Over the past few years, there’s been a growing perception that Apple products aren’t as reliable as they used to be. For starters, Apple has made more than its fair share of missteps when it comes to software in recent memory. From the bug-plagued roll out of Apple Maps to the frustrating, confusing and error-prone UI that accompanied the launch of Apple Music, no one would argue that Apple’s software track record is flawless.
Earlier this year, venerable tech journalist Walt Mossberg penned a widely circulated article where he argued that there has been a discernible decline in both quality and reliability across the entirety of Apple’s software platforms. “In the last couple of years,” Mossberg wrote, “I’ve noticed a gradual degradation in the quality and reliability of Apple’s core apps, on both the mobile iOS operating system and its Mac OS X platform. It’s almost as if the tech giant has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to these core software products, while it pursues big new dreams, like smartwatches and cars.”
Mossberg’s post predictably triggered a contentious debate between those who were quick to pile on Apple based on their own software frustrations and those who felt that the narrative regarding the quality of Apple software was in dire need of a more reasoned perspective.
For those in the second group, the following arguments were frequently raised to defend Apple: The software Apple ships today is incredibly more advanced than anything else to have ever come out of 1 Infinite Loop. Not only that, but some of the code Apple releases comprises some of the most advanced software on the planet. Furthermore, more people today are using Apple products than ever before, often in ways that would have seemed the stuff of science-fiction even eight years ago. Taken together, the argument goes that Apple’s software, on the whole, is just fine and that we just hear more about perceived declines in software quality because Apple’s user base has grown by leaps and bounds.
Personally, I think it’s impossible to deny that Apple’s software could use a bit of refining; but the idea that Apple’s software quality is much worse today than it was, say, two or even five years ago has always seemed like a reach to me.
Having said all that, Apple executives Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi addressed this topic head-on as part of a wide-ranging interview the pair recently conducted with Fast Company.
When asked about the idea that Apple software has more problems than in years past, Cue responded:
Well, there’s more people, there’s more devices, and there’s more communications available. I actually think our products have fewer mistakes than they did in the past, and our data shows that. But, look, I tell this to my team all the time. When we were the Mac company, if we impacted 1% of our customers, it was measured in thousands. Now if we impact 1% of our customers, it’s measured in tens of millions. That’s a problem, right—things are going to be perceived differently. Our products are way better than they used to be, but there’s a higher bar, and I’m okay with that. I think that is why we’re here. That’s why I get up every day. I like that people have high expectations of us, and that they care about little things that bother them, which, in a lot of products, they wouldn’t bother about. With other companies, you think, that’s about as good as it’s going to be. With us, you want perfection; you want it to be the best. And we want that.
Federighi, meanwhile, added the following:
A world where people do not care about the quality of their experience is not a good world for Apple. A world where people care about those details and want to complain about them is the world where our values shine. That is our obsession. If people were like, “That’s good enough for me” . . . well, there are a lot of people who can provide that kind of experience. I think that we are focused on working hard every day to make it better. We make mistakes, things get out there, but we work incredibly hard to make things better and better. The bar does keep going up. The number of things you expect from your phone and your computer and the way they interact, and the cloud and services and the way the Internet works with them, the level of complexity goes up and up. But we’re committed to getting better and better, faster than it gets harder and harder.
As a final point, it’s worth pointing out that Federighi a few months bag pointed out that Apple’s core iOS apps in iOS 9.0 were less prone to crashing than the most mature iteration of iOS 8.x.”