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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Year in Review: The worst Apple product of 2015 -- Sanjiv Sathiah

Year in Review: The worst Apple product of 2015 -- Sanjiv Sathiah
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Dec 31, 2015, 11:10 AM
 
Some of Apple's fan base is often described as being quite "cult-like," with a section dubbed the "Apple fan boys." For this group, it is almost as though Apple cannot do any wrong, and anyone that dare suggest otherwise had better look out! At the risk of incurring the ire of this segment of our audience, I am going look at some Apple products from 2015 that didn't quite live up to expectations, when viewed in the cold light of day. Read on to find out what they are.


The first cab off the rank of Apple product misfires of 2015 is the Mac Pro. Why you might ask? Apple didn't release an updated Mac Pro in 2015? Which is in fact, the very problem with the Mac Pro in 2015. It has not received an update since an all-new model was launched in late 2013. In late 2013, it was a truly cutting-edge device, a distillation of all the essential elements required for a workstation. Cut to the end of the 2015, and Apple fans have a right to ask "what on earth is going on with the Mac Pro?" Has someone on the Mac Pro team offended someone in the Apple hierarchy?



Despite failing to receive an update in two years (an eternity in the tech world), Apple continues to sell the Mac Pro for same price it was originally asking. Isn't a price drop for dated CPUs and GPUs warranted, at the very least? Apple's latest 27-inch iMacs are starting to overtake the entry and mid-level models in performance, yet cost much less, even if they don't offer as many Thunderbolt 2 ports. That said, iMacs also include a stunning 5K Retina display as part of the bargain. I for one would love to see the Mac Pro refreshed with the latest silicon from Intel and AMD, but as it is, it kind of stinks that this hasn't already happened.

A recent arrival, rising with a bullet on my list of worst Apple products of 2015, is the controversial new Apple iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case. Although, as I have previously written, I have indeed bought one and decided not to return it, the Smart Battery Case seemed as though Apple decided to throw us a curve ball for some reason. It was unexpected, unwanted, and even perhaps, unneeded. Which makes its arrival entirely perplexing. Especially as it also puts function over form (a polite way of saying it is useful, but ugly).

In my view, the availability of the Smart Battery Case has the ability to create more harm to Apple's image than do anything positive for it. For a long time, Samsung has pilloried iPhone users as being "wall huggers," when Apple has touted the efficiency of it's custom A-series chips and the advantages of controlling both the hardware and software of its iPhones. At the same time, it has made its iPhones, typically, ever thinner. Thicker iPhones, however, would allow Apple to pack larger batteries in them, and totally obviate the need for the Smart Battery Case.



Even though I have a Smart Battery Case for my iPhone 6s, I don't use 99 percent of the time. In most instances, I find the iPhone's battery life quite acceptable, and am typically never that far away from a charging source if I need it. However, there are the odd occasions where even the new "low power" mode won't suffice, and this is when I decide to put on the Smart Battery Case. Since its arrived, I've only used it twice, but it was certainly handy to have on those occasions. Its best trick is how easy it is to put on and take off, which is what really separates it from most of the third-party options out there, and also helps to explain its odd, humpback form factor. Still, I would have been just as happy if the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case had never seen the light of day. Happier perhaps, which is why it makes my list.

The worst Apple product of 2015, though, is undoubtedly Apple Music. Since music streaming services like Spotify have emerged, I have long been waiting for Apple to release its own music streaming service. Especially one that lets you download entire albums for offline listening. My love of music outstrips my budget, even though I still try to buy the CDs of my favorite artists, partly because I know the pittance they receive in streaming royalties. The ability to download and listen to as many albums as I want, however, also lets me discover new bands and new music that I would not otherwise be able to check out properly.



When Apple purchased Beats in 2014 (as much for its Beats Music music app, as well as its line of headphones and speakers) I was really excited. Apple, after all, has been a huge part of my music listening experience for well over a decade: its iPod and iTunes juggernaut saw to that. However, it only became a juggernaut by virtue of the fact that the end-to-end ecosystem just worked beautifully. Buying, syncing and listening to music was simple and intuitive. The arrival of Apple Music, however, killed all that dead in an instant. Not because what it offers is poor or lacking (quite the contrary), but because of how it has been implemented.

