Believing Spin From the Critics

May 19th, 2017

I do enjoy the back and forth of friendly debate. I realize that my opinions are strictly those of one person, so I don’t make a big deal of their relevance. But I will defend them when I feel necessary.

Now as you know, Apple has loads of critics. So does Google and Microsoft, and all the rest. But it seems the emotions are higher with Apple, not to mention the false or misleading assumptions. That’s why I probably use an inordinate amount of space in these columns to set things right. It’s the old-time journalist in me.

So I have had a back and forth with a reader who is unhappy with Apple’s design directions. As a result, he went ahead and bought a Windows all-in-one, specifically a 2-in-1, which has a touchscreen. Now I’m not going to argue preference, but I felt that the reasons were exaggerated.

For those who read these columns regularly, I had a similar argument with another reader a few months back, one who voiced similar excuses. I wouldn’t assume it’s the same person, because such views aren’t uncommon.

Consider the polarized reactions to the Late 2016 MacBook Pro. At first, it seems a mostly modest refresh, with a somewhat slimmer and lighter case, beefier and more current parts, and one fascinating new feature. Instead of having those old fashioned function keys, Apple opted to provide a one-row OLED touchscreen. What’s more, it’s powered by an ARM system on a chip derived from the one used for the Apple Watch. That means an iOS-derived mobile OS is powering the Touch Bar.

So you have one notebook computer with two CPUs and two operating systems working together seamlessly. As I said, fascinating.

But critics were all over Apple for this supposed needless fluff, since the move evidently contributed to adding several hundred dollars to the purchase price. This brought them in line with the original 2012 MacBook Pro with Retina display. So maybe, over time, prices will drift downward as Apple perfects the manufacturing process and finds ways to make the parts cheaper.

So Apple was attacked for the higher prices. While Apple has never built a notebook supporting more than 16GB RAM, they were also attacked for not moving to 32GB this time, which is what some Windows notebooks offer. But not a Microsoft Surface notebook, with which Macs are being compared. Take note of that.

Overall, however, customers evidently were willing to pay more, witness higher Mac sales for the last two quarters, after dipping sales earlier this year.

The critics still want 2-in-1, buttressed by the launch of the Microsoft Surface Studio, which sports a 28-inch touchscreen. The Studio does seem to have appeal to a certain segment of creatives, but nonetheless Surface sales dipped 26% in the March quarter. So evidently not enough people care, or this is a product that occupies a smaller niche than a Mac Pro.

Again, I don’t argue with someone’s decision to switch from the Mac to Windows. But don’t forget a Hackintosh, if you’re a hobbyist and don’t need a reliable work machine.

But other than a do-it-yourself Mac clone, a Windows PC is meant to run Windows. So the next argument has it that Windows 10 is closer to the macOS, so maybe it doesn’t make so much of a difference anymore.

Does that sound familiar to you?

In 1995, they said that Windows 95 was close enough to the Mac OS to justify a switch.

Indeed, they have pretty much said that with every new iteration of Windows. It’s always just behind the Mac, so why not save money and get with the program?

Almost as good doesn’t mean parity. While some may argue that Apple should not have added iOS-style interface elements and features to macOS, most of that was done primarily to allow shared features with your iPhone or iPad. Microsoft doesn’t need to do much of that because its mobile platform is nearly kaput.

iOS? Well, isn’t Android pretty close by now?

Actually, Android probably has more features, and surely more options to configure your mobile device. But security remains questionable. Huge numbers of Android handsets still aren’t running the latest OS, and are using versions often as old as two or three years. Google seems to expect you to depend on Google Play for security updates, and they sure hope you won’t sideload apps, which means installing them from outside sources.

So maybe Android has become a more solid competitor to iOS, but since Google can’t seem to make any headway in updating recent mobile handsets, does it even make a difference?

Besides, iPhones still tend to run faster than Android gear, even when the latter has what appear to be much more powerful hardware. Evidently you need to take a sledgehammer approach to make Android seem fluid.

In June, Apple is expected to demonstrate the next generation of iOS and macOS. If they aren’t misfires, it will advance Apple’s platforms yet again to new heights. There are features I’d like to see, particularly improved multitasking and enhanced file system access for iPads. And maybe find ways to make it seem more than just a larger iPod touch.

