Is Apple's software quality really in decline?

Drama queens in the media want you to believe that Apple's software quality stinks. But they couldn't be more wrong and you should tune them out

If you've been following media reports about Apple's "decline in software quality" you'd think that the company had completely lost its ability to delight users. And you might wonder what has gone wrong inside of Apple to allow this terrible situation to happen in the first place.

But has Apple's software quality really gone downhill? Or is it just a case of various drama queens in the media shouting into their own echo chamber, and reinforcing each other's perspective?

I'll share my thoughts below, but first here's some great commentary about the supposed "decline in software quality" by Apple.

Alexandra Mintsopoulos reports on "Apple's Elephant in the Room":

What’s going on? If you follow enough people on Tech Twitter and listen to enough podcasts, you will begin to see this small and insular group start to say and believe the same things, which eventually leads to their audience coming to believe it as well. This echo chamber phenomenon is what I believe is at the root of this narrative and something John identified.

Marco is clearly in the “out of love” phase of the cycle. He has stated that part of why he wants to get a Tesla is because of wanting to be a fan of something new and to be on the ground floor. His frequent “cynical takes” on what Apple’s intentions are, are related. In fact he came to this realization himself on episode 148 of Accidental Tech Podcast; Apple is getting too big for his liking and he doesn’t seem to like that Apple’s focus is on anything but the Mac (John’s response to him was both insightful and self-aware).

Marco frequently asserts that Apple is measuring the wrong things, that they are tunnel visioned on metrics such as crash rates of their software while missing the forest for the trees, which implies that Apple executives and engineers don’t use their own products. The notion is silly and not borne by the facts. Apple’s installed base of users has grown massively over the past few years. Even if you dismiss this as a lagging indicator what you cannot dismiss is that customer satisfaction remains at an all-time high. More importantly, actual usage of Apple’s products and services continues unabated, something you would not expect if Apple’s software quality were truly declining. It’s likely that Apple’s disclosure that there are over a billion active devices in-use is designed to counter this narrative.

If the biggest example that can be pointed to is iTunes or its back-end (which seem to generate the most criticism) then there isn’t any validity to the idea that Apple’s software quality is declining. iTunes has been the target of complaints for as long as anyone can remember and it seems clear that it will be reworked much like Photos, iWork, or Final Cut have been (and likely receive the same backlash for missing functionality). The reason it hasn’t been done sooner is obvious: it has hundreds of millions of users and transacts billions of dollars in sales, revamping it from the ground up is akin to fixing an airplane while it’s in flight and won’t be done lightly.

There is a massive disconnect between the enthusiasts and Apple’s broader customer base on the perception of Apple’s software quality. That is a PR problem for Apple to solve, not a software one.

More at Medium

Alexandra's post on Medium spawned a large thread on the Apple subreddit, and folks there were not shy in sharing their opinions about Apple's software quality:

Jabjabs: ”You know, I completely agree with this. I have been stepping away from keeping up with the daily events and focus on the broader issues. This appears to be a much more accurate summary of what is going on.”

MyNormalAccount: ”Yep. A HUGE insight for me (and that I honestly assumed because we always talk crap but never have the raw #'s to back it up) was the recent podcast with Craig/Eddy/Gruber. They talked about the new Apple TV release and it's removal of bluetooth keyboard functionality. There was a lot of negative angry feedback on twitter in the Gruber social network and people were reaaaally mad that the new TV doesn't pair BT keyboards. So Craig and Eddy start talking about how they pulled all the diagnostic numbers to see how many people were using BT keyboards on the old Apple TV and any other demographic data they could get. It's hilarious. The numbers were already very very small, and they found that during WWDC the number of Apple TV users typing on their bluetooth keyboards dropped to near ZILCH. So basically only the nerdiest of the nerds (iOS/Mac developers) used the keyboards religiously and their shitstorm on Twitter made it seem like a much larger problem than it actually was.

It's a big PR problem for Apple. 90% of us listen to these podcasts and some of us read twitter. Gruber and the gang are the spotlight and their frustrations wash off on SO many people that don't actually experience them. It brews a nasty swarm of negativity in users minds, it's incredibly unhealthy.

I don't know what the solution is but I think a great idea is to start publishing some of the statistics Apple has behind closed doors.”

