First-world Collateral Damage

I used to work at the enormous fruit plantation in Cupertino. I left long ago and far away, in a universe so distant that the iPod had a clickwheel and 5GB (5!) of storage that you synced with a firewire cable. So they have a special place in my heart (ask to see my collection of old Apple badges – they are both scary and hilarious), but my recent upgrade to iOS 6 has me wondering what’s gone wrong on the fruit farm.

It’s no secret that two of silicon valley’s former BFF’s are going through a rough break-up. As it seems to be with all relationships, disagreements about communication and power seem to have sent this pragmatic marriage to the grave. Apparently, Google forgot to sweetly whisper in Apple’s ear that it was developing a smartphone. And like any spurned significant-other, when Apple got the news they went a little ballistic. Thermonuclear, actually, I think is the word once used by a certain guy at Apple.

Which is all fine and good, relationships come and go, especially in hot tubs in Northern California. But the sad part is that users like me are first-world collateral damage, like the kids hiding their heads under their bedroom pillow while their parents scream their marriage into divorce in the living room. But before I continue on with my sad tale of first-world collateral damage, let’s take a moment to put this all in perspective: right now, across the globe, people are suffering in truly horrible ways and are actually being killed, maimed, raped (legitimately, one assumes), or otherwise violated by mad men with honest-to-goodness people-killing weapons. Syria is in the midst of civil war. Egypt isn’t quite sure what to do now that the mad man has been deposed. Pakistan is a hot tranny mess. Sudan continues on as the poster-child for African failed states. Mexico is having a rather nasty drug war.  Perspective, people, perspective!

#iLost, Google Lost, Apple Wins?

Map users, obviously, are the biggest collateral damage in the Apple vs. Google grudge-f&*^ of an upgrade known as iOS 6. Others have written much more eloquent and informed pieces about what an enormous fail Apple maps on iOS are. Mike Dobson, in particular, has a great overview of how Apple failed its users on so many levels with the map app in iOS6.

And while I’d agree that the maps app is the biggest indication of iOS 6 fail, the entire upgrade, quite frankly, feels like it was developed by a company that has gone from being an insane innovator to an attorney-driven defender. And yeah, that big spat with Samsung doesn’t really help things either.

If I look around at iOS6, which I’ve been doing incessantly since upgrading last week, I’m generally content with the software but incredibly underwhelmed. Apple touts over two-hundred new features in iOS6, but they clearly let mini-me (back when I worked on the plantation, that was my team’s nickname for Phil Schiller. It’s an Austin Powers reference) come up with that list, because here’s the thing, most of those features are either crap or catch-up:

  • Maps in iOS6: Crap. I get the business logic of owning a core functionality, particularly when you are in the midst of a nasty breakup with your BFF. But Apple’s arrogance and insular attitude prevented them from delivering this in a way that helped their users instead of hurt them. They could easily have launched a “beta” map app in the app store years ago, and started gathering crowd-sourced data to correct all that is wrong with their b-list data sources. But, apparently, someone thought it was best to keep their gorgeously drawn and horrifically wrong maps away from the public for as long as possible.
  • Siri: What’s really new in Siri? Not much. And does it really work any better? Not on my phone with AT&T as the network carrier.
  • Facebook: Catch-up. Other platforms have had deep FaceBook integration for a while. While I’m glad Apple and FaceBook finally patched up their spat after Ping, it’s hard to get excited about a feature everyone else has already had.
  • Shared PhotoStreams: Crap. The beauty of photostream was that you didn’t have to do anything. It just automagically worked. But if I want to create a shared photostream, I have to manually add photos to it. I can’t auto setup photostreams that just magically include certain people (which would be awesome for keeping my extended family up to date with new pictures of my family, for example). I can’t auto setup photostreams that just magically include certain locations (which would be awesome, for example, on a vacation). If I have to manually add photos to a shared photostream (which is the only way to do it), I might as well just share them on Path, or Facebook, or Google+.
  • Passbook: Could be awesome – the verdict is out on this one, but we’ll give it to them as an innovative feature.
  • FaceTime: What’s really new other than the fact it can eat my data plan and shows what assholes the people at AT&T are?
  • Phone: Catch-up. You can now decline a call with a text message. Which I could do with my tragic Windows phone in 2006.
  • Mail: Catch-up. Gmail has had priority inbox for quite a while, and it is smart enough to learn what belongs in your “VIP” list without having to be told.
  • Safari: Catch-up. Google Chrome does the cloud much better, and has for quite a while. Oh, and let’s not even mention that nasty AJAX bug.
  • Camera: I totally dig the panorama feature.
  • Remodeled Stores: Catch-up. Google Play has been the prettier belle at the ball for a while.

So before you shed a tear for me, or all of my fellow first-world casualties, just remember – real people are truly suffering around the globe. Your sad smartphone upgrade doesn’t qualify as a true hardship. But it still sucks to see Apple fail so hard.


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