There will continue to be comments from readers who aren’t happy with Apple for one reason or another and have thus given up on Macs and other gear. They will try to justify their reasons for switching, implying that Apple has dropped the ball. I’ve read the same argument for years, and someday it might come true. You could argue that the Mac deserves more attention, but most of the arguments still seem old and tired.

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8 Responses to “Believing Spin From the Critics”

  1. Kaleberg says:

    One advantage of Apple hardware is that there are only so many configurations available. This means that Apple can optimize the user interface and whatever else – e.g. background message handling and power management. Anyone who has ever tried to get peak performance from a computer knows that every graphic card has its own peculiar characteristics, even when compared to other such cards in the same series. The cycle time on some buffer or the rendering acknowledgement time reporting are subtly different. It’s like that for CPUs, memory chips, trackpads, bluetooth interfaces and so on. The specifications seem identical until you are trying to push the device cycle by cycle to get its absolute best. If you have only a limited number of devices, you can afford to do this optimization. Otherwise, you can get a good solid 95% of everything, but only 99% plus from a handful of things.

    There’s a reason Microsoft’s Surface gets such good reviews. Microsoft got to choose the graphics cards, the display, the tracking surface and the CPU. Then they got to tune them properly to get a good, responsive feel. It’s like the way stock car racers used to trim the length of muffler pipes to get a good resonance between the exhaust system and the engine operating at peak. Apple does this kind of tuning as a rule. People joke about Apple’s obsession with lining up the centers of their connectors and paying attention to other such details that tend to get ignored in the industry. That’s Apple’s way of signalling that they are paying attention to detail inside and out. User interface elements will slide with one’s touch, without initial jerkiness.

    For a company obsessed with pushing the technology, Apple seems to get its kudos, and cash, from those who appreciate their devices as users, not as technical marvels. I know a lot of people who have switch to Apple over the past ten years, and they tend to like the way the devices feel. They really don’t care about CPU cycles or memory sizes as long as the thing turns on quickly, UI elements react responsively and so on. To be honest, I’m surprised that more Android and Windows manufacturers haven’t been pushing small lines of high end gear and generating some marketing excitement. Granted, they might not have access to the relevant code, but they could work with Google and Microsoft who would stand to benefit.

    (I know there have been a few exceptions, but there is no consistent Company-Name-Here high end PC line.)

  2. Pool Man says:

    Over the last few days we’vd had some back and forth. During the last few days you keep bringing up Surface products as if they and only they represent Windows products. In this way I don’t care about their sales because — frankly — I couldn’t be less interested in Surface. So each time you bring it back up you’re having a safe and easy straw man argument with yourself.

    It is my belief that you are simply comfortable as a Mac person and have no interest in challenging this. Old dog, new tricks. That’s cool. I was that way for decades. I owned one of the first Macs at Tufts University in the mid 80s and worked at one of the first Apple Stores in the country for 3.5 years. I was as Mac as you could get.

    Understand the reason why I was cozy with Mac: it was obviously/significantly better. When I’d see a beige Windows machine that ran a Hasbro OS… it was pure you’re kidding me. My older Ivy League graduate brother would wax poetic about how unnecessary a mouse was and he’d push that little red nipple on his IBM laptop around getting all sorts of no work done. It just didn’t work.

    When Android first surfaced as an iPhone competitor it was, to coin a fascist: sad. I was hearing stories about the phones simply failing or falling apart in no time. No apps, confused OS. Heck — whenever I simply logged into GMAIL on the web I was like, “You expect me to use a phone designed by the people who designed this TERRIBLE online interface?!? SERIOUSLY?!?” (That pooload interface is still there!) (There’s ‘Inbox’ hiding around corners but I digress.)

    So, to be clear, I had zero interest in anything that wasn’t Apple. Until about two years ago when my wife’s needs forced our first PC laptop into our lives. I got her a Core M Asus Zenbook. The price was nice but the OS? Windows 8.1. I forced Amazon to pay for and accept a return solely on that PATHETIC operating system. Luckily her need for PC got delayed and I said, thank God, because I wouldn’t have anything to do with supporting that turd of an OS.

