Note: This post should probably be titled My Problem with iOS, I just couldn’t help the hyperbole.
I’m a diehard Apple fanboy (or whatever it is you’re calling me these days). I live a significant portion of my life in their ecosystem. Moving away from their hardware is something I have no desire or intention of doing, but there’s a problem I continually find myself running into. While I love Apple’s hardware and their operating system, I don’t love their apps. There are few instances where their default offering is my preference.
Now Apple attempts to solve this problem with the App Store. It has brought me solutions like Camera+, Fantastical, Due, Notesy, Instapaper, Check The Weather, Instacast, Spotify, Google Maps and TextExpander, which all enhance standard functionality and have improved upon my iOS experience. What it hasn’t offered is a way to best align these tools with the device.
The ability to align my workflow is a big part of the reason that I still prefer my Mac to iOS. In OS X a well-thought-out workflow can make it difficult to tell where one app ends and another begins. This is a benefit that lets me focus less on the tools and more on my work. The same hasn’t proven to be true on iOS where I’m consistently running into small points of friction that come from wanting to use better alternatives to the default software while reaping all of the benefits that my iPhone and iPad have to offer.
Recently, James Gowans made the shift to almost entirely Apple apps on his iPhone and iPad. I knew several of the benefits individually, but it wasn’t until he put them in perspective that I fully realized how much I was missing by not using Apple’s default offerings. I can’t use Siri with many of my favorite apps, I can’t swipe up on the home screen to my camera of choice, I can’t click on an email address and have it open into a different program, I can’t get the most out of notification center, I can’t use TextExpander in emails (JUST LET ME USE TEXTEXPANDER ALREADY). These are all minor gripes, but collectively they diminish the experience. I still believe I’m better off with the kind of fractured, yet powerful experience than comes from third-party apps, but James helped me realize why I still struggle to make the most out of my iOS devices.
Apple’s apps offer insight into what their platform is capable of, the work of third-party developers show just how great each aspect of that experience can be, but the limitations that are being imposed on these third-party apps keeps iOS from ever reaching its true potential. Or at least it does for me.
I crave something that won’t be permitted to exist: an Apple-caliber experience with third-party applications. I want the best possible platform with the best possible application to create the best possible experience. I know I’m a power user, I get that most people don’t care about these kinds of things and that this clearly isn’t affecting sales, but it’s disappointing that Apple seems determined to limit other applications rather than doing what’s needed to prove that their way is best.
I’ve always paid Apple a premium for a better experience, but as they look to hold on to control, I can’t help but feel like the premium is beginning to come at the expense of my experience. When I moved to the Mac, the driving desire was to get away from Microsoft’s vision of how I do my best work in order to find my own. I just really hope that, as a fan and a customer, the day never comes where Apple’s desire for control drives me to a similar crossroad.