No, I Don’t Really Hate Apple
Okay, so I’m not actually an Apple “hater.” I admit that I’ve been pretty harsh towards Apple for the past few years, but I really dislike this use of the word–to me, hate is something reserved for the worst things in the world; merely strong dislike and harsh words don’t rise to the level of hate, as far as I’m concerned. Indeed, calling someone a “hater” seems like a rhetorical tactic used to discredit without the need to provide a rational argument.
At the same time, I think I’ve been fairly consistent in voicing dislike for some of Apple’s business practices, particularly their marketing hyperbole, while giving them credit for producing some quality products. I’d characterize my criticism thusly: Apple makes some great products and simply doesn’t need to resort to some of their cheaper tactics. And, I stand by my assertion that Apple is engaged in positioning themselves as today’s “haute technology,” in the same way and for the same reasons as we have “haute fashion.” That’s not a criticism so much as an observation aimed at highlighting that Apple is more of an elitist consumer products company than a technology company.
But, all that’s beside the point. Why, then, did I title this post the way I did? Because no matter how I’ve tried to position my take on Apple, I can see how someone might see me as anti-Apple, and in fact I’ve been called an “Apple hater” in the past–and so it seems apropos to accept the mantle and run with it. At least for this post. Which is interesting, ultimately, because over last few years I’ve been a pretty steady Apple consumer, including a MacBook Air that I bought in 2012 and still regularly use, an iPad 3 that I bought soon after it was released because of its industry-leading retina screen, and more recently an iPad Air 2 that’s my go-to dedicated tablet and the iPhone 6 that’s taken its place as my daily driver.
iOS 8.X: Finally Good Enough (For Me)
The fact is, I like Apple products. I even like iOS as of iOS 8.X, running on the latest iPad and iPhone hardware, and consider it a very close second to Windows Phone in terms of the underlying platform. It’s miles ahead of Android Lollipop 5.02 running on my Nexus 5 and Nexus 10–it’s smoother, more cohesive and consistent, and although it doesn’t do as much as Android, what it does do is in a different class entirely.
Apple made some very intelligent decisions with iOS 8.X, in my opinion. At first I was concerned that “widgets” were constrained to the same location as notifications. That seemed to limit their potential usefulness, as well as the sheer number of widgets that could be efficiently placed and utilized. After using them for awhile, however, I discovered that I don’t actively use as many widgets as I thought, and on iOS they can be more easily accessed anywhere and any time. On my Nexus 5 running Lollipop, I can only fit a couple of widgets on a home screen, and to access them I have to leave an application and then in many cases scroll to the appropriate screen. That’s much less efficient, and takes me away from the task at hand.
I also like that quick access functions are separated and available with a swipe up from the bottom. I have access to more tools that way without cluttering the notifications/widgets area, and it’s a segregated action that feels more natural to me. It’s really small (and sometimes larger) touches like this that make iOS an attractive mobile OS overall.
The iPhone 6: Amazing Hardware
This post is specifically about the iPhone 6, though, and on that score I have this to say: I like it very much. It exudes quality, like all Apple products. It feels like it’s carved out of a single fused block of aluminum and glass. It’s solid, in a way that few smartphones can match. It’s thin, and with just the right amount of heft. Intellectually, I know that plastic can afford some advantages in durability (thin metal bends, as we’ve been reminded recently, while plastic tends to retain its shape), weight, and cost. But viscerally, the iPhone’s metal body makes me feel like the not-insignificant investment was worth it.
The iPhone’s screen–and seriously, the screen is the most important piece of hardware in any mobile device that’s stared and prodded at for hours at end–is sublime. Yes, there are higher-res screens, and AMOLED screens with pure blacks (and sometimes blown-out colors), and other trickery, but the iPhone’s screen is nevertheless a beauty to behold. Colors pop without seeming unnatural, blacks may not be the absolute blackest but video still looks excellent, even darker scenes, and whatever font magic Apple uses succeeds in making reading on the iPhone a real treat. It’s weird, but in spite of being inferior on paper, Apple has done something remarkable in making a smartphone screen that’s superior where it matters–real-world use.