    Everything before this point, Gene, is to indicate I get where you are. I was there too. I need not be schooled on anything Mac. There’s nothing I’ve never considered regarding Apple. I totally get it.

    So what changed for me?

    The first thing was the iPad. On my second iPad I started to realize it just didn’t work. I had done nothing funky or odd to it. I just found apps would crash and that it would run slow. Whereas my iMac had life to it — the iPad was a drag. I factory installed more than once and no one at the Apple boards could offer me much of a solution. Sigh.

    I then noticed that my iPhone 6 was only a little better. Running like a dog. Apps not crashing but definitely sluggish. Oh forget surfing anywhere with Safari — life is too short. I’d wait… and wait… and wait… even in robust home wifi.

    An awareness was starting to occur to me. A surprising one. That something was wrong. That this ‘insanely great’ devices in my hand weren’t behaving so amazing. And it was becoming clear to me that maybe I wasn’t the iOS fan I thought I was. That it was just, you know, okay. Especially compared to Mac OS.

    Back on iPhone I started looking at Droid people around me. My experience had been with a few run ins that Droid Zealots were more annoying that iZealots. I mean they’d outright tell you that you were a sucker and that pissed me off. But I learned to ignore them because they were just so many tools in the Android toolbox.

    What I couldn’t ignore were my really brainy young friends who loved Android. Huh, I asked myself. How could these people I respect the world of not see that those dumb droids were garbage, I asked myself. And worse (as a Los Angeles resident) I know many immigrant types using cheapo droids. People who barely speak English happily fingering away on their devices. Never shaking the things, never rolling their eyes at the things, never asking me or anyone about iPhone.

    Right around this time was when Apple announced the headphone jack would be a goner and I’d have to pay through the eyeballs for some magic earbud baloney. Hey, I don’t mind the innovation. I mind being forced to abandon inexpensive headsets that work just fine. My gut told me then and there that, gee, maybe the competitors phones are finally worth a look.

    So I start looking. Here’s the surprise part for the uninitiated. Do you know how Droid people are like “You iPhone people are so sheeple!” Guess what. These tuckfards are sheeple too. %90 believe Samsung IS Android. That if you don’t get a Samsung you have no other choices. It was surprising yet refreshing to learn that such narrowminded pinheads live on both sides of this debate.

    Because of a good impression that Asus Zenbook had made I was nearly ready to try an Asus Zenfone. I nearly bought one until I learned some jackhole put the fingerprint sensor on the back. I went to several boards and asked people to explain why that placement was easier to use on the front. Criiiiiiiickets.

    This was when the OnePlus 3 was making a name for itself. Almost every droid user I’ve met had never seen, touched, or heard of it. But rave after rave was coming in from the net. Even Paul Thurott was impressed by it — Mr. Windows Phone zealot. (That’s a gold medal moment for narrowmindedness. That guy was once pissing and moaning so much about Windows 10 I said why don’t you try a Mac? He soiled himself in fury.)

    So I looked at the spec of the OnePlus 3. 64 gigs instead of my iPhone 6 16GBs. 4 times the storage. On my iPad and iPhone I had to constantly beware of adding much of anything. The iPhone religiously had about 3GBS of RAM left. I had to constantly remove photos and videos from either. What a chucking fore.

    Not to mention iOS has an issue where it slowly creates an ‘other’ folder that over about 5 months eliminates what storage you have left and makes the phone terribly unstable (as explained above). So 2 to 3 times a year I had to do a complete factory reset. The good news is Apple makes this process insanely easy (especially compared to Android) but the bad news is that I had to do it at all. Another chucking fore. And remember: Apple is so easy, it’s better, and it just works.

    So then I looked at the RAM on the OnePlus 3. Entry level: 6GBs. I’m being frank here when I admit that it had never occurred to me to look at the amount of RAM in my iPhone. Why I was certain with the big pricetag on the iPhone I had more than enough RAM. Right? That makes sense. Apple wouldn’t screw its own customers but undermining one of the most critical parts of ANY computer. Right?

    1GB. A phone that’s like $700 and I get 1 stinking gig?

    You want to talk about spin? I know exactly what you or any zealot would say at this point. “But Apple has such great memory management you don’t need tons of RAM. Na-uh. Completely unnecessary!” Trump’s fat @$$.