Even now, several months after its launch, it is still causing me grief, requiring multiple engagements with Apple Support to resolve, including my having to spend my time providing screenshots of what has been going wrong. I can forgive Apple for many things, but messing with what was a perfectly functional and intuitive music listening experience approaches sacrilege. Not only did Apple destroy the excellent iOS Music app interface with the launch of Apple Music, it managed to mangle user's iTunes music libraries on launch as well. All of this stemmed from a decision to integrate Apple Music into the existing iOS and OS X music experience, rather than choosing to keep it separate as most other similar service offerings.

Integrating Apple Music into the standard music experience might have sounded like a good idea in theory, and it is certainly in keeping with Apple's general philosophy of integrating its products and services. However, in practice, it would have been best to keep Apple Music as a strictly separate experience, especially given how many features Apple has tried to pack into the Apple Music product. Apple might have been able to get away with this in OS X on a desktop, but it has so totally overcomplicated the iOS Music app that it has gone from something that I loved using, to something that has made me want to throw my iPhone at a wall, more than once.

So, Apple Music is easily the worst Apple product of 2015 for me. It fails because it is so contrary to everything that Apple has always stood for -- it is inelegant, clunky, and counterintuitive. It does not "just work." It is a shame really, as there is a lot to potentially love about Apple Music. However, as it is, I want to see it nuked and relaunched as a discrete, standalone product. Give me my old and much-loved music experience back (with its simple and intuitive interface), and give me the opportunity to truly appreciate the tremendous effort that has gone into music curation in Apple Music, but as a separate standalone experience. Then, and only then, Apple Music could be on my "best" list for 2016.

-- Sanjiv Sathiah
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Jan 2, 2016 at 07:16 AM. )
     
prl99
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Dec 31, 2015, 11:42 AM
 
Actually, the worst product of any year is the amount of space websites give to people who haven't the faintest idea what they're talking about. Mac Pros are purchased by professional users who intend on keeping their computers longer than most. They don't simply purchase a new one on a whim. The original Mac Pro was under-priced for the components it had. It was and continues to be a different kind of product so quit griping about it. As for the smart battery case, I can absolutely see it being used in situations where someone requires long battery life while using their iPhone constantly (business, medical use?).
     
climacs
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Dec 31, 2015, 11:53 AM
 
prl99, not sure what you do for a living but I'm a video pro and many of us are getting the idea that Apple really has abandoned the pro market because they make so much money selling iPhones and other consumer-oriented products and therefore don't believe that our market is worth their time as compared to devoting resources to consumer products and markets. Apple simply isn't sending the right signals to us and yeah, the Mac Pro needs an update. It wasn't that long ago that Mac was the preferred platform for many pro users and studios at every level, from local shops to Hollywood filmmakers and studios. In the last three to four years there's been a tremendous shift to PC, caused partly by the less-than-clueful launch of FCP X as well as the lack of new pro-level hardware. I don't understand why they bothered with re-inventing the pro-level desktop Mac, only to allow it to languish after the 1st generation. Some of us (myself included) are hanging on by our fingernails to the Mac platform.
     
prl99
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Dec 31, 2015, 12:26 PM
 
@climacs 25 years managing a large in-house publications system, finally retired. I know all about hanging on by my fingernails having to fight penny-pinching management who had no technical experience. We kept our Macs and only bought PCs for specialized use when the software vendor refused to write software for Macs. I had to be creative and keep my Macs running longer than the normal turnover schedule for PCs. Have you checked out what OWC has to offer for Mac Pros? Maybe Apple is opening the door again for major third-party upgrades. Just a thought.
     
DiabloConQueso
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Dec 31, 2015, 12:27 PM
 
Serious question: what is the current Mac Pro incapable of doing that a slightly faster, slightly more graphically-powerful Mac Pro could?