TheBest01: ”Exactly, I never believed in the "declining software quality" circlejerk either. The only real flaws are Apple Music and some parts of iTunes, and it looks like Apple is aware of this and trying to fix it. There are some other minor flaws too but nothing too serious. People will believe whatever everyone else says and follow the herd. There's lots of examples of this outside of Apple too.”

6ickle: ”I never had real issues with itunes but everyone had issues from all the rumblings so I thought maybe just me and maybe I’m not using it enough. Then I got an android phone, tried to find a good music player and realized hey you know itunes is just fine after all hah. Grass isn’t always greener and all that.”

Dogthepug: ”I guess it all depends on perspective. Are there better apps out there than the default Apple apps, like Mail, Weather, News etc etc? Absolutely there are.

So if you're just looking at it from a singular source of what quality is such as does it work? Or does the weather app, accurately tell me the temperture, then no Apple doesn't have a quality issue.

But what is clear, is that the software they ship isn't groundbreaking, or on the cutting edge of much of anything. Its all starting to get a little dated and could use some refreshing even if its just to bring it inline with other software options.

For example the window snapping on MacOS is so far behind Windows its unreal. The iPad Pro software experience is anything but a "Pro" or Productivity inspiring experience either. These are just micro level annoyances to users that are building a larger disgruntled voice that is being echod be a lot of different people.”

MattTheGr8: ”...I wish Apple would prioritize some things (revamp iTunes, improve App Store, new file system [ding!]) over others (new Photos app, OS updates every year). But in most categories I like Apple's offerings better than the competition, and the current versions of hardware/software better than previous ones, so it's hard for me to complain TOO much. I think we have just all gotten used to the future coming so quickly these days that our expectations are starting to outpace reality.”

Mrcrassic: ”I don't think that their software quality has been regressing that much over the years. Their 1.0s (including iPhoneOS 1.0) have always had issues that have been worked out over time. I think that all of this hype comes down to people loving a good FUD article on a top company like Apple.

That being said, I would really like to see Apple up their cloud services game. I want Siri and iCloud to be the best cloud services available for iDevices just like iMessage and FaceTime are THE communication platforms that make me happy to use iPhones and iPads.”

Typhoon: ”This whole discussion is scary for me because I'm afraid it'll give us a new, minimalistic Music app for the Mac that looks nice but doesn't do anything. Some of us like iTunes just fine as a music player; its metadata and playlist functionality are pretty solid and I don't want to lose them because people are clamoring for another feel-good, feature-free rewrite.”

Speedyparker: ”I came to use Apple products in 2010 and have noticed an improvement every year (with the exception of iOS 7). I hope Apple doesn't let this swell of news articles about quality scare them off about making ambitious software decisions.”

Owlsrule: ”Apple Music's quality is no worse than any other first gen Apple product, and they have been steadily making great improvements and fixes at a fast pace just like any of their previous first gen products. You can't read this article, understand it, and then suddenly go back to your previous biased thoughts. ”

More at Reddit

Apple's software quality is quite good on my iOS devices and Macs

I have been pretty much rolling my eyes at the notion that Apple's software quality has been in decline. I have an iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and a 5K iMac. I have never seen the purported decline in software quality on any of my Apple devices. And I use each of them for hours and hours every day.

And what's really funny about it is that I'm running the iOS 9.3 beta on my iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6 Plus. The beta has been fantastic so far, I have not seen any noticeable bugs or performance issues on either device. If Apple's software quality is so bad, then why is a beta version of iOS running so well on my devices?

Nor have I run into problems running the latest version of OS X on my 5K iMac. I use my iMac every day for work and all of the Apple software on it performs very well for me. I have not run into bugs, stability or speed issues with any Apple software.

I think that this entire situation just goes to show you that you should be very careful about what you read in the media. Sometimes, to put it bluntly, it's just a steaming crock of bullshit, and I think that's the case with the media drama queens that have been trying to convince people that Apple's software quality sucks.

My own experience puts the lie to all of the blather and hoopla about this. I'm very happy with the Apple software running on my 5K iMac, iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6 Plus. Everything works well, and better yet, it all works together beautifully.

So beware of what you read in the media about Apple's software quality. What pompous, self-important media figures say, and how Apple's software actually performs in the real world are two very different things indeed.

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