    Open a web browser on any PC or a Mac. Open Facebook, a heavy news site (like Huffington), and any two other tabs. The web browser alone will need at least 1-2GBs depending on the platfrom. All by itself. Which leaves iOS how much again once Safari has been opened? ZILCH.

    An objective person reading this would realize — OMG — Apple ripped you off! Your iPad and iPhone were overpriced yet underspec’d. It’s absurd to release a ‘flagship’ device so amazingly constrained. (Actually, if you need your users to regularly upgrade hardware it makes perfect sense, but I digress.)

    That’s when my iBubble finally BURST. I had been had. And so had every last stinking owner of this phone and iPad. Sure it worked good for the first year, but when the next bigger thicker heavier iOS update arrived… not bricked but definitely molasses’d. My wife’s phone was failing to do things left and right.

    There’s no argument around this, Gene. No ‘I shoulda’ this and ‘Maybe you’ that. Wrong. A computer needs RAM. Period. Does it need 6GBs like my OnePlus? Nope. But more than one? Yup.

    Then I started to become aware of something on my 2.5 year old iMac. (I keep them for three than eBay.) A year earlier I had installed a tiny app that free’d up memory. That 8GB iMac would gum over about 6 hours of being on. Nothing would crash but you could feel things slowing down. This tiny menubar app would inform me live of how much RAM was left.

    When I’d boot in the morning it would resolve itself as 6 out of 8 GBs in use. 4 of those gigs were the browser. As the day wore on I’d activate the app to free up some RAM. This saved me from doing a 3 minute reboot. Sometimes deep in the day I’d reboot anyway just because the memory app could help almost so much. Oh, and that app, had an auto free memory setting — which in the tail end of the iMac’s life was running at least 12 times a day. A chucking fore, even if I didn’t have to do it myself.

    The Asus VivoMini I’ve replaced that iMac with? For some reason Windows 10 doesn’t need as much RAM. Nowhere near as much. I believe (I’m guessing) it’s because Windows needs to still work on lower end equipment and so it’s being maximized as much as possible to work okay on lower spec. I know this because I now own a Beelink AP42 which runs on an Apollo Lake Pentium with 4GBs of RAM. It’s sluggish, sure, but it makes sense since the unit cost me $180.

    Back to my iMac — why was it running so slowly? Or bleeding memory all day? Another way to put this: wasn’t macOS Sierra supposed to bring the mac ecosystem experience to ‘new heights’?

    Nope. Sorry. Wrong. This ain’t about me. This is the Apple experience outside of the reality distortion field. The narrowminded belief that everything bad with iOS and macOS doesn’t matter since it’s clearly better than Android and Windows 10.

    The truth is there’s a lot wrong going on at Apple. Zealots give Apple a giant walk. Out of simple pure ignorance of not actually trying to competition these days.

    Gene — I dare you to go to the Microsoft Online store right now. The Asus Zenbook Flip is on sale for $499. Try it. Knowing you’ll sell it on eBay or to a PC friend who wants it. Give the thing a shot. Use it as a secondary computing ‘device’.

    It doesn’t suck. Whether or not it’s as good as a Mac doesn’t matter. I know you think it does but iPads aren’t as good as Macs and Apple users use those poo shingles with big stinkin’ grins. I’m telling you as a former Mac Zealot the Zenbook is better than iOS. Way better for the buck.

    I was told by people like you about all the security issues. The viruses. The malware. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

    Please. Anyone who talks like that about PCs don’t use Windows 10 PCs. It’s as simple as that. And Android Nougat is plenty secure. I installed a virus protection on the OnePlus and it hasn’t found jack in six months. Windows Defender did find something once but fixed it immediately. It had something to do with reinstalling the OS oddly enough.

    Now I’ll grant I’d rather not have to deal with Windows Defender and Android security at all. True. But I have to tell you it’s less annoying than having to deal with leaden iOS and leaden macOS.

    What I’m trying to get across to you is there’s a bigger picture than your preference. I know for a fact that once you were up and running on (suggested PC or phone, for instance) you wouldn’t be quick to throw either out. And when you realized both were half the price of the Mac competition — you’d ask yourself if Apple is really twice as good.

