June 2, 2018 at 4:23 p.m. PST
Apple is known to release high quality products, but once in a while, Cupertino lays an egg. This article takes a look at the worst Apple products.
Table of Contents
- Putting it in Perspective: Most Apple Products are Excellent
- Airport Extreme Router
- Mail for iOS
- Apple Music
- Spotlight Search for iOS
- Apple TV
- iPhone Hump Case
- Legacy Apple Failures
Putting it in Perspective: Most Apple Products are Excellent
Apple is a highly polarizing company. People tend to either love or hate their products. Regardless of your feelings about Apple, they’ve clearly created some of the most compelling technology.
Constantly imitated, most Apple haters have no idea that the product or feature they love was influenced by or copied from Apple. Even if you don’t pay “Apple Tax”, you are likely benefiting from their innovation. The iPhone was the definitive smart phone. The Blackberry and Prada were just smarter feature phones, but weren’t really smart phones. Apple invented the smart phone. Period.
I can only laugh when using Windows 10. Microsoft ripped off so much from Apple. Even more humorous, Microsoft fan boys (really, a sad concept) will claim that Apple ripped off Microsoft. At best, they are ignorant of the source of these ideas. At worst, they angrily denounce the technology that they unknowingly benefit from.
That said, I think it is sad to be a fan of any corporation. Corporations are amoral. They don’t care about people. Legally, they cannot. They are required to be accountable to shareholders. This means that they really only care about profits. Don’t be fooled by the faux-progressive advertisements or self-serving charity tax shelters.
Some corporations can only see up to the next quarter. They tend to cheat, fool and swindle customers into purchasing hyped and inferior products. After a few months, that device ends up on Ebay or in a landfill, and it’s time to find another company that will do the same. Been there, done that…
Apple’s strategy is to build brand loyalty by delivering high quality products and supporting them for a very long time. Yes, an iPhone or Mac costs more than (loosely) comparable devices. It’s a better product and you will be able to keep it longer.
My first Apple product was an iPod. I begrudgingly purchased my first (and current) Mac in 2009, because virtually every software developer in the Silicon Valley uses a Mac. After a week of annoyance (caused by using it like Windows), I started to use it like a Mac and found that their workflows are far more efficient. It’s fast, reliable and doesn’t need to be constantly restarted. I got 8 years of free operating system updates and their free apps saved me hundreds of dollars.
It’s not all love for Apple. Every once in a while, they launch a horrible product. When Apple was a more obscure corporation, they could usually get away with it. While it is harder for Cupertino to release flawed products, there are a few duds that people are unaware of. Let’s take a look at the worst Apple products.
Airport Extreme Router
As a service to consumers everywhere, it must be known that the most recent and final Airport Extreme router has a fundamental flaw. Unlike most WiFi routers, this thing has a fan.
Moving parts always increase the likelihood of device failure. Unfortunately, a manufacturing defect left many Airport Extreme router fans without proper lubrication. After a year or so, the fan fails and the router overheats, dropping connections. It cools down and then works, only to stop working again.
I’m sure many Airport Extreme users have been banging their heads against the wall, fiddling with the configuration. There’s no software fix for this. It is a design and manufacturing flaw.
There’s really no good reason why a WiFi router needs a fan. Powerful routers with much more range don’t have fans. The inclusion of a fan turned such a simple mistake as using too little lubrication into a fatal design flaw.
The Airport Extreme was such a failure, Apple has exited the WiFi router business entirely. Good riddance. They did a poor job.
To be fair, my fourth generation Airport Extreme has served me well. It’s still the WiFi router I use every day. It hasn’t given me a single issue in 5 years. This model doesn’t have a fan or any moving parts. It is an artifact of the days when Apple made excellent routers.
I almost bought the new Airport Extreme without reading any reviews. The bizarre thing is how people will give the router 5 stars, yet mention that it totally failed on them. iSheep do exist!
Despite myriad damning reviews, this totally flawed device still gets 3.5 stars! Make sure to read reviews before you buy any Apple product. Any $200 WiFi router that breaks after a year is overpriced garbage. At least Apple has the good sense to stop making WiFi routers, although they still sell this overpriced piece of junk.
