customers need, and there are no options for people who want smaller handsets other than buy outdated devices or switch to Android.

My family members – whom I do the obligatory Computer Support for – are all asking me for years about those two issues: why does my iPhone always say this backup thing is full/cannot take new photos? I wanted to buy a new iPhone, is it still ok to buy this SE or is this outdated – it’s not so big as all the other phones. Same to questions for years.


Both the MacBook and iMac lines look confused to me. Why are they still selling iMacs with hard disks rather than SSDs? What is the point of the iMac Pro when they have a Mac Pro? Why is the new MAC Mini so expensive, it used to be the budget option. There doesn’t seem to be much of a strategy around their desktops, it’s as if nobody is in charge.

Also why can’t they offer on site service for a £10,000 desktop? Lenovo can do it.


It's a real mess, isn't it? The Mac Pro hasn't been updated since 2013, though apparently a dramatic re-think is due this year; obviously the iMac Pro is the better machine, but it's drastically expensive and probably not to the taste of every professional given the all-in-one design. The Mac Mini has been updated quite recently, but even the cheapest model is a lot more expensive than they used to be. And the laptop product lines are just totally confusing - I guess if I'm a professional I should just focus on the MacBook Pro, but for non-professional users, differentiating between the MacBook and the Air seems very, very complicated (I believe the newest MacBooks are thinner than the newest Airs, which seems bizarre given the name).

It really seems like they just don't care all that much.


I see this comment a lot and it always reminds of this:

There is no perfect pasta sauce, just perfect pasta sauces.[1]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Moskowitz


> Why are they still selling iMacs with hard disks rather than SSDs?

The iMac has driven me crazy since the day it was introduced, way back when the display was still a CRT. What is the point of integrating a computer and a monitor in the same enclosure? These two products have completely different life cycles. The iMac forces me to replace them together for, what, aesthetics? Bah.


> What is the point of integrating a computer and a monitor in the same enclosure?

So, like every laptop?


With a laptop it makes sense because I want to use it in disparate locations and it's easier to carry one thing rather than two. But for a desktop machine having both in the same enclosure has no benefit beyond aesthetics AFAICT.


That really depends on what you want and what kind of person you are, maybe it doesn't make sense to you but for a lot of people—myself included—it makes sense to have an integrated device at home too. I'd always consider this before making blanket "It doesn't make sense" statements. As you can tell by the unit sales I'm not the only one who thinks that way.


I didn't make any blanket statements. I said that it doesn't make sense to me, that I see no benefit beyond aesthetics. Obviously many people see it differently or they wouldn't buy iMacs. Either they value aesthetics more than I do, or they see some other benefit that I have overlooked. (But I will note that so far in this discussion no one has been able to actually identify such a benefit.)


I have had three iMacs: 24” I purchased in 2007 which died due to a failed/faulty power strip, a used 27” I bought in 2014, and a refurb 27” 5k I bought in 2017.

I value aesthetics more than you do, and I’m entirely comfortable with the amount I’ve spent on these machines over the years.


> What is the point of integrating a computer and a monitor in the same enclosure?

It’s a good display bundled with your computer, which is an appealing option to many because it’s one less thing they have to worry about.


Until they have to upgrade or repair it.


The iMac isn't even that great for aesthetics, at least if you VESA mount it and have a decent amount of external gear connected. I have the VESA-mount model of the 2017 27" iMac, and I end up having a bunch of cables hanging down that I wouldn't with regular displays. Additionally, I find it difficult to rotate the display into portrait mode because of all the cables attached, so I don't bother even though I'd occasionally like to.

If I had a separate monitor, I'd only have at most two or maybe even only one cable running to each display which would be easy to tuck away within the mounting arm. I'd be able to have most of my cables tucked away instead of the exposed mess of cables I have with the iMac.

To make things worse, they don't offer Target Display Mode like they did for a short while, so I can't use the iMac's 5K display with any other machines (e.g. work laptop when I work from home).

If I were buying today, I'd get a Mac Mini (and maybe an eGPU if I ended up unsatisfied with the built-in GPU), and just use my old 30" 2560x1600 monitor or get something like a huge 38" ultra-wide display (the 27" 5K is very nice, but HiDPI isn't a game-changer for me). In 2017, the 27" iMac appeared to be the best desktop Mac option (user-replaceable RAM up to 64GB was a huge factor), and I don't regret purchasing it, but the integrated display with no Target Display Mode is a massive disadvantage.


