The decline of Apple

Back in the 90s hardly anyone used Macs or Apple products. They had a small foothold in schools and graphic design shops but that was about it. The iPod was the beginning of their post-millenium rise – the 3rd generation iPod released in 2003 was the first Apple hardware I’d ever wanted, and I eventually purchased a 4th gen iPod in 2004.

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The fourth generation iPod “photo” model

A few years later in 2007 the iPhone came out and completely changed what a smartphone was. Prior the the iPhone the best smartphone was probably a Blackberry, with it’s clunky little keyboard and tiny screen. But the iPhone with it’s giant glass screen and intuitive gestures was revolutionary.

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The iPhone 3GS (2009), the first iPhone I owned

There’s hardly any products I can think of that I could afford to purchase the best in the world of. Take cars for example. I can’t afford a brand new Ferrari. Or TVs – I couldn’t afford (or couldn’t justify buying) a top of the line whizz-bang TV. But a phone – yes! The iPhone at the time was the best phone any money could buy. Not that I gave a shit about having an awesome phone, all I wanted at the time was to have wikipedia in my pocket so that I could be a know-all at parties.

Both the iPod and later the iPhone made people, especially us geeks, open our eyes to how good Apple’s products could be. The Macbook Air made us realise that the lightest and sexiest laptop/notebook was also made by Apple. Apple started shipping with Intel processors! Within a couple of years Apple laptops were everywhere, even at conferences for us Windows developers.

I never considered myself an Apple fanboy, but here I am in 2017 typing this on my trusty Macbook Air, with my aging iPhone 5 alongside, and an iPad sitting on the windowsill (which I still never use). At the time of each purchase it wasn’t that I wanted to buy an Apple product, it was just that I wanted the best laptop/phone/tablet on the market at the time, and each of those happened to be made by Apple.

Amongst my geeky friends it was pretty much the same pattern. Mac laptops and iPhones for the most part. Not all though – some swore by Android phones.

In the last couple of years though, Apple have made a few key mistakes with their products which have seen my geek friends desert them, and I think it won’t be long before I too leave Apple products behind.

iWatch sucked

The first big Apple let down was the Apple Watch. Rumours had abounded for years that Apple would be bringing out a smartwatch that would change the world, just like the iPhone did. I was excited about it. Then when it was finally released, it was expensive and gimmicky. Hardly any of my geek friends bought one (hi Andy J, Alan, Alex).

No headphone port

Yep, another mistake was omitting the headphone port from the iPhone 7. Not a single iPhone buyer thought that was a good idea or a step forward. That small error was enough for us geeks to doubt that Apple knew what they were doing, and look at Android phones.

Downgrading the Macbook Pro

The killer mistake though was 2016’s Macbook Pro

  • More expensive
  • No USB 3.0 ports
  • No HDMI port
  • No SD card reader
  • No magsafe power
  • Similar spec CPU, memory and storage to the 2015 model
  • Lame touch bar

Although most users don’t use the F1-F12 keys on the top row of a QWERTY keyboard, us developers DO use them, so getting rid of those keys was a big deal.

See Benjamin Button reviews the new Macbook Pro

Now what?

In summary, Apple haven’t released anything amazing since Steve Jobs died.

So what’s a geek to buy in 2017 then? I don’t know – it’s not as straightforward as a couple of years ago. I usually go on my geek friends recommendations – on the phone front, Google Pixel phones are well regarded. iPhones are hanging on by their fingernails.

On the laptop front, NONE of my friends are buying new Macbooks. Microsoft(!) Surface Books or Surface Pros are looking like a good option. Windows laptops are making a comeback.

What now for Apple

For now, they’ve lost the geek crowd, and in technology where the geeks lead the world follows. Apple needs to release a new killer product to get us back. Or just drop the prices on their bloody phones and make a decent laptop again!

They have enough $$$ in the bank that they’re not gonna die any time soon, but until they win the geek crowd back I predict shrinking profits, maybe even losses, and a dropping share price for Apple (currently USD$132).

OnePlus 2 = poo

I’ve been a long time iPhone user, first with a 3GS in 2009 and then an iPhone 5 in 2012. So at 3+ years old my iPhone 5 was getting a bit long in tooth. My colleague Nick recently replaced his iPhone 5 with a OnePlus 2 and he was very happy with it. Envious of that big screen and also it’s relatively cheap price, I decided to give it a go. I also wanted to try out Android as I’d heard good things.

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I wasn’t impressed.

On the phone hardware side: The ringtone was quiet and the vibration unnoticeable when in a pocket. I managed to cause it to crash a few times by accidentally hammering the back button. It would get hot. And battery life wasn’t amazing.

On the Android side: I didn’t like Android’s way of doing notifications. Some web pages would run really slowly, and I don’t tolerate lag in a brand new phone.