Mail for iOS
Email is a fairly mature technology. Its origins can be traced all the way back to the 1960s. One would figure, with years of stable, mature standards, email clients should be a slam dunk.
One thing people must know about stock, first-party Apple apps is that they tend to be defective. Apple doesn’t seem to approach software applications with the same attention to quality as hardware and operating systems. After all, they’re not going to put their brightest minds on Mail or Reminders, and it shows.
Just this morning, I took a photo, hit the share button and tapped on Mail. It opened Mail, I typed a long, thoughtful message, and then needed to look up some information. I opened Safari, went back to Mail, and there was nothing. The message was deleted and not saved as a draft. Thirty minutes of my day lost, due to Apple’s incompetence!
It looks like this is an edge case that QA missed. It happens all the time at Apple. Their QAT engineers lack the drive or curiosity to break software in any way possible. They test it in the most routine ways, and seem to miss edge cases.
This is not the only time Mail has failed me. I have lost drafts and lost messages. The way iOS handles text editing is appalling. I can be typing on my iPad, and randomly a large section of text is highlighted and replaced. Thank goodness for undo, but that can be a mess too.
Even updating the inbox is a gamble. I pull down, it displays that it’s updating, but it fails. It usually works after three attempts.
This problem goes beyond Mail. iOS and its suite of first party apps are not professional quality software. You can run them on an iPad Pro, but you are still using amateur software. There’s no excuse for a mail client to be so buggy!
I never lose work on my Mac. It happens all the time on iOS devices. They’re only suitable for casual use — calls, social media, lightweight apps.
Before the Apple haters get too excited, as bad as Mail and iOS are, they’re better than the competition. With the scarcity of developers, any chucklehead that can con their way through an interview will get hired these days.
As we get excited about AI, AR, VR and self driving cars, remember that the fundamentals of computing applications and infrastructure are still quite poor. Most people I know struggle to just get a working Internet connection. Data centers are pwned all the time by the simplest, brute force cyber attacks. The hyped future is all about inflating stock value.
Wouldn’t it be great if our tech corporations got the fundamentals right before they moved on to the hard stuff? It’s kind of like wiping before you go, but that’s what they do. After all, no one gets excited about stability and reliability. To a great extent, the lapse in quality can be blamed on a public that likes flash more than substance.
Apple Music makes Mail seem like its bullet proof. I’ve yet to use anything as defective as Apple Music. At best, it converted me into a music subscriber, however, I decided to take my business elsewhere.
Launched in the summer of 2015, I used Apple Music the day it came out. My excitement quickly diminished into disappointment when I realized just how buggy it was. I got off easy. I didn’t use Apple Music on my Mac and integrate it with my iTunes Library. I just used the streaming service on iOS, and that alone was horrible.
The worst thing is that it didn’t work at all on my iPad 2. It should work. The app launches, but anything the user does just stalls indefinitely. Granted, this was an old device, however, Spotify worked on it just fine. Google Play Music worked. This is Apple’s device with their own operating system, yet Spotify and Google pwned them on their own turf!
I ended up using Apple Music on my more modern iPhone 6. It was still full of serious, show stopper bugs. For example, music would drop out for 30 seconds and it happened all the time. It even happened with downloaded music! How did this make it out of QAT and into final release?!?
Others had and still have serious problems. Adding music to a playlist adds it three times, so one has to edit the playlist. Some people had irreplaceable albums deleted from their iTunes library. Their only mistake was to trust Apple.
Apple can no longer be trusted with any initial software release. In fact, you should probably wait until a few versions are released before using any new Apple app. The whole industry has lost its mojo, as frenetic competition and a dearth of talented developers has resulted in an explosion of buggy software. (The notion of self driving cars, in this environment of deeply flawed engineering, is frightening!)
With music subscription services, Apple’s competitors have much better offerings. Don’t suffer with Apple Music because you think the competition is worse. They all offer free trials. See for yourself.
I left Apple Music and I will never come back. It was late to market by years. It’s ridiculously buggy. It offers the poorest audio quality of any music subscription service. Apple Music seems as though it was designed, developed, tested and released by summer interns. It’s really that bad. It’s the worst software I have ever used in my life!
You’d think a todo list app is low hanging fruit for developers. Apparently, it’s quite a challenge for Apple, as they have been struggling with Reminders for years.