> The iMac isn't even that great for aesthetics, at least if you VESA mount it and have a decent amount of external gear connected.

What kind of reasoning is that? Of course if you use it in a way that it's not intended for it's not delivering on it's original purpose?

If you put a storage box on top of a Porsche, add off-road tires and hook up a trailer it doesn't delivery on it's promise of being a sports car either.


Integrating the display with the computer offers two advantages:

1) It's easier for customers. No need to think about which display to get -- you know the integrated display will just work, and it will be very high quality.

2) Tighter integration: the built in display wakes immediately when the computer wakes, you can adjust brightness via keyboard, and you won't have trouble connecting the display and fidgeting with a crappy OSD to set the picture settings...

Dealing with external displays is extremely frustrating -- there's always something that doesn't work right. The display doesn't wake up, refresh rate is limited if you use the wrong cable, colors look different depending on brightness setting of the monitor, ...

If you just want one computer and one display, an iMac saves a lot of time and frustration.


Neither of those benefits is a result of the display and the computer being in the same housing, they are the result of both being made by the same manufacturer (or at least adhering to the same interface spec). The same benefits accrued back when Apple made the Cinema Display. I had one of those and I loved it. It lasted through three or four different Macs.


I think you underestimate how easy it is to build an external display. When they first released the 5k iMac, there was no interface available that supported an external 5k display.

Now we have Thunderbolt 3, so in theory 5k displays shouldn't be an issue, but there are only very few options available, and from what I've heard they are plagued by bugs and compatibility issues. So it seems that it is somehow difficult to make external displays that work well.

And one thing we haven't talked about yet is price: getting a computer with an integrated display is almost certainly cheaper than getting a computer + a good display. The iMacs have always been pretty good deals if you consider how much a comparable display would cost.


iMac users don’t upgrade their computers. It’s an appliance like a microwave.

I switched to an iMac after I realized that every time I tried to upgrade my desktop, everything was incompatible with the new stuff, forcing me to effectively upgrade everything at once and build a new computer. This kept happening every 4 years.

I could have avoided this with incremental upgrades, but who has time for that?


Strange, the last incompatibility-problems I saw were those caused by disappearing interfaces - things like parallel printer and SCSI ports - but those are all long gone. If I'm not using my HP SJ5200 scanner (with parallel and USB interface) - it is because the thing is slower than the somewhat newer version I came across at a flea market, not because it is incompatible. That thing is probably around 20 years old if not more but it works fine. The same goes for more or less all other 'old' external hardware - internal is often hampered by the absence of internal PCI (or VESA local bus or ISA or what have you) slots - so I can't really identify with this idiom of 'everything needing to be upgraded after a desktop refresh'.

It might help that I use Linux and as such am spared from forced upgrade trajectories.


Your monitors surely don’t stop being compatible every 4 years. I’ve been using one of my monitors for 10 years now, and other than needing an adapter it’s woeking just fine (I did buy a new monitor, but use both as a dual monitor setup).

Also, RAM, and hard drives are usually not a problem to upgrade at all.


> These two products have completely different life cycles. The iMac forces me to replace them together for, what, aesthetics?

I have a 2009 iMac that I still use daily as an external monitor. I haven’t used the computer portion in years, but it’s still a great screen.


All of these questions have obvious answers.

> Why are they still selling iMacs with hard disks rather than SSDs?

Because the average user likely to buy an entry level iMac doesn’t care that much.

> What is the point of the iMac Pro when they have a Mac Pro?

The Mac Pro is trash and they haven’t updated it in many years. The iMac pro is a stopgap while they design the new Mac Pro.

> Why is the new MAC Mini so expensive, it used to be the budget option.

It’s still cheaper than an iMac so it is the budget option.

> There doesn’t seem to be much of a strategy around their desktops, it’s as if nobody is in charge.

I think what you mean is that you don’t like their strategy. Mac sales are still good.

> Also why can’t they offer on site service for a £10,000 desktop? Lenovo can do it.

They could, but they don’t want do. It’s a lot of effort and far more important for a company like Lenovo that lives or dies by their enterprise offerings.


Why is the new MAC Mini so expensive, it used to be the budget option.

The number of people who buy desktops is minuscule especially low end ones. The people who buy Mac Minis are doing all types of specialize things. I welcome the high end Mac Mini.