As for that big screen – well, the apps didn’t feel optimized it – e.g. Facebook would still only show one news story at a time. Even with the smallest font there wouldn’t be much text on the screen at once, just lots of white space and big buttons. So the big screen felt wasted.

After 5 days I gave up on it and decided to go back to my iPhone 5, so I attempted to return the OnePlus. And that’s where their pathetic support team got involved. I started the returns process on Feb 16, and so far I’ve had 12 messages back and forward confirming my address, and confirming whether or not I want to return the cover, over and over. Finally today, March 11, I received an RMA form. So it’s taken almost a month of backwards and forwards with “Joey” and “Alex”. Let’s see how long it takes to get the money into my account.

Update: it took another month for the RMA to be processed, and I hadn’t heard anything until I chased them, so in total it took 2 months (and 18 emails) just to return the phone and get a refund.

Fix crackling audio on your iPhone

If you find that music on your iPhone crackles when you listen through your headphones, try cleaning the headphone jack.

Because your iPhone lives in your pocket, pocket lint can accumulate inside your iPhone’s headphone jack.

I had 3 years of accumulated pocket lint inside my headphone jack, without knowing about it. For months I thought the iPhone was dead and I’d need to replace the headphone jack which is very difficult.

The solution – just get a bent paperclip and scrape it all out. Voila! No more crackling music!

Change your country with iTunes iStore and iPhone App Store

A few months ago I moved from NZ to London. For a while I kept using my NZ account on iTunes and on my iPhone to buy apps, but eventually I needed to start using the UK app store.

The only info I could find on google was how to change your country in iTunes. That’s easy enough, using the country selector at the bottom of the screen. So now I can browse the UK iTunes store, and everything appears in £. But when I’d try and sign in to buy something, I’d get an error message “Your account is only valid for purchases in the NZ iStore” and I’d get redirected to the NZ iStore. I couldn’t find much help online, and was about to sign up for a whole new UK-based iTunes account with another email address, until I found this help page:

Changing your iTunes Store country:

Sign in to the account for the iTunes Store region you’d like to use. If already signed in to an account, from Settings, choose Store and then View Account.

Tap “Change Country of Region” and follow the on screen process of changing your region. Agree to the terms and conditions for the region if necessary, and then change your billing information.

Once that was done, I could see and use the UK iTunes on my Mac. But when I would surf the App Store on my iPhone I was still seeing the NZ app store. The fix is to just download any free app. Once it starts downloading it, it realises you’ve signed up to use a new country’s App Store and redirects you there. Or, on the iPhone go into Settings -> iTunes & App Stores -> Apple ID, and then Sign Out. When you Sign in again you’ll be redirected to the new country’s App Store.

A final tip: if you decide you don’t want to change your country and you need to buy US iTunes vouchers from overseas, TunesBud can hook you up.

Why the iPhone 3GS ain’t all that

People who know me tell me “Matt, you’re the only iPhone owner I know who hates the iPhone”.  Here’s why.

It’s a crap phone

As a phone, it’s a piece of crap. My main moan is about it’s uselessness in text messaging. You see dear reader, here in NZ calls are ridiculously expensive so text messaging is very important. I hardly ever call anyone since the plan I’m on for $40 per month only gives me 20 minutes of calls and 100 text messages per month. Now since I also only get 100 txts, I’m reluctant to write a long txt since that would eat into my 100 per month quota – but guess what – the iPhone 3GS doesn’t tell you how many characters your text message is! This basic functionality, which EVERY cellphone has, the iPhone does not.

There is a workaround – I had to download a separate 3rd party app called “SMS Counter”.

Update (May 2011): An SMS length counter was included in the iOS 4.0 update, released June 2010. It only took me 11 months to find it! (Settings -> Messages -> Character count)

The other problem that no one mentions is that the touch screen sucks for typing on. I can txt faster and easier on my Nokia with predictive texting. And the Nokia is much easier to txt while walking – “I’m on my way, see you in 10”. With the iPhone’s touch screen keyboard I always have to stop walking to txt.

It’s a crap mp3 player

It bugs me how Apple market the iPod Touch as “the best music player ever” when it doesn’t even have functionality that my 5 year old iPod does, and which I use every day – Shuffle Albums. All I do is press play on my iPod and it’ll pick a random album, play every track on that album in order, then when its finished it’ll pick another album at random and play every track on that album in order, etc. This is the only way I ever listen to my music. One button – boom, a random album, played in order. Guess what, the much newer, cooler iPod Touch (and the iPhone 3GS) doesn’t have this. Dammit, don’t make me think about what album I wanna listen to! Suck.

The rest is pretty good

OK, so the rest of the iPhone 3GS is pretty good. It’s nice and fast, and the web browser is OK (although it doesn’t have Flash support, which is a big deal).

So it’s still probably the best smartphone available, which is why I have it – I really just wanted to have wikipedia in my pocket. But as a phone, which is it’s core function after all, it sucks.