by Jim Lynch

Does Apple’s ecosystem lock in users?

Jun 27, 2016
Cloud ComputingConsumer ElectronicsiOS

Apple’s ecosystem offers many advantages, but some disadvantages as well. Some users love being all Apple, while others balk at putting all their eggs in the Apple basket.

One of the great things about using Apple’s products is that they all tend to work together in a way that the company’s competitors still can’t match. But not everyone is sure that it’s worth it to become enmeshed in Apple’s ecosystem, and one redditor recently asked if it was all really worth it.

I’ll share my own thoughts below, but first let’s take a look at what was said in the Reddit thread.

RegesVobis asked his question in the Apple subreddit:

I’m at a bit of a crossroads right now when it comes to tech. I’ve used Microsoft hardware and services in the past, Google’s more recently, and just bought a Chromebook (that won’t really be ideal for Android apps since it’s not a touchscreen). Lately I’ve been thinking hard about a mixed ecosystem using my iMac as a daily driver, selling the Chromebook to buy an iPad as my companion/travel device, and an Android phone (Moto G 3rd Gen to be precise). I’d be using primarily Microsoft services with the exception of Kobo for eBooks, Google Play Music because I like the included YouTube Red subscription, and Vudu/Ultraviolet for my admittedly small movie collection.

Then I started considering: Why not just go all in with Apple? Truth be told, I hate the idea of being locked to any one ecosystem (that’s why I stopped using Amazon’s services), but my wife already has an iPad and will soon be picking up an iPhone SE, and if there are significant advantages to doing so then I could see us becoming an “Apple family,” so to speak. I’d have to pick up an iPhone and Apple TV at some point once my disposable income allows, I guess.

Those of you who are all Apple: Is it worth it?

More at Reddit

His fellow redditors had some interesting thoughts about Apple’s ecosystem and whether or not it had value for them:

Seditiousseals: “Unpopular opinion here, but I don’t think so. I like Apple stuff, but I don’t like it so much that I know for sure it’s all I’ll use. I try to make sure I use cross-platform services like Google Drive and FB Messenger, and I’ve found myself switching between Mac/Windows and Android/iOS several times now.

Going all-in for Apple would essentially mean “trapping” myself in their ecosystem, making it very difficult to switch to something else. I like my Mac, and I like my iPad, and one day I might even get an iPhone, but I still won’t do anything that will truly lock me into the ecosystem.”

Potters2643: “Handoff, airdrop, AirPlay, continuation. All totally worth it. I was a die hard Microsoft/Windows guy. I had 2 zunes. (I still say that was a fantastic machine, especially the second one). I switched than iPhone just for FaceTime since the rest of my family refused Skype.

A couple years later, 2 Apple tvs, 2 iPads, 2 iPhones, MacBook Pro, AirPort Extreme, 2 Apple watches.

Everything works, is easy, and I don’t spend forever explaining how to do things to my wife, she figures them out herself.

I went from a hater to a fanboy.

Edit: Oh yeah! I forgot family sharing. My wife and I used fine my iPhone and find my friends to track each other for timing pickups, dinner, etc. It’s awesome.”

Ianturk: “It was much of the same for me, though the iPad 3 was the catalyst in my case. Now I’m here with an iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, MacBook Air, Apple TV, and a TimeCapsule.

Apple makes things easy IMO. Less troubleshooting, issues, etc.”

Zeroflexflyer: “I made the choice many years ago to be all-in with a single ecosystem instead of having a bit here and a bit there. I have never regretted my choice and always have access to all of my stuff. ”

Autonomousgerm: “…you’re never “locked” into it. You can still use all the Google or Microsoft services you please. I tend to do the same – hardware wise I’m all Apple, but don’t like the idea of tying everything to them, so I use Spotify, and Google Drive and Docs. Having said that, I’m finding Apple’s Doc offerings (Pages etc) much more user friendly so have been experimenting with those. ”

Lancaster61: “It’s CURRENTLY worth it. But who knows. As long as Apple stay on top of their game then it’ll be worth it as all their stuff interacts together so nicely.

I don’t see any other company integrating things together so well. Mainly because Apple makes all their own stuff so the integration is super efficient and fluid (vertical integration).”

Adammichaeljones: “It’s not lock-in when you WANT to be in the ecosystem.

Everything in the Apple-verse works together so well, you wonder how the hell you lived otherwise. There’s nothing keeping you there.

My wife and I are all-apple but we still use an Xbox and Playstation, still watch Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. I still have a Gmail account.

I use Notability on the iPad and Mac – doodle a bit, take notes at work, sit down at my mac and load it up – everything is there.

A favorite of mine is browsing a site on the toilet, then go sit at my desk and launch the browser in Hand-off.

Music is always in sync – I don’t manage my music anymore – gone are the days of painstakingly making sure the ID3 tags are correct, album covers added, etc.

ePubs I add to iBooks go to all my devices and stay in sync, read a few pages on my phone, grab my iPad and read a few pages on the couch.

