Apple 2015 Products Need Killer Apps

Posted by Kirhat | Wednesday, December 30, 2015 | | 0 comments »

Apple Apps
When Gizmodo released their controversial headline a few days ago, they were very blunt. Giz claimed that "Everything Apple Introduced This Year Kinda Sucked." It is worth reading; it is surprisingly easy to make the argument that everything on Apple's huge list of new products and features this year sucked a little bit.

But that's not actually true. All of Apple's products this year were just fine. You could settle yourself totally within the Apple ecosystem and use Apple Music and Apple News on your iPhone while taking Live Photos and you would be just fine. You wouldn't have the best time, but you wouldn't have the worst one, either. It would just be fine.

And that's really the issue. Everyone is not used to Apple being just fine. They are used to Apple being wildly better than the competition, or sometimes much worse, but always being ahead of the curve on some significant axis. But what we got in 2015 was an Apple that released more products than ever, all of which felt incomplete in extremely meaningful ways — ways that meant that their products were just fine, and often just the same as everyone else's.

And while the company delivered on the iPhone's dazzle and hype — sometimes far more than usual — other Apple products themselves often felt searching, waiting to be imbued with reason, which is just fine actually.

Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is by far Apple's most important new platform bet — it has the most potential and the most potential scale. But after launching in April with obviously incomplete software, the October release of WatchOS 2 did little to push the device forward. Without a robust app store, the Apple Watch offers little more than notifications and fitness tracking, and there are other devices that do a much better (and much more discreet) job of fitness tracking. That leaves telling the time and notifications as killer apps, and both of those could still be vastly improved.

Apple TV
Apple TV is another huge platform bet — Apple is all-in on the idea that the future of TV is apps, if its massive advertising campaign is to be believed. But some analysts just can't get over the feeling that the Apple TV was rushed to market in radically different form after Apple's attempts to launch a "skinny bundle" streaming TV service fell through. Siri didn't work with Music when it arrived; the iPhone remote app hadn't been updated to work with the new device. (Both are fixed now.) Simple problems, like having to repeatedly re-enter the same cable company login and password to multiple streaming apps, aren't solved. The Siri touch remote can be finicky and strange, and a traditional D-pad works better for the core streaming TV features. App Store search and discovery is a series of question marks waiting to be filled in. The thing just isn't finished.

And yet the Apple TV is by far the best streaming TV box on the market because it's a true computing platform in a way that the Roku and others are not. Users can feel how much more powerful it is just by using it; the potential is almost overwhelming. But ported iPhone games and slightly faster HBO Go and Netflix apps aren't going to disrupt television — an entirely new kind of TV experience has to do that.

Apple Music
It's a complete music platform, where artists like Taylor Swift can launch exclusive concert videos alongside exclusive interviews with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 and snackable social content on Connect.

But Apple Music is, well, kind of a mess. It has multiple priorities and multiple personalities, and multiple points of failure. It wants to be everything to all people, instead of a focused experience that connects the dots between purchasing music from iTunes and streaming music from a subscription service. There is a huge — huge! — opportunity here, but Apple Music is entirely too hazy and complicated to capitalize on it right now.

iPad Pro
One can easily argue against the iPad Pro in the new platform category, but the size and pen / keyboard capabilities of the iPad Pro are designed to unlock a new set of developers and customers that the traditional iPad can't reach, and that market will eventually mean that the iPad Pro is an entirely new platform unto itself. It's exciting!

But it's strange that the Apple Pencil is an optional accessory with the Pro, instead of something developers can count on and build around. It's also strange that Apple didn't build a single first-party app that shows off the power of the large screen and Pencil, and it's further strange that Apple's (expensive) keyboard case is so mediocre. And developers are struggling to figure out how to make real money selling pro apps in the App Store — a problem so deep that Apple just shuffled its executive ranks to put Phil Schiller in charge of the App Store.

There's a chance that everyone will be using huge iPads as our primary computers one day, but to get there the iPad Pro has to do something so much better than a MacBook that all the things it does worse seem irrelevant. What is that thing?


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