Jeffrey Paul: Apple Is Not Trying To Screw You (On Hardware, Anyway)

Jeffrey Paul

Apple Is Not Trying To Screw You (On Hardware, Anyway)
30 March 2019
( 1347 words, approximately 7 minutes reading time. )

There is a very common refrain that I would like to never hear again: that Apple makes their cables to break so that you will have to pay them for new ones.

It’s false. Full stop.

Back in 2012, ExtremeTech was one of the first to write along these lines:

This situation should surprise no one. Apple does not develop the connection standards that are good for consumers; it develops the standards that are good for Apple.

This is actually one of the few remaining truly unique things about Apple: given the opportunity, they would much rather build a better world for humankind than nickel-and-dime you in the alternative. Apple will happily give up nickels and dimes to change the world, if only for ego’s sake.

(See also: Apple may have designed and donated USB-C to the industry-wide USB consortium so that a sane connector would become the next global standard—as long as it was not seen as an “apple thing”..)

Earlier today on Hacker News after encountering this falsehood about intentionally fragile cables for the umpteenth time I finally decided this stupid meme needs to die:

The amount of money Apple makes from selling replacement cables due to fatigue due to inadequate (in their opinion “ugly”) strain relief is negligible. Please stop spreading this inaccurate meme.

Apple makes money because they sell metric shitloads of $1200 phones and $600 watches and, increasingly, software and services for them. Not cables.

Further down the thread, HN user neotek drops some raw knowledge:

Apple’s filings show that less than one half of one percent of their revenue comes from the entirety of the MFi program, which includes not just the first-party cables they make, but every single licensed iPhone-compatible accessory of any kind anywhere in the world.

Apple makes more money per square foot of retail space than any company ever has in the history of retail. And now you know forevermore that it has absolutely fuck-all to do with replacement of flimsy cables.

Rant over. Now go buy some of these “—and get on with your life,” as my friend would say.

Apple Is Trying To Screw You, Though.

Apple is absolutely trying to screw you on using their services, though. Spotify puts Apple Music to shame, Google Assistant mops the floor with Siri, and I don’t need to tell you what a shitshow Apple Maps started as (it’s improving, but is still not where it needs to be, and even if it were perfect I should be able to use whichever app I want).

They used to simply be content to sell you world-class hardware, but now when you buy it, at purchase you’re opting into a having choices about software forced upon you: about what apps you can run, about what voice systems you can access, about what music libraries you can hear, about what subscription services you can be told about.

I have an Apple Watch, and can send iMessages on it with voice while driving, but not Signal or WhatsApp messages.

I have HomePods, but I cannot voice control them to listen to my Spotify playlists. Similarly, I cannot stream to them with Bluetooth from my non-Apple devices (despite the HomePods having Bluetooth hardware).

I have an iPhone, but I cannot use a browser that supports browser extensions to protect my privacy. I cannot open links automatically in any browser other than Apple’s unless the app opening the link has specifically accounted for it; then I get the choice between one giant platform company’s browser and another giant platform company’s browser.

There is a growing trend at Apple of disrespecting the user’s intent in an effort to coercively lock the hardware purchaser into Apple’s new ecosystem of services, which is entirely new ground for the company. After my 27 years of consuming Apple hardware and software, I can say for certain that this is the very first time I have witnessed an entirely post-Jobs era at Apple. Apple was the computer for the rest of us, and those Other Guys were the ones who would do shady shit like ignore your consent to lock you in to their ecosystem. Is Apple really that scared of competition that it would be catastrophic for them to let Siri play Spotify (or anyone else’s) music, or let me use Google Assistant on HomePods, or integrate other messengers with Siri on my Apple Watch, or let users who so choose add other App Stores on their phones?

Come on, Apple; you’re a hardware company. We all know there’s huge money to be made in services, but the thing that always made you Apple was that you would eschew a quick buck to build insanely great products that change the world and force the industry into new paradigms. It’s way more important to change the world than to hit annual revenue growth demands. What the fuck have you ever cared if people in the Navy buy your stock? You’re fucking pirates.

There are amazing, great, excellent products coming out of Apple: AirPods, HomePods, for two. You know what would make them insanely great? The ability for your loyal customers who cherish your devices to use them with whatever services they so choose, even if they are run by other people. Literally nobody else lets you do this (but then again, almost nobody else is primarily a hardware company—Only Apple could actually pull off something so customer-centric as user choice). If you want the services business, try building services first that can compete on their own merit, and stop settling for merely “great” hardware that is crippled by a lack of choice in services. Set an example for how it should be done, like Apple has done so many times in the past. (To be fair, Google Maps works great in CarPlay. More like that, please.)

Your customers have acutely noticed the reduction in joy. We’ve been accustomed to (mostly) insanely great products for a long time. The fact that you’ve been selling us shit keyboards and basically denying knowledge of it, and forcing us to use Siri when Google Assistant exists, AirPlay when Bluetooth exists (I love AirPlay2, but it should do both!), iMessage when Signal exists, MobileSafari when Chrome exists, and Apple Music when Spotify and SoundCloud and others exist: this is not how you change the world. This is how you make no-complaints world class products—just like would be churned out by excellent teams at Google, or (surprisingly) modern Microsoft, who are making great products like Pixel, Pixelbook, Surface, Google Home, et c. They’re merely “great”. (Not in this list: Amazon. They’re merely “meh”, but their services should also be an option for users, as well as anyone else who wants to get in there.) People like them, and buy them, and maybe recommend them to their friends. They don’t start websites about them that have names that start with the word “cult”.

That absolutely insane and world-bending ridiculous beamforming shit that wickedly smart people spent double-digit numbers of months jamming into the HomePod that makes it sounds about forty-seven times better than every other sub-$1000 speaker (much less “smart speaker”) on the goddamned planet Earth? The philistine reviewers panned it because it doesn’t support Bluetooth or Spotify (or Google Assistant or Alexa, though the industry is so backwards that they didn’t know that they could even wish for that sort of flexibility) but instead forces you to use AirPlay, Siri, and Apple Music. You’re only playing yourself here. You could have had another iPhone-level worldchanger on your hands. Instead, it’s just a “great” product in the lineup. I have six and still I consider the missed opportunity an epic tragedy.

Apple has always been a “fuck it” 11 in a marketplace of perfect 10s. That isn’t the case today, and I mourn for the loss.

In the now-ancient words of Cory Doctorow from back in 2004, as delivered to Microsoft: “Go build the record player that can play everyone’s records.”

About The Author

Jeffrey Paul is a hacker and security researcher living in Berlin and the founder of EEQJ, a consulting and research organization.