Performance is another area where the iPhone shines. Everything happens without delay, from opening apps to playing games to launching the camera and taking pictures. Indeed, Apple is a master at ensuring that the things we do most with a device are the most optimized. I don’t know of a smartphone that can take a picture as quickly as the iPhone–swipe up from the right and the camera app opens instantly and ready to snap. Take a picture, and the iPhone’s ready to take another, just like that. It’s not DSLR-fast, but it’s pretty darn close.
That’s the thing, really. Apple has focused on making the experience fast and fluid rather that particularly feature-rich. What’s often derided (by me at times, admittedly) as limited and feature-poor can easily be described as focused and optimized. As I mentioned earlier, no, iOS doesn’t do nearly as much as Android, but what it does do, it does far more responsively and without hassle. Clearly, that’s why the iPhone and iPad appeal to the less technically-inclined. If you just want to use your smartphone or tablet, rather than spending copious amounts of time digging into arcane features to learn how to configure and tweak it, then Apple’s for you. As they are for many millions of people as well.
Apps Really Do Matter
Add in the fact that every app on the planet either comes to iOS first or makes it there soon enough, and you have a real recipe for success. As much as I prefer my Lumia 830 running Windows Phone 8.1 in terms of how it works on a fundamental level (although I’d certainly prefer that the Lumia were as damn fast as the iPhone), if I leave the house with it in my pocket there are quite a few things I won’t be able to do. I can’t say the same for the iPhone, which will perform every single task I demand of it and a thousand others than I don’t even know about. Leave the house with the iPhone, and I’m covered.
Windows on phone might get there one day, and I certainly have high hopes for Windows 10. Until it does, though, the iPhone remains the more useful device because of the apps. I might cringe a little at the extra steps I need to take to get to the same place, but there are just more places I can go with the iPhone than the Lumia. That’s enough to make the iPhone my daily driver.
If It’s Good Enough for Microsoft…
We’re also in an interesting place when it comes to productivity software, specifically Microsoft’s own apps. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I’m a Microsoft fan, and that I consider Microsoft to remain the most important technology company. It’s therefore remarkable–although completely logical–that the best platform for using most Microsoft productivity software on a mobile device is iOS. Office and Skype, to cite two examples, run better on the iPhone than they do on Windows Phone (or Android) by a country mile. Windows 10 will change that, I’m sure, but for now if you want to create and edit moderately complex Office documents on a smartphone, then you want to use an iPhone.
I bought an iPhone 6 and started using it because given my focus on productivity, and Microsoft’s own cross-platform strategy, it only makes sense. Were I to focus solely on Microsoft products, I’d be missing out on a huge part of the productivity equation.
Since then, however, I’ve discovered that iOS 8.X is actually a genuinely good mobile operating system, and the iPhone 6 richly deserves some (although not all) of its accolades. Indeed, if someone asks me today what smartphone they should buy, I tell them to get an iPhone. I wouldn’t recommend an Android device because I just don’t think that platform offers any compelling advantages except for the most hardcore geeks, and I don’t see Windows on phones becoming a real player until sometime in 2016.
Bottom Line: I May Not Like Apple, but I Love the iPhone 6
If you need something really low cost and you want to run most of today’s important apps, then sure, buy any of a number of lower-priced Android smartphones (the Motorola Moto G comes to mind). If you simply must have a Windows Phone for some reason, and can’t wait for devices specifically designed for Windows 10, then good options include the Lumia 830, the HTC One M8 for Windows, and the Lumia 930–if you can get any of them on your carrier. You can even save some money and get an entry-level Windows Phone, such as the Lumia 630, and maybe even upgrade to Windows 10 at some point.
But if you simply want the best smartphone experience available today and for the next year or so, then I recommend the iPhone 6 or 6+. It’ll be worth every penny.