Over the past couple few decades, Apple has come from nowhere to totally dominate and define the consumer electronics market with products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The company has built up a global reputation for outstanding quality and service, but there are still areas where the company could significantly improve its offering to customers.
Here are five areas that Apple could focus on if it wanted to go that extra mile and help make things better for its customers.
This product makes it to the top of the list, and with good reason. It is a purely execrable piece of software.
Without a doubt the one thing that Apple could put effort into fixing that would help millions of its users is iTunes. When iTunes was just a media player and a conduit into the iTunes Store, I was happy because I could ignore it. I didn't use it, and I pitied anyone who did.
That changed with my first iPod. Now I was tied to iTunes and there was nothing I could do.
It was a slippery slope.
I have iPhones, iPads and iPods which all rely on iTunes in one way or another, so I'm more tied into iTunes than ever. Work that Apple put into iOS 5 means that I need iTunes less than I once did, but there's a long way to go before iOS devices are truly standalone.
If it were just one big thing that was wrong with iTunes then it would be easy to offer suggestions on how to fix it. Problem is, iTunes is one big mess. It's a mess because Apple has bolted-on so many new features and support for new devices without putting much effort into the underlying architecture. It's resulted in a bloated, slow, buggy, unreliable, cumbersome, hard-to-use application.
This is a product that needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.
Both my iPhone and my iPad have a connection to the web. They both have a built-in web browser. You'd think that the web browsers would be tuned to give me the best possible experience when I'm on the move, especially when I'm paying for every byte I'm consuming?
Visually, Safari Mobile is a fantastic browser and does a brilliant job of rendering websites on a tiny screen. It's quite an achievement that I can visit and use a website that is designed for a big screen on a 3.5-inch screen. That's very impressive, and a feat of programming that we would have once thought impossible.
But that doesn't mean that Safari Mobile is perfect. It's far from perfect. The biggest and most glaring problem with the browser is its inability to handle multiple tabs without periodically deciding that it has to reload all the pages. On a Wi-Fi connection, this is an annoyance -- but on a 3G connection, it's actually costing me money.
While sometimes the browser seems to be loading the pages from cache, other times it reloads them from the server. A mobile web browser should strive not to do this. There are always going to be times when it has to take a trip back to the server for a variety of reasons, but in an ideal world these trips shouldn't happen often. I'm seeing this behavior far too often on my iPhone and iPad, especially when I have multiple tabs open, and Apple needs to fix it.
While I don't mean the price of Apple's products, I spend time considering what Apple charges for optional upgrades, particularly for Macs.
Take for example the MacBook Pro. Why does Apple want to charge $200 for a bump up from 4GB of RAM to 8GB -- effectively charging me $200 for 4GB, because the first 4GB is in the base price -- when I can buy 16GB of RAM from a vendor like Crucial for $240? It's crazy.
This is just one example of many that you'll come across if you compare upgrade prices on the App site to the true cost of the hardware.
I understand that companies need to turn a profit, but some of Apple's upgrade prices are truly outrageous.
OS X security
Over the past few weeks, we've seen the Flashback malware take control of over 600,000 Macs by leveraging a flaw with the Java platform that Oracle had fixed, but Apple continues to drag its feet, leaving OS X users vulnerable.
Mac users have enjoyed the longest period without having to worry about malware, but that's now changed. The bad guys are eyeing the platform, and users need to be aware of this. We need to put aside these "my OS is better than your OS" squabbles and help get the word out to average users that there's an emerging threat out there. It's time to accept the fact that if you can write code for a platform, it's possible to write malware for that platform.
Apple could do three things here. Firstly, the company needs to get serious about patching vulnerable code in a timely fashion by not leaving it to fester on systems for months. Patching is the first line of defense against malware. Secondly, Apple should build more malware protection into the platform, perhaps by adding full antivirus protection direct to the operating system. Finally, Apple needs to better inform users of the risks that malware presents to their Macs.
iOS Wi-Fi Sync
One of the new features of iOS 5 is the ability to sync iOS devices without needing a cable connection between the device and the PC or Mac.
It's a great bit of technology -- when it works.
Wi-Fi Sync in my experience works perfectly with the iPad, but doesn't work for the iPhone. Why? I wouldn't know. It used to work but then all of a sudden decided it wasn't going to work any more. I've been through all the help documentation that Apple has produced and none of the suggestions have helped.
I'm not alone. Wi-Fi Sync either doesn't work, or has stopped working with no real reason, for a lot of people.
The problem is that the mechanism is too simplistic. I'm supposed to check a box and it's meant to work. But when it doesn't work, or it stops working, that one check box doesn't offer any feedback or diagnostics. All I know is that the function doesn't work. I wish it did, but Apple is no help in getting it to work.
Wi-Fi Sync is a great feature, but right now it seems far too fragile, with it breaking for people and they not having a clue as to why it no longer works.