A Few Words On Outgrowing iOS And OS X

Can you feel the winds of change? Apple is a company that does two things very well. Innovate. And iterate. The company jumps ahead with dramatic innovation, usually in an artful blend of what’s old with something strikingly new. Then, for the next few years Apple iterates, iterates, iterates. In short, polish and shine. Then rinse and repeat.

With Scott Forstall gone as Apple’s iOS head, and Mac OS X slowly adopting some of iOS’s shinier and more visible features, it’s safe to say that Apple is working on the next level of innovation after a few years of iterating until the cows come home.

This isn’t true of the great unwashed masses of iPhone, iPad and Mac users, but some of us are outgrowing both iOS and OS X.

Over the weekend I visited an Apple Store and witnessed an interesting and compelling event. On two large tables I saw two generations of iPad users. On one, a dozen very senior citizens were gathered around a table and receiving instruction on their new iPads from an very young Apple associate.

On the table right next to the senior citizen class was the opposite, six or eight children, a few with parents looking over their shoulders, as they navigated through the iPad, usually playing games. That visual contrast says plenty about Apple’s customer products. Both young and old are content, happy, and enjoying Apple’s latest wares.

What about the rest of us; the media technorati, the pundit elite? Have we outgrown iOS and OS X? Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says Apple has fallen behind competitors in the smartphone arena, specifically Samsung. As is typical of Wozniak in the 21st century, he’s short on details as to what constitutes being ahead or falling behind. That’s often the case with tech media pundits as well.

My perspective is similar, but different. I want to see more usability in iOS and OS X. Those floating tiles in Microsoft Windows RT and Windows Phone are attractive and would make a nice addition to iOS and OS X. It’s a flick and swipe world, so why not on iPhone, iPad, and Mac?

But here’s another perspective. Apple’s iOS (and to a less extent, Mac OS X) provides more advanced functionality to more of the customer base than Android OS, Windows Phone, or, in the case of PCs, Windows.

How so? Apple’s ability to update iOS on a larger percentage of iPhones and iPads means that more customers get the latest features, more recent bug fixes, more frequent and easier updates, and get to use iOS on devices for a longer period of time than customers using Android OS or Microsoft Phone devices.

In that contest, it’s not even close. Apple customers get the latest while most Android users suffer with generations old products.

Media technorati and the pundit elite can point to a few features here and there where iOS might be a little long in the tooth compared to the latest Android OS (or Windows Phone OS), but it doesn’t matter. Those features are often merely different, not necessarily better, and, well, so what? It’s not like Android users can easily download and update their devices to the latest and greatest in a way similar to iPhone and iPad users.


  1. I would say that “latest features, more recent bug fixes, more frequent and easier updates” don’t necessarily mean more advances. For example, Android users have been enjoying the availability of traditional filesystem management, easier connectivity with their desktops, beyond cosmetics-skinnnability, etc., for years, while iOS users won’t as long as Apple dictates that we mustn’t.

    My sister’s experience with her iPad is so colored by the iTunes bottleneck and the file silos it’s not pretty at all. Mine is finding ways to avoid them in utterly roundaboutish ways.

    Apple, simply, doesn’t have a strategy for its users outgrowing its UIs. It could be argued that it doesn’t need one, but it is irritating.

    Kate’s Note: Agreed, it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘more advances’ but iOS does advance, and a much larger percentage of the iPhone and iPad user base get those advances than Android device users. The masses of users on both platforms don’t care much about which has the latest and greatest advances. They care about what works. And iOS works better for more users than Android OS. Only the technorati elite worry about the trivial.

  2. I’m an expert user who uses iOS and OS X. I read comments from Android owners all the time about how constrained I am on iOS, but I’m just not feeling it. With almost 300,000 iPad specific apps and ~800,000 iPhone apps, it’s hardly constrained. And it’s not just the quantity of inexpensive or free apps, there are tons of clever solutions out there. The file system abstraction may seem like a huge roadblock, but its really not. The best apps save to Dropbox. Those that don’t can send documents to any app that can handle them. And there are so many ways to easily trade docs between laptop and mobile it’s the opposite of restrictive.

    As an expert user, I *love* my iPad and iPhone. They work very well for me.

  3. All this talk about Android’s advancement over iOS is nonsense. A few Android phones can *multitask* and have two apps running in one screen at the same time. Big woop! How many people do that even on a PC? It makes a nice show but is mostly worthless circus theatrics. I agree about the Microsoft Windows Phone tiles, though. Those are nice.

    • Well, I’d kill for some kind of Dashboard-like widget apps (or app services) for iOS. When doing any writing in my Mac I usually have the Dictionary application and an out-of-Dashboard-widgetized translate.google.com webpage opened alongside the word processor. Trying to reproduce such environment in my iPad is cumbersome at most.

      Also, I insist on not having to go Dropbox or WebDAV and such to move files from and to my desktop: I want to be able to access my Mac’s directories from my iPad’s apps, and open their files instead of duplicates. Anything else is a waste of time. Those services are nice and needed, but more direct ways ought to be available, too. They are not that poweruser-ish, really.