    And I’m here to tell you and anyone reading this: it ain’t. At best Apple is maybe 15% better. If Macs/iPhones cost 20% more instead of 100-200% more I’d have never switched and these words would never be here.

    I stood in an Apple store and convinced most visitors that every extra dollar they spent on a Mac bought $2 of value. They could just tell I was telling them the truth.

    I’m here to say that simply isn’t so any longer. Every extra dollar you spend on a Mac goes to the spaceship in Cupertino and offshore profits. The proof of that is now that Tim Cook has heard from the likes of people like me he’s now working on exciting iMac and MacPro updates. Now. Exciting updates that should have already been ready two years ago.

    Why isn’t SSD standard/affordable in iMacs at this point? Why don’t they have a new exciting look? Because Cook abandoned them years ago hoping the end of the PC era would usher in the iPad era. But the iPad doesn’t even have mouse support. So now Apple is playing too little, too late catch up.

    Gene. You’re still an Apple fan. Good for you. But don’t just sit by silently maligning former Apple fans like myself for ditching. Put your fingers to keys. Speak up. Demand that Apple deliver kick@$$ hardware if they’re going to demand flagship prices.

    How could that hurt your interests?

    • gene says:

      The Mac versus PC argument is only partly about the hardware.

      Your basic complaint is that you don’t like Apple’s hardware direction and you want to switch.

      And I disagree with you about iPhone 6 performance based on personal experience and most reviews I’ve read about that model. The RAM argument is nonsense, mostly, since iOS and Apple’s custom chips use resources far more efficiently than Android. Also check the canned benchmarks which confirm this.

      You are entitled to your preferences, although I think you are going way overboard in your conclusions. So, for example, the iPhones are priced at the same range as the flagship smartphones from Samsung and other companies. Not 200% more. We all know you’re blowing smoke here.

      The Galaxy S8, for example, starts at $720, whereas the iPhone 7 starts at $649. The iPhone 7s earphone comes free with an adapter, so you aren’t forced to use wireless. You would know that if you bothered to check.

      And, yes, I’ve used Android and Windows 10. Did you happen to notice, by the way, the problems with ransomware on the Windows platform that scammed hundreds of thousands of users this month alone? Have you read about the unfixed security issues with Android that will never be addressed, because most users are stuck with older operating systems that will not and cannot be upgraded?

      Again, I won’t argue preference, but I will argue false comparisons and misleading spin.

      Just the facts, sir! You’ve had your say, and since you just want to make up stories or exaggerate sets of facts, your comment privileges here are suspended.


    • Joe S says:

      There are some fundamental different engineering choices made between iOS and Android, Android uses Java, an interpreted language, while iOS applications are compiled to native code. The Java JRE maintains the symbol table at runtime which costs ram. I have seen studies that demonstrate that Java applications require five times the ram compared to native code applications . Also Java uses garbage collection versus reference counting for heap management, These two decisions are major contributors to the smoother feel of iOS versus Android, One gig of iPhone memory can have a bit more functionality than four gigs of Android memory.

  3. Thanks. But these basic facts are lost on people with contrary agendas. Sad.


  4. C. Howitt Fielz says:

    You said iPhone devices tend to run faster than Android devices. I’ve seen benchmarks showing as much but then there is this report I found to further condemn Apple/iOS devices:

    Truth or spin?

    I always get a kick when I see Youtube videos telling people why they switched from iOS to another platform. I guess those people think it’s necessary to turn iOS users away from Apple. I mean, to help them escape from hell, I suppose. They help show how iOS is falling behind in necessary features. More features always mean an OS is better, I think.

    • I read the press release, but it’s not altogether clear how this survey was done or the sampling size. The claim of apps crashing three times more often on iPhones seems curious. I rarely see iPhone apps crash.

      You can prove anything with surveys, but I did notice what appears to be a high failure rate with Samsung handsets.

      The spin begins when Apple is dinged for not offering OLED, for example.

      And, no, offering more features does not make an OS better. Features are only a part of the picture. It’s how well they work, and how well they integrate with the operation of the gadget. Apple is often not the first with a new feature, but when or if a feature appears in iOS or macOS, it’s often implemented better. This is an old argument.


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