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A Random Look at Current Apple Freakouts

It is all-too-common these days in the blogosphere and on cable TV news outlets to take a story and just blow it out of proportion. Way out of proportion. A modest misstep or incident becomes a major catastrophe, one that might impact millions of people. But, while I suppose people are impacted when an Apple product has a problem, it doesn’t rise to the level of threatening your life, right?

Well, I suppose some might suggest that getting wrong directions in Maps for iOS could lead you astray, perhaps putting you into an unsafe neighborhood where you could be in danger. I suppose. But Maps is getting better, and it would be foolish to believe that Google Maps is necessarily perfect. I’ve seen far too many instances where it’s anything but, such as a recent meeting with a colleague at a small Phoenix restaurant for breakfast. I used Google Maps and got to the right place. He used it and ended up on the other side of the street, wondering what happened.

With OS X Mavericks, I’ve seen criticisms that Apple Mail is troublesome, particularly in the way that Gmail is handled. There has already been a fix, a Mail for Mavericks update, but not everyone is satisfied. There are also other Mail glitches, such as the continued inability to accurately record the number of unread messages. All right, this is a pretty minor issue. Gmail isn’t, but part of the problem is the non-standard way in which Google handles IMAP, but it’s still Apple’s fault for breaking a system that used to work pretty well. Regardless, you’d expect that most of the problems will be fixed in forthcoming maintenance updates.

So it’s not a show stopper. The real serious issue is the possibility that some people who own a Western Digital external drive are in danger of losing data. But that seems to happen if you are using the company’s own driver utilities, rather than just letting Apple handle things. So if you stop using those apps, you are probably all right, and I gather Western Digital and Apple are working on a fix. This unfortunate situation, however, isn’t unique. Earlier OS X releases have had problems with storage devices, and they are usually fixed pretty quickly. No reason to freakout. Just be careful about any new release and look out for glitches of this sort.

After all, nobody forces you to upgrade.

Yet another freakout is all about iWork. Apple’s crime was to remove some key advanced features, such as the ability to customize toolbars, insert objects in headers and footers, some AppleScript support, not to mention mail merge. This was considered to be a fatal offense by some, and it was only exacerbated by Apple’s decision not to announce the changes in advance. They finally released a support document that explained the reasoning, with the promise that some 18 of the lost features would be restored within the next six months, and additional features would be added going forward.

Now Apple’s excuse was the need to rebuild the apps as 64-bit, and provide file compatibility across all supported platforms, including OS X, iOS and iCloud. The choice would be to just hold off, or release a somewhat crippled version now and flesh it out over time. Apple chose the latter, and that’s exactly what happened a few years back with major overhauls of iMovie and later Final Cut Pro X. But installations of the new versions didn’t delete the old versions in any case.

To be fair, Apple didn’t bother to explain to video editors that the new Final Cut Pro X lost some mission critical features. Had they done so, fewer creative professionals would have abandoned Apple for Adobe Premiere or Avid. It didn’t help that sales of the previous version, Final Cut Pro 7, were halted for a time. But none of this prevented anyone from using an older version until Apple fixed the new version, and they appear to have gone a long way towards enhancing the app for customers who are still around.

The failure of Maps for iOS to be perfect from Day One also received a tremendous amount of criticism. Apple apologized, but the troublesome update left a bad stench for some iPhone and iPad users, the media ran with the story and, for the most part, never rechecked the app’s progress. More to the point, even Consumer Reports, no friend of Apple by any means, compared Maps for iOS and Google Maps and found them quite comparable in delivering accurate directions.

Yet Apple hasn’t fared so well with online services. iCloud still has a ways to go. The iCloud Keychain feature that debuted with OS X Mavericks, and was added to iOS in version 7.0.3, is essentially unusable on my iPhone and iPad. I don’t think Apple would have held off a major OS release to make these features perfect, and it does work OK on my Mac. Since the iPhone and iPad are from different product generations, I would be surprised if others haven’t encountered the same or similar problems of wrong usernames and passwords being dropped into a login screen, and the serious performance issues that can slow down the system big time. Disabling iCloud Keychain from the iPhone and iPad fix the slowdowns, but I grant that maybe only a small number are impacted, and I’ll just wait to see how Apple improves the service.

None of this, however, is reason for the constant freakouts about Apple’s alleged loss of direction. Every generation of an Apple product, hardware or software, has arrived with bugs. The same is true for other tech companies. I’d like to see Apple do better, but any suggestion that it’s the end of the world for the company is just absurd.