The “budget” $499 4G Mac Mini was always something to be avoided.


John Gruber praises iCloud as one of the best things but do people really feel that way? I feel Dropbox or Google Photos / Drive is way better on software experience.


Dropbox and Google Drive aren’t great on Apple’s platforms. Files integration on iOS makes them somewhat passable (though, they don’t quite work right there either), and on macOS Dropbox is horribly invasive while Google Drive is poorly maintained and slow :(


True although iCloud on Windows isn't great either.


Agree with you 100%. I think all of Apple's online services are garbage (and I used them since iTools), most of their applications aren't so good either. Thankfully, their OSes get out of the way and are mostly pleasant to use, good platforms for others to build on.

I should probably add that I don't even think Apple is capable of making good online services which is one major reason I switched from iPhones to Nexus/Pixels in 2013. Sure you can use Google services with iPhones but for things like Google Photos they will always be better integrated with Android.


iMessage is better than any competitor and it’s not even close.

iCloud works excellently as a backup and sync service now.

iCloud photos is as good as Google Photos.

Apple’s service chops have really improved, as evidenced by their rollout of Apple Music which had no service related complaints (the complaints were around policy) AFAICT.


iMessage is nice but can't communicate fully (more than basic SMS/MMS) with roughly 85% of the active cell phones in the world.

iCloud Photos really isn't as good. The AI features, face recognition, free backup is all better on Google Photos.

Let's look at Apple Maps for example, do you ever think it will surpass or meet parity with Google Maps?

Look at icloud.com services with the online office suite, calendar, etc. Will that ever come close to Google Docs?


He specifically praises iCloud Photos which works great for most people and keeps a lot of users photos safe without setting up anything.

The "put things into a folder to share with other people" aspect isn't really mentioned which would be the Dropbox or Google Drive use case you are talking about I guess.

Personally I think it works just fine, also as a Dropbox equivalent if you don't need to share it with other people. As soon as you want to share something it gets annoying pretty quickly though in my experience.


iCloud has become pretty good as a set and forget type of service for backing up parts of your life you care about.

Once I setup iCloud on my parents’ iOS devices, I’m fairly confident that if something goes wrong, they won’t lose their data, especially their photos. This is in sharp contrast to the early years where I would have to constantly remind them to backup their phones to their computer because iCloud wasn’t reliable.


I like iCloud drive and use it exclusively for online backup. It’s been seamless for me but I just use it for backup and synchronization. I teach some online courses and tried using it to link to online assignments but it has a serious flaw. Every time I update the file the link to the file is no longer valid. I’m guessing other advanced features equally suck on it.


> [iPad/MBP] On. Off. On. Off. Instantly.

I actually remember an early WWDC where someone from the leadership team, I think Bertrand Serlet, demonstrated exactly this with an iBook. It was a pretty big deal at the time, so it used to work.

For me, the biggest complaint with the new phones is that they're all way to big. The XS is the smallest, but I don't really want to spend on the flagship when it's a compromise for me.

If they'd add a slightly smaller XR, that'd probably be the ticket. Or a high end SE/X... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I was expecting Gruber to give out A+ on all fronts based on the things he posts about Apple, but it was a fair report card.

I’m glad he called out the shopping experience in stores. I thought roaming checkout would be convenient, but it’s maddening having to comb through the store just to find an available sales associate to buy a small thing.

Apple used to have dedicated checkout plus roaming checkout. Now they only have roaming checkout.


> I was expecting Gruber to give out A+ on all fronts based on the things he posts about Apple

That's a common sentiment on Hacker News.

In fact, Gruber is regularly criticizing Apple, often quite harshly.

Just not on HN's pet peeves.


It's a general problem with retail, hotel check-in, etc. situations where the system is built around providing an in-person experience for the shopper/guest. The problem is that, in practice, at busy times you would mostly prefer a streamlined automated way to do your business and move on.


Gruber criticizes Apple all the time. The past few episodes of his podcast have been mostly complaints.


One thing I don’t see mentioned enough is that Apple’s changes to the iPhone means that increasingly even minor issues with the phone lead to Apple replacing the hardware, instead of the part that is broken.

And the replacement is always a refurbished phone which is usually terrible in its own way, and comes with a terrible warranty.

This really hurts Apple’s service, which I guess would fall under retail.


Link should probably be changed to https://daringfireball.net/2019/02/my_2018_apple_report_card rather than linking to the homepage.




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