When Reminders first arrived on iOS, it wasn’t possible to change the order of list items. That’s a critical feature for any todo list app, yet it wasn’t part of the initial release. It speaks volumes about Apple’s ineptitude.
They eventually added the ability to arrange list items, along with some innovative features, such as location based reminders. You can tell Siri to remind you to pick up milk when you leave the office, and it just works. Unfortunately, their focus on the advanced sacrificed fundamental features.
Syncing has plagued Reminders for years. I write my shopping list on my iPad. I am at the store, and it hasn’t synced to my iPhone. Sometimes I can add and delete an item, and it will force synchronization. Although this happens a lot less these days, it still happens.
Editing lists is still hopelessly buggy. List items dragged to a location will often drift back. Sometimes I cannot move an item to a specific place. I have to move it somewhere else and then move it again. Editing the text of an item can also be challenging. Many of these text editing defects pervade the iOS operating system, but it seems like Reminders adds some new ones to the mix.
Although there are alternatives, I still use reminders because it is good enough and I have some lists that have 500 or more items. I’m kind of trapped. I’m also, uh, reminded every day of just how bad Reminders is!
Apple’s News app is a perfect example of how Cupertino just doesn’t get it. The app requires publishers to jump through numerous hoops to make articles available to the platform. They force publishers to implement arcane code, just to publish simple, static content. Instead of using the Web as a source for news, publishers must use a proprietary tool which doesn’t even work on iOS. (This is yet another thing you can’t do on an iPad.) It’s idiotic.
The audience is also missing out on a lot with News. It is a definitive echo chamber, with news stories “hand picked” by human curation. Many have noticed that any bad news about Apple is absent on Apple News. It is just Apple’s attempt at biased journalism. They’re creating an echo chamber within their walled garden so Apple fans will never experience anything overly critical of the company.
If this isn’t enough, the News app is ugly. There are a few publications that have jumped through the hoops and tasked dedicated producers to conform to Apple’s standards. These articles look decent, however, many articles resemble web pages from 1994. It reminded me of the first websites I visited using the Mosaic browser. Anyone remember that? If not, just try Apple News!
The worst thing about Apple News is that it is biased toward large publishers. Combing through the main news feed, it’s all the usual suspects. Unlike Google News, there’s few opportunities for small, independent publishers. As with most corporate-owned news, the bias is all about benefitting the parent corporation, not the audience.
Few apps and services have garnered the disdain that iTunes has earned. iTunes hatred is well-deserved. It is ridiculously bloated, through years of feature cramming and inconsequent overhauls. Defective as can be, it hangs, is plagued by constant authentication failures and, apart from Flash, is the only other app that has crashed (a few times) on my Mac.
People who work in tech understand this. If you hire a new product manager or UI/UX expert, they will change the user interface, for better or worse. Usually, it is detrimental to the product. The changes confuse and anger users and often introduce more complicated and convoluted work flows.
It appears as though the iTunes staff have experienced quite a bit of turnover and turmoil, and it shows. As an Apple product expert who offers advice to end users, I know all to well that iTunes is confusing, buggy and bloated.
I finally got fed up with iTunes after an obnoxious experience. I launched iTunes to download some albums I had purchased a while back. The albums had purchase prices on them, with no ability to download them. There was no cloud icon next to them. I was signed in to the iTunes Store.
What happened? Bad design happened.
It turns out that some genius at Apple decided to add a setting to Preferences which hides all iTunes Store purchases. They turned this on by default after an iTunes update. After 30 minutes of banging my head, wondering if I lost these albums, I went to preferences and found the setting. Normally, I would be relieved, but I was infuriated.
Who made such a bad decision? It’s almost as if they hired competitors’ infiltrators who were actively trying to destroy their product. Most likely, they hired some new UI/UX experts who wanted to make their mark on the product by changing things. Change is not always good. Hiding iTunes purchases by default is just idiotic. This is from the supposed user interface experts at Apple — a design which makes absolutely no sense!
The good news is that iTunes’ days are numbered. I haven’t launched the app in years, as it has become less and less useful. Apple is no longer the leader in music. They may have pioneered digital music, but they let it slip away through years of hubris and neglect. Spotify is the leader, however, I prefer Google Play Music.