I could go on.”

Nauticalmeatball: “I was a Mac/Android guy for years. Finally, I caved in to iOS for iMessage. Virtually every person I communicate with regularly uses iMessage, and they aren’t keen on using other messaging services, so the pull was strong.

In my daily life, I use a mix of Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android (more so formerly, but still a bit), Google services, and, of course, various applications from a Number of different companies and developers. Yet, all of my personal devices are now Apple, and I mostly manage fine.

I will say this… iOS devices can definitely be a pain in the ass in terms of their flexibility with non-Apple tech and services. I miss a lot about being on Android, particularly in regard to extemporaneous utility and productivity. Being said, if all your other devices are Apple, the inter-ecosystem conveniences really balance out that discrepancy. I would not discourage you at all from going all-Apple.

If you are concerned about getting “locked” into Apple, I’d say all you need to do is steer clear of their proprietary services. That will make things a little less convenient on iOS, but not terribly so IMO.”

Binary: “The way I look at it, when I was on Linux and Windows, I would spend a lot of time configuring different apps and scripts in order to get the same sort of interactions that Handoff/Continuity allow by default. It is more expensive, for sure, to be locked into the ecosystem, but I’d argue that if you value your time above a certain threshold, the time saved by being in the system will outweigh the monetary cost.

When I was in college I spent a stupid amount of time doing the aforementioned configuration on my devices, to get them to play just right. My time was valued at very little whereas I did not make a lot of money, so Apple did not seem like a good value. Now, I’m out of college, I have less time and more money, and I wouldn’t dream of using any other devices.”

Capteurdereves: “I’d prefer not. I love google services because they play nicely with any device. My work computer is Windows and dealing with iCal, photos, notes, and other apple services just don’t work as well outside of the ecosystem. Additionally, Apple services tend to not be as well build and reliable as others available. However, if there is no chance of ever using anything but Apple, the services will definitely play nicer together.”

More at Reddit

As you can see from the posts I included above, most people seem to give Apple’s ecosystem a thumbs up. But there are a few folks that prefer not to be a part of it, and more power to them if that’s how they feel. No company can meet the needs of every user, and that’s why it’s great there are other choices besides Apple.

Apple’s ecosystem is a big reason why I use the company’s products

For me one of the biggest reasons I use Apple’s products is the company’s ecosystem. Over the years I’ve found that it simplifies my life by making it easier for me to access my data across a range of devices such as the 5K iMac, MacBook Pro, Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad Pro.

And I can easily start doing something on one device, and then switch to another one without missing a beat via Continuity. I don’t have to worry about syncing my data across devices, things mostly just work with iCloud.

For example, I’m writing this post in iA Writer. It’s my favorite writing app and it’s available for iOS devices, but also for the Mac. So I can start writing on my Mac, and then easily switch to my iPhone or iPad Pro (or vice versa).

Whatever writing I’ve done on one device simply appears on my other devices in iA Writer. This makes it easy for me to switch to whichever device I need to use to finish my post, and it lets me start writing even if I’m nowhere near my Mac.

I don’t feel locked into Apple’s ecosystem

Some people worry that they might become “locked in” to Apple’s ecosystem if they buy a Mac, iPad, iPhone, etc.. But it’s quite possible to own Apple devices, use some of the company’s services (or not) and also use services by other companies such as Google, DropBox, Amazon, etc.

Being part of Apple’s ecosystem certainly has its advantages, but you aren’t forced to use all of the company’s services. A good example of this is Apple Music. I don’t subscribe to Apple Music because I have an Amazon Prime membership, which gives me access to Amazon Music.

While Apple Music is a fine streaming service, I’ve found that Amazon Music more than meets my needs. And since I already get it with my Prime membership, why would I bother to pay for Apple Music too? I have Apple Music turned off in iTunes and in the iOS Music app, so I don’t even see its interface elements on my Mac or iOS devices.

Apple Music is still available if I want to subscribe at some point, but I’m not forced to use it. Instead, I have the Amazon Music app on my Macs, iPhone and iPad. Amazon’s streaming music service works great for me on all of my devices.

iBooks is another example of a product that is part of Apple’s ecosystem but is also something that I don’t use. I prefer Amazon’s Kindle app, along with Audible’s audiobook app. I listen more to audiobooks these days than anything else, but sometimes I also will read Kindle books on my iPad Pro or iPhone.

So it’s quite possible to use Apple’s devices, along with certain services, but not to be “locked in” to everything Apple offers. There are plenty of alternative services that work very well on macOS and iOS, so nobody is really forced to use Apple’s services if they prefer not to do so.

And if a day ever comes when I really want to leave Apple’s ecosystem, I know that I can do that with some reasonable planning (in terms of applications and services on the new platform), and movement of data from my Apple devices and iCloud to the new ecosystem.

Apple’s ecosystem isn’t like the Hotel California, you can check out anytime you like and you really can leave.

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