Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

A Full Year Back in the Apple Ecosystem

This past week marked one full year since I received my Macbook Pro and, as a result, one full year since I’ve fully been back in the Apple ecosystem. Today, for the most part, I’m content with all my Apple tech but the sentiment I felt back in 2017, when I first moved away from Apple, is still there and I would still like to move to a more ethical tech stack if it was a realistic possibility.

This post is my attempt to outline the good and bad of being back in Apple’s ecosystem this past year as there are plenty of both. While Apple works for me today, I still can’t say I’m happy with it, but I don’t know if I would be with anything else either.

The pros of Apple

As I’ve already said above, my Apple hardware does work for me. It does pretty much everything I need it to do and it does so in a way that makes it easy for me to interact with my family, both at home and across the country.

For me the fact that all the devices work so well together is the biggest benefit. I can start a document on my iPad and pick it up on my Mac. I can send a message from my phone and reply to it from my watch and I can even move phone calls between devices now if I answer, say, on my Mac and want to stand up for any reason. The integration is wonderful.

I spent a lot of years wishing for the type of integration I have in Apple today and that would be tough to lose again. When I left Apple it was the loss of all the integration that really bothered me the most and I spent nearly my entire time in other ecosystems trying to replicate this feature just as Apple already done it. I really wouldn’t want to go through that process again.

I’ve also found Apple to be more stable and easier to manage than both Android and Linux. While neither were bad, Apple has just been better. For example, Linux software management is so bad that I wrote a post on why I can’t recommend the platform to others and I still stand by that. Add to that woes I had with drivers on Linux and Android in general and I really feel like Apple’s software is just far more stable than anything else out there.

There’s a lot to be said for “it just works.” As someone who strives to keep things simple Apple’s ecosystem has been, by far, the best at doing so. I use most of its default apps and services and I can do so without issue and even share that data seamlessly with the people that need it. That has been such a huge win for me.

Beyond the software I’ve also found Apple’s hardware to be better than anything else I’ve had. Sure their butterfly keyboards on my 2016 Macbook Pro made that machine garbage but they’ve redeemed themselves with the new hardware. My phone, iPad, Mac and watch all feel like better hardware and, more importantly for me, all are designed in a way that works better for me. For example, I can carry just one tiny charger with me for all my tech today whereas with Linux I had a proprietary laptop charger that was so large I could’ve used it as a weapon and I still needed to carry other chargers with me.

For a few years I really thought Apple’s hardware had seen its best days but today I take that back. Apple silicon is amazing, the devices operate and behave like premium devices again and, most of all, they work for me in ways I couldn’t make happen with other hardware.

Taken together Apples’ software and hardware have proven a robust and reliable platform for me this past year that really does work together in ways I tried to replicate elsewhere but never could come close to. That would be hard to give up again.

The rotten Apple

While I’ve come to enjoy my Apple devices and software this past year there are still issues that have me constantly looking elsewhere.

First is the ethics of Apple itself. Their sustainability is suspect, their suppliers’ treatment of employees has been abhorrent and their continued move to more and more services leaves their claim to privacy as nothing much more than a bad joke.

Like so much else in my tech I left Apple, in part, for a more ethical alternative. I originally came back because I naively thought Apple was better than the competition but it really isn’t and that’s a hard pill for me to swallow.

Beyond the ethical issues, while their software and hardware has been good enough, for the most part, there are aspects that leave a lot to be desired. For example, the general UX of both iOS and MacOS fall behind Android and Pop_OS, both of which I simply found easier to interact with on a day-to-day basis. Also, while Apple’s data services such as Maps, Music and others beat any of the FOSS services I’ve tried, they do tend to fall behind Google services and that can make some interactions more difficult than they should be without having a Google or other account anyway.

Of all the tech stacks I’ve had, Apple’s has been the best for device integration, software reliability and hardware quality but Linux and Android with the Google ecosystem won the services war. While I don’t have much desire to go back to Google today I wouldn’t rule it out in the future, particularly as Apple’s privacy bar drops ever closer to Google’s.

If there’s a device or OS where things do fall apart with Apple today it is the iPad. I have a 12.9” iPad Pro with the M1 chip and 1TB of disk space (which means 16GB of RAM). It’s a beast… yet iPadOS completely handicaps its potential. It’s often slow, even with the power, and apps for it are never quite as powerful as their Mac counterparts. Finally, forget dev work. The OS is so locked down that Docker doesn’t even exist for it nor does a proper shell or other vital tools. I could work around this some with an elaborate remote setup but… why? It does make a good writing machine (though its implementation of Safari is often much slower than any other Apple product) and that is good enough for now. I don’t even know if I would do more on it if I could but I hate that, while I have more than enough power to do so, I can’t due to limitations of the OS.

The status quo

There’s a lot for me to like, and a lot for me to dislike, about Apple today but I can’t say I’m going to switch again any time soon. I’m currently considering a second machine with Linux for some dev work but it wouldn’t be another ecosystem switch.

If a more ethical alternative that worked for me and my family were to pop up I would definitely reconsider but that’s a long way off. Until that time I’m going to make the best of what I do have and keep building.