Apple is clearly in the process of decommissioning iTunes, replacing it with a suite of apps – TV, Music, iBooks, iTunes U and more. The iTunes Store on iOS is still pretty bad, but nowhere near as convoluted as its desktop counterpart.
My advice is to try to find alternatives to iTunes. The writing is on the wall. iTunes is a legacy product. It’s a victim of numerous and often cynical design changes that have rendered it a user experience nightmare.
Spotlight Search for iOS
I’m a huge fan of launching apps using search. It’s much faster than scanning rows of icons, looking for the desired app. Simply swipe down from any home screen, type in a few letters, and your app will pop up. A lot of times, it is already there, due to Siri suggestions. It worked well for a few years, but with iOS 10, Apple broke this functionality. They haven’t fixed it in years.
This is a perfect example of Apple’s ineptitude. This large, latent organization doesn’t seem to notice that users can no longer search for apps using Spotlight. They haven’t noticed this for years. I assume they haven’t noticed, as anyone who has would fix it immediately. This is a severe bug. Users cannot search for apps, because Apple broke this functionality.
If I want to use an app on my iPhone or iPad, I have to go through a rather convoluted process. I could scan through several home screens, looking for the app, which is tiresome. Instead, I search for the app on Spotlight. It can’t be found, but it brings up a link to the app in the App Store. From there, I can sometimes launch the app, unless it needs to be updated. If so, I have to wait for it to be updated to launch it from the App Store. Otherwise, I need to scan multiple home screens, looking for the app.
The funniest thing is that Spotlight can’t even find Apple’s built-in apps anymore. The cobbler’s children wear no shoes and Apple’s QAT does no testing!
Apple’s ineptitude with search goes far beyond Spotlight. In my brief stint with Apple Music, I found the search feature to be utterly useless. It couldn’t even find artists that it recommended on the For You screen. I often just gave up and scrolled through the For You screen to find what search couldn’t.
Let me be blunt. Apple sucks at search. They will never be as good as Google when it comes to working with large sets of data. Stick with the devices and “cute” Millennial iMessage superfluity, and leave enterprise computing to the experts.
If you want an easy job where you play foosball and network video games all day, join the Apple quality assurance team. Apparently, no experience is required.
As a cord cutter, I have used Apple TV for over 6 years. My first Apple TV was the second generation model. It became obsolete after two years, as Apple stopped supporting the device. YouTube had to pull their “channel” from that model, as Apple refused to update the underlying operating system. Regardless of this disaster, I fell for Apple TV 4 hype and quickly upgraded to the new model.
Apple TV 4 showed a lot of promise, but Apple’s inability to put together a channel lineup quickly changed attitudes and priorities toward the product. Without a content deal, Apple couldn’t put together a bundle of channels that would drive profitability. At best, they can take a cut of others’ profits, but those are thin margins. Large corporations are able to effectively bypass Apple’s in-app purchasing services.
Reports of Eddie Cue showing up late to meetings with network execs, wearing casual attire, shed light on how Apple fumbled negotiations. They had nothing to show the TV industry — no mockups or design. Cue’s hubris and lack of preparation doomed Apple TV to lackluster profits.
Apple clearly changed direction and made the device a low priority. This is obvious to anyone who owns an Apple TV. The device is stable, as tvOS is forked from iOS. tvOS, however, is riddled with small defects, ham-fisted workflows and poor design. I always get a laugh when I launch a show from the TV app’s Home screen marquee. It does a bunch of redirects between apps, just like some shady website.
Apple TV doesn’t have the grace and elegance of other Apple products. It also costs significantly more than any competing device.
Despite its low status, I continue to use my Apple TV every day. It’s the best bet for anyone steeped in the Apple ecosystem. It seems to be a little better than other TV devices.
The harsh reality is that the push for steaming video is being held back by the TV industry, particularly Viacom. The hope was that Apple could negotiate the deal that would bring us the future, but it never happened.
AirPlay is Apple’s long standing technology for beaming media to Apple TV and other target devices. It’s actually a standard, as the technology has been adopted by several manufacturers, including Pioneer, Marantz and Yamaha. AirPlay has been around longer than any existing media beaming technology, beating Chromecast to market by almost 4 years.
