Ignoring the hipster impulse to move now that Apple is the big dog rather than the underdog, it’s true that, in some ways, there is less now to differentiate Apple from some of its rivals. If you were to look back to the iMac G3, the multicoloured plastic iMac that came out in 1998, it looked radically different from the beige boxes its rivals were still putting out. Other companies have long since adopted the graphical user interface, which was the big innovation that the original Mac made mainstream, and a lot of companies now realise the importance of good design.
Another problem is that Apple has this simplifying impulse where it wants to take away outmoded technologies, but on the other hand you see long-term Apple users with drawers full of redundant dongles and connectors, which does lead you to feel that you’re being milked out of money. Irritating as that can be, however, it’s difficult to think of too many instances where they’ve changed something without benefits. The iMac G3 in 1998 got rid of the floppy disc drive and at the time there was a huge uproar; now 20 years on we all think it was a perfect thing to happen.
When you see long-term Apple users with drawers full of redundant connectors, it leads you to feel that you’re being milked out of money.
Some users look at it as being trapped in an ecosystem of Apple products, but it now works very nicely to have your iPhone being able to talk to your iPad – it’s justified. Also, Apple is more open than it was in the past in letting third parties access tools like Siri [Apple’s voice-activated “Intelligent Personal Assistant”], for example. Then there’s privacy, which is an increasingly important issue and which Apple has been very outspoken on, certainly compared to rivals such as Google which are known for their data-mining.
Finally, Apple is still rolling out finished products rather than rushing them to market. If you’d seen that the iPhone was getting rid of the headphone jack and you thought, “That’s it,” then you’d have to start looking at high-end alternatives and the main one would be Samsung. They’re in the middle of removing their flagship smartphone of the year, the Galaxy Note 7, after a spate of incidents in which they caught fire. It sounds like they rushed out this phone which had a lot of “innovation” in features, but which came with horrible consequences. So if you care about a cohesive ecosystem, a good customer experience, considered innovation and privacy, there’s no real compelling reason to switch from Apple.
Luke Dormehl is the author of The Apple Revolution: Steve Jobs, The Counterculture And How The Crazy Ones Took Over The World (Virgin Books).