2012 seems to have been all about the hardware at Apple. Retina displays on 2 new 10" iPads, iPad mini (magnificent device), retina displays on newly designed 13" and 15" MacBook Pros, complete overhaul of the range of iPods, a superb iPhone 5 and a drastically less voluminous iMac.
Apple knows the hardware department is top-notch, they're doing great things, nothing needs to change. They don't need to redesign anything and 4 years down the line their devices will still look the best. The problem lies with the software side of things. Things don't "just work" anymore.
Things don't just work anymore and that's understandable. Today's software-world is many times more complex than it was in 2004. Computing has changed. The era of the single desktop computer in a family's home, without any cloud integration, has passed.
Nowadays we have multiple devices each. Kids have their own notebooks for schoolwork, they are given iPads as entertainment devices, as they get older they get smartphones and their parents could very well be reading books on their own iPads once the kids are put to bed.
Together with the shift to multiple devices Apple has also pushed the digital consumption to all of those devices. We expect all our content to be available everywhere, all the time. In a world where not all devices are constantly online this creates technical problems. Apple's trying its hardest to get its iCloud infrastructure to keep it all in sync but there's work left to be done.
As 2012 was the year of hardware, I hope Apple does nothing but improve its software in 2013. Here is what I feel really needs to be addressed:
- Unify Apple IDs and iCloud IDs.
Provide a way to merge the two IDs and stop the dichotomy between the two. There are people backing up things on their iPhones to iCloud with a different login than the one they buy content with on the Apple Store. It is a mess and it needs to be fixed.
- Gives us back our @mac.com / @me.com / @icloud.com e-mail address.
Long-time Apple users will feel the same. Those who've had @mac.com e-mail addresses but refused to pay for Apple's abysmal service during the .Mac and MobileMe years never got their @mac.com e-mail addresses back once iCloud rolled around the corner. Moreover, they can't opt to have iCloud e-mail because the <first part>@icloud.com is already taken by their own <first part>@mac.com Apple ID of old.
- Make iMessage work.
In the previous blog post I've written about it in great length: iMessage does not work well enough. It fails to deliver messages to iPhone when the user you are addressing has an iPad within Wi-Fi range, but he himself is currently somewhere without a data connection. iMessage does not fall back to sending a text message once 1 device has been found. When iMessaging, you primarily target someone's phone. It should arrive at the phone at all times.
- Make iMessage more sentient.
Currently when I'm chatting to someone via iMessage from the computer my iPhone is going berserk. Do the way Google does it and don't make the phone buzz when iCloud knows you're chatting from the computer. Set a 5 or 10 minute timeout after the last-received message before an iPhone can buzz again.
- Update Maps POIs.
Apple Maps is great. It is beautiful, it's easy to use, it works on the home-screen, it gives good directions. It gives them to the wrong destination. Apple's Maps app is great, there's not a wrong street on it, but it's their (Yelp's) POI data which is incredibly inaccurate. It is so bad it becomes unusable. Get rid of Yelp or do a major effort to update it, world-wide. Because I see gas stations where there aren't any at all, I see hotels 3 blocks from where they actually are, I see shops on the wrong side of the road... Nothing is accurate. I'd say that's OK for the POIs around where you live, because you know better... But you use POIs when you're somewhere you've never been before. People fully rely on this information when it is all they have. I've been updating POIs in my neighbourhood for 6 months, not one has changed.
- Sync "Do Not Disturb" via iCloud.
When someone doesn't want to be disturbed, one could assume he doesn't want to be disturbed on any of his devices. Sync this switching on and off of the "Do Not Disturb" setting between all devices registered with the same iCloud ID. No-one feels like switching to "Do Not Disturb" mode on three seperate devices every night before going to bed. The same goes for "Airplane Mode".
- Make iCloud work for movies outside USA. (Update: Apple added this on 2013-02-27)
This one's easy. When you're not in the USA, deleting a purchased movie from iTunes will delete it forever. It does not work the way music does outside of the United States. If it doesn't, then why does iTunes tells us: "Your movie purchases in iCloud will also appear whenever you're signed into the iTunes Store." Clearly it doesn't. Your movie purchase will not appear once you've deleted it. There is no re-downloading movies.
- Update iWork. (Update: Apple released iWork '13 on 2013-10-22)
iWork dates back to January 2009. That's 4 years. That's older than most people's computers. It's seriously lagging behind in functionality. You only need one example: it still has a separate window for Search & Replace. Enough said.
- Remove excessive skeuomorphism. (Update: Apple released iOS 7 on 2013-09-18)
Skeuomorphism is a good thing. Windows 8 looks too stark. But in iOS and OS X it has been overdone. iBooks is ridiculous, and it's telling that in an update Apple added the option to remove the book artefacts around pages. The calendar is ridiculous as well and we don't need shredding animations when deleting a Passbook ticket. Skeuomorph icons are a good idea because we do need to quickly recognize objects as address books and calendars, but the applications don't have to function like their physical instantiations.
- Update some OS X behaviour.
When cmd+tabbing to Finder and no Finder window is open, or if it is minimised, show it anyway. I know it might not adhere to OS X's window-model but it's been an annoyance for years, especially for people switching away from Windows. Do not make us stare like fools at our desktop where seemingly nothing happened other than then menubar changing to "Finder". Just open a new Finder window, OK?
On the same topic, get rid of the buttons to minimise and zoom windows. Zooming has not been doing what people have been expecting it to be doing for years. The people who "get" the zoom button are so few that they won't mourn its removal. Declutter the UI and get rid of zoom. You either drag the window out to your preferred dimensions or you go full-screen. No "zooming".
Get rid of the minimise button as well, or find a way to make it "just work". Why introduce a preference to minimise windows in their Dock icons when it's almost impossible to get them back? It is very unintuitive. People need to hit F3 for Mission Control and see their windows. If there are any minimised, show them below the line like it was in previous OS X versions.
There you have it, my wish list of things Apple needs to address in order to reinstate the confidence its customers should have when using their products. I could have added more but ten things is enough. Let's hope they find their way to this page. Let's make things just work.