On Apple’s Innovation and Quality


I constantly hear—mostly on Twitter—about how Apple has jumped the shark. I especially notice when the claim comes in the form of it being all Tim’s fault and/or “it happened because Steve’s gone”.

A recent Tweet went something like this:

At least we now know how long it takes to ruin Apple after Steve Jobs died—it’s about 5 years.

This is in response to the new MacBook Pro announcement.

So I wanted to quickly give my own perspective, as a massive Apple enthusiast but also as someone who is happy to call out flaws when I see them.

1. Things Apple Should be Doing Better

Everyone has their own opinions on this kind of stuff, but I’d like to think my perspective is somewhat unique and valuable (wouldn’t we all). Here are my thoughts on what Jobs and core enthusiasts would be (and are) legitimately opposed to in the current direction.

  1. There are too many products in many lines. There are too many iPhones. There are too many iPads. There are too many notebook computers. Simplicity and curation are two of the most important Apple differentiators, and those are being sacrificed in order to chase giving people options. Options are fine, but I think there should be two or three—not five or seven. Too many options paralyze people, and presenting them runs counter to the idea that they’re taking on the burden of designing what you’ll enjoy. I think many would see this as a deviation from core Apple philosophy.

  2. They should be focusing more on quality and stability for what they do have. The features of MacOS and iOS are, in my opinion, still Apple-quality in terms of innovation and functionality. They’re quiet, subtle, but absolutely put them ahead of competitors and are also moving us steadily towards a low-friction future. The problem is that there are a lot of bugs coming with it. Issues with the desktop software, issues with mobile software. Stability problems. Crashes. Strange behavior. I feel like they should (and perhaps they do and are just being quiet about it) have a team that is 1000% focused on ensuring Apple-level stability and quality for all their products. This should be a New Deal type of thing. Massive. Spend a billion dollars on it. Treat it as sacredly as R&D.

2. Things Apple is Doing That Nobody is Noticing

People saying Apple isn’t innovating are often, in my opinion, simply not aware of what innovation looks like. They either don’t notice when it happens because it’s subtle (some of the best innovation is invisible), or they see aggressive innovation as a mistake because it involves ripping off a band-aid (headphone jack and function keys).

Here are a few innovations they’ve brought in the last several years that people either didn’t notice or didn’t appreciate:

  1. We answer phone calls on our tablets and laptops now (which requires that we have tablets in the first place)

  2. Your browsing sessions are synchronized across your entire ecosystem

  3. Your passwords are synchronized across all your systems

  4. You can copy and paste across all your systems

  5. You can send files to other people who are nearby in an extremely seamless way

  6. You can gain access to your mobile device using a fingerprint

  7. You can buy things by just moving your phone near a terminal using a fingerprint

  8. You can do that same trick using a watch

  9. Your health and activity tracking is now part of your lifestyle ecosystem, and you’re encouraged to be more active

  10. You can automatically sign into your notebook just because you’re wearing your watch and it knows it’s you

  11. You can buy things online, on a regular website, and pay for it seamlessly using your fingerprint on your phone, or your watch

  12. You can authenticate to your notebook using just a fingerprint

  13. You can buy things online using your notebook by using a fingerprint

  14. You can swap between users on a shared notebook by using a fingerprint

Keep in mind, much of this stuff was simply not even a conversation. It was future magic stuff. And now it’s obvious and boring and everyone either has the features or is working on them.

Parting thoughts

  • Apple isn’t anything near perfect, but they’re far and away the most innovative thing we have right now in terms of full lifestyle ecosystem

  • I think they have too many products that are messing up their simplicity / curation DNA

  • I think they need to do a massive FDR Quality project

  • There is a long list of extremely key life/tech integration pieces that Apple has done over the last several years that either 1) nobody is doing, or 2) everyone is now copying


  1. Invoking “Steve would X” is something of a weak move. It’s like saying what Jesus or Reagan would think about something. First, you don’t know for sure, and second it doesn’t mean they’d be right. Use this move sparingly.

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