Tuesday, February 4, 2020

the alternate worlds of a better apple

Like a lot of Apple fans, I pay attention to John Gruber's Daring Fireball blog and the associated podcast ("The Talk Show", which I still think is a corny name.) Recently on an episode with Ben Thompson - they're trying to figure out, on the iPad's 10th anniversary, "why did it stop breaking new ground"...

One thing Ben Thompson points out is the restrictions of the app store - specifically in not having a "reduced price for future upgrades" option - that it stopped companies from getting as serious about making full apps, from pushing the envelope of what was possible on a tablet. This restriction was mitigated a bit when Apple came up with subscription models, but it turns the game from "you own this software, pay us if you like it and want to keep with the current version" of paid upgrades to "keep renting this from us or lose access to your stuff" - which is like how every  damn thing in streaming land works, come to think of it.

And combine that both with "what app should cost more than buck? or $3-5 if extravagant" thinking from the iPhone store, thedevaluing of apps in general... It seems life would have been better if Apple had had a refund policy. Wouldn't it be cool if you could pay like $5-$20 for an app that really makes your life better, and nothing for all these garbage apps? But you weren't stuck paying more if the app couldn't pull its weight (I don't think so many apps are "one time use only", so that a deceitful user would get all the value of the app and then get a refund...)

Another thing Gruber writes about is : what was lost with iOS 7 minimalism - not just skeuomorphism, but a voluntary giving up of tons of other cues about focus and what not - it's funny how in both homes and software the drive for minimalism can cause people to shoot past healthy decluttering to unhelpful paring down

Getting back to the first point (which I think is more significant), the forced purchase models: whenever some is like "oh, these new phones are lame, where's the innovation these days??" I tend tochallenge that person to come up with at least one innovative idea themselves - ideally a brainstorm in the realm of feasibility - otherwise I kind of dismiss them as someone who might not be thinking about how all design is compromise, so often you have to give up something to get anything.... (or in the case of UI minimalism, maybe you give up too much...)

BUT... maybe I'm a hypocrite because I don't know what, exactly, we may have lost by not having a segment of the industry that could fund the development and sustaining of a higher tier of apps and soar above both the current race to the bottom, price-wise, the garbage-ad driven software, and even avoid "pay us forever or lose all your stuff" of subscriptions. It still feels like it's something.

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