Old Grumpy

It’s fall, and everyone knows what that means. New iPhones and Apple product announcement events. In recent years, it also means a lot of internet rage over Apple product changes, often from people who consider themselves huge Apple nerds.1

Don’t get me wrong — sometimes the Apple community isn’t critical enough of Apple. I’m all for a good critique, because Apple does dumb stuff quite often. But it often seems like either people get worked up into a frothing rage over really stupid things, or they give Apple huge passes on major missteps. Something in-between by more Apple fans would be refreshing.

Personally I felt like Apple’s iPhone event last week was one of the best in some time, which indicates to me that a lot of the reactions make it all the more obvious that the majority of the Apple community has become a bunch of cantankerous old people yelling at clouds.2 All three of the new iPhones look great. The new cellular Series 3 Apple Watch looks great. The new 4K Apple TV… well, it’s 4K and Apple had to do it, but they’re still dropping the ball on that one. It’s telling that even the angry types didn’t really have much to say about that because we’ve all pretty much given up on Apple ever really understanding the set-top box market. But anyway — mostly good stuff.

In addition to the fury directed towards the iPhone X naming, “the notch”, and the supposed pointlessness of cellular Apple Watches (and don’t even dare mention the red dot), some people also managed to reserve some spare anger to aim at the recent iTunes for Mac update which removed the iOS App Store from iTunes, which I’ll admit I didn’t see coming.

In the good old days (meaning up until last week), you could download iOS apps onto your computer and sync them to the Mac or just keep them as backups. It worked well for those times when an iPhone restore was required, because you could restore from an iTunes backup of the iPhone, and the apps would copy from the Mac to the iPhone instead of having to download again from the App Store over Wi-Fi.

The main argument for this feature, besides a speedier iPhone restore process, was that you could keep copies of apps that Apple or app developers had yanked from the iOS App Store for whatever reason, and keep using it even after it was no longer available.

The problem with that argument is that you either have to never upgrade iOS on your iPhone, or have multiple iPhones. Most discontinued apps are 32-bit and won’t work on iOS 11 and later. Also, aside from the 64-bit requirement going forward, iOS frameworks change, new screen sizes and resolutions need to be supported, and generally apps that aren’t actively updated start sucking very quickly.

I get the sentiment of wanting to keep apps you paid for and not let Apple randomly remove them from your beautiful screen, but hoarding old apps that no one maintains anymore is a great example of choosing the wrong hill to die on. If it makes you happy to be angry, go for it, but the reality is you’ll probably want to quit using those rotting apps soon enough anyway.

By the way, Apple actually removed the ability to transfer apps from the iPhone to the Mac as well as transferring apps back to the iPhone during a restore some time ago in a previous version of iTunes. After that, you could sync apps from Mac to iPhone, but an iPhone restore would only restore data from the Mac, and then apps would have to download to the iPhone. So the faster restore scenario was already obsolete. If you are mad about losing something that was already lost and you never noticed, I find it hard to agree with you that it’s actually a loss.

Back when Android phones took the lead in becoming truly untethered in terms of not relying on a computer to update and maintain, we all complained and couldn’t wait until we didn’t need to sync with iTunes anymore. It felt like living in the stone age. Finally we got that, and it was truly liberating. I don’t know of anyone who cables their iPhone to their Mac to sync the two anymore, yet somehow people are angry that Apple removed a feature that they’d already previously rendered to only working during a sync. In other words, people don’t even know why they’re mad or how their iPhones and computers work.

As my friend Donnie Adams said to me:

I could also point out the irony of people demanding that Apple strip out the bloat in iTunes and then complaining loudly about Apple stripping out some of the bloat in iTunes. But I won’t. That would just be unkind.

Back to the camera and sensor notch on the iPhone X: yes, it’s ugly and weird. I think it’s worse for developers than for typical iPhone owners, but I can understand why no one is really a fan of it, Apple’s desire for us all to embrace it wholeheartedly not withstanding. The worst of the notch is the crazy design compromises it’ll force on developers and the amount of work they’ll have to put in to make their apps look as good on that phone as it does on other phones. By default, apps not optimized for iPhone X will run in a 16:9 letterbox, according to PCalc developer James Thomson.

For me, though, the notch is not that much worse than the huge bezels on the other current iPhones. I have a 6s plus, and the size of the forehead and chin have always seemed a bit ridiculous to me. I think the other aspects of the iPhone X probably make up for what is admittedly a compromise in the notch, and that Apple is surely working to get rid of it on future edge-to-edge screen phones as soon as it’s physically possible. Do I like the notch? No. Do I think its the worst thing Apple has ever shoehorned into a product? No. Not even close. Personally I think the TouchBar is a much bigger design gaffe. Naturally I say all this as someone who has never used a TouchBar and doesn’t have an iPhone X, and won’t get getting one (at least not the 2017 model iPhone X).

I don’t know. Maybe I’m indulging in a misplaced bit of nostalgia myself, but the Apple community used to be a lot less angry and a lot more fun. I think the current Macs and macOS are the best ever, TouchBar aside. I think the current iPhones and iOS are the best ever. I know for sure the current state of iCloud is the best it’s ever been. There are some problems with Apple and Apple products, but most of the things people seem to be angry about aren’t them.

Apple people: be critical when it makes sense. But please also be aware that being critical isn’t the same as being in a constant state of rage. Lighten up. It could be worse: we could be PC and Android users.

  1. For me fall actually means I don’t get to sleep in ever because on my days off I have to get my daughter up for school, but no one cares about my inconvenienced rest patterns. 
  2. I’m making a bit of a pun here since Apple people used to rage about iCloud all the time. Now that it’s been pretty solid for a long time, most people who actually use it don’t complain about it anymore.