I have a love/hate relationship with AirPlay. When it works, it is a dream come true. Unfortunately, Apple has a habit of overhauling AirPlay every few years, often breaking it in the process. When they redesigned AirPlay with the iOS 9 and tvOS 9 release, they broke it. After years of rock solid AirPlay, I experienced audio dropouts.
My hunch is that they drastically decreased the buffer size in order to speed up initial playback. They broke AirPlay in the process, and the fact that they didn’t fix it for two years is troubling. Did they miss this or was it just not a high priority? Either possibility is deeply troubling.
With the release of iOS 11, Apple fixed AirPlay. Well, kind of. The dropouts returned last night. I notice that a message to install a tvOS update popped up, which may be the culprit.
One thing I have learned is that AirPlay doesn’t seem to get network priority. You’d think any media playback would get the highest network priority. I have read that Apple’s network protocols and Airport Extreme routers are designed to optimize traffic, giving media playback the priority. This may be true, but perhaps a tvOS developer made a mistake, causing software updates to take precedence over AirPlay.
It seems like every time my Apple TV is having AirPlay or streaming problems, I get prompted to install a tvOS update. When I install it, I notice that it is already downloaded. The streaming and AirPlay problems are caused by network congestion, as my Apple TV downloads an update that I don’t want at the moment.
I have configured updates to be a manual process, precisely so this won’t happen, but there’s nothing I can do. There’s an Apple TV defect that causes severe performance problems whenever a new tvOS update is available.
Anything that causes streaming to fail on a media streaming device is a showstopper bug. After years, they have yet to fix it. At best, tvOS updates are rare, so it doesn’t happen often.
iPhone Hump Case
Apple is known for breathtaking design, but when Jony Ive distanced himself from day-to-day design oversight, they laid an egg. The infamous iPhone “hump” case is still Apple’s solution to extending iPhone battery life. Ugly as can be, it has garnered the ire of just about every tech critic.
The main problem with the iPhone Smart Battery Case is that it’s ugly. Instead of designing it with uniform thickness, it has a big bulge where the battery is placed. We know that Apple can get batteries in all shapes and sizes. They bragged about this capability with the new, thin Macbook.
Apple’s Smart Battery Case also offers poor ergonomics. The bulge takes up more room in your pocket. Some find that it makes the phone harder to hold and use with one hand. Indeed, the smart design choice would have been to flatten out the battery, eliminating the bulge. It would also allow the battery to vent heat more efficiently. This is something the best industrial designers in the world should probably realize…
So what gives? Why are they still making and selling this?
Apple clearly doesn’t care about low hanging fruit. Products such as the Smart Battery Case or Apple TV are developed by lesser Apple employees. Given the fact that Apple can’t compete with startups when it comes to hiring (Apple doesn’t produce many billionaires or millionaires anymore), not every employee is top notch.
The thing is, people will still buy these things. They will sell better than any third-party battery case, because of the halo effect. Since Apple makes many excellent products, people assume that everything they make is great. It’s not. People who are not caught up in the tech echo chamber didn’t hear how bad this thing is. It has an Apple logo, after all. Apart from being dinged in the tech media, the hump case is a profitable product.
Legacy Apple Failures
Most articles about the worst Apple products focus on past flops. When Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple and Compaq ruled the world, Apple made some horrible products. I don’t want to emphasize these products, as they are no longer for sale. It’s debatable that this Job-less Apple was even Apple.
Nonetheless, myriad flawed products mark Steve Jobs’ absence from Apple. The Performa line of Macs was overpriced, underpowered and had limited software availability. Apple worked with Bandai to release a pretty good game console that never took off. It was actually the first game console to offer online, multiplayer gaming, however its steep $600 price tag doomed it to failure.
Since the bulk of “worst Apple products” articles focus on these legacy failures, there’s no need to echo them. Appledystopia tries to avoid echo chambers and regurgitation. It’s not fun or useful for the writer or the reader.
As you can see, Apple has had their fair share of flops, but this pales in comparison to other tech corporations. Having used Windows 10 for a month, I am amazed that tech writers aren’t tearing it apart. I’ve been deeply disappointed with just about every product in the Microsoft ecosystem, including computers, operating systems and software applications. This is why I switched to Apple products, and stick with them. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than the competition.