I understand the pricing issue (same price for dated tech), but all to many people confuse the power of the computer with the extent of their abilities and talents. In other words, if you can't do it with 5-year-old technology, then more cores and faster graphics aren't going to help. No one became a better photographer because they bought a more powerful computer. No one became a better author because they went from 2 cores to 4. No one edited together a more compelling and award-winning video because they upgraded their graphics cards.

So, serious question: aside from the price, what is it specifically that cannot be done with the current hardware in the Mac Pro that makes one want to leave the Mac platform altogether?
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Dec 31, 2015, 12:30 PM
 
People in general buy Apple computers because they want them to last longer -- ask the service shops that cover both. With OS X having about 13 percent of the US market, they are far less than one in 20 on the repair shelves. So, in itself, the "keeping the computer around longer" isn't much of an argument. For the components it had at launched, it was slightly underpriced, now its significantly overpriced.

There is literally no reason the Pro couldn't have seen an update in the Fall, with TB3 and some of the Xeons they launched last year. Isn't 22% faster CPU, about 15% better GPU, and TB3 better than the same price for the assembly from three years ago? That was the promise of Intel in Apple's machines, right? Faster upgrade cycles?
     
Sneakerpimp718
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Dec 31, 2015, 12:54 PM
 
I've been using Apple products since '79 or so and for the first time I've begun to look at PCs. I'm not going to make the jump yet but as a video/mograph/3d/digital DJ, I agree with the earlier post that Apple has been too vague on their pro market commitment. The "shut up and take my money" idea is gone. The languishing and expensive Mac Pro just doesn't compare favorably to offerings on the PC side anymore. As a 30yr professional in the video world with 9 Macs in my loft I know what I'm talking about. A $4000 Mac Pro computer should be faster than an iMac.

The graphics card restrictions with the Mac Pro are disheartening and a main reason why post people are jumping ship. Nvidia and their CUDA tech has no answer from Apple/AMD and a growing number of software vendors are adopting the tech. A bunch of external boxes is not cutting it to get work done.

The Final Cut Pro fiasco is just that. In all my years I've never seen a company relinquish their growing dominance by replacing it with an inferior product. Why?

Quicktime and Quickview have been downgraded and have severely impacted workflows.

In addition to all of the above, as a longtime DJ and music lover I totally agree with the author that Apple Music is the worst product of the year. I use it for music discovery but I purchase all my music - Good luck trying to do that easily. I have to own my DJ tracks not borrow them.
They combined the music app with Apple music when instead they should have combined Apple Music with the iTunes app. Just add a link to jump between my music app and Apple Music/iTunes. Currently Apple Music has the worst UI of any Apple product - ever. The "current time" indicator is a red one pixel thin line! Good luck trying to advance the song with a fat thumb. What a mess. Call me Apple I have many ideas to sort out some of the mess. For instance - Search uses the whole screen to show links to trending searches. I've never needed quick links to Taylor Swift. Instead show links to my previous searches please.

I'll stop here with my rant... kinda. I will say that something strange is happening in Cupertino. Quality control and/or feedback seems dangerously lacking. Apple, if you don't want my business and recommendations just let me know. I'm starting to feel less like a fan and more like a stalker.
     
MacScientist
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Dec 31, 2015, 01:32 PM
 
Originally Posted by DiabloConQueso View Post
Serious question: what is the current Mac Pro incapable of doing that a slightly faster, slightly more graphically-powerful Mac Pro could?

I understand the pricing issue (same price for dated tech), but all to many people confuse the power of the computer with the extent of their abilities and talents. In other words, if you can't do it with 5-year-old technology, then more cores and faster graphics aren't going to help. No one became a better photographer because they bought a more powerful computer. No one became a better author because they went from 2 cores to 4. No one edited together a more compelling and award-winning video because they upgraded their graphics cards.

So, serious question: aside from the price, what is it specifically that cannot be done with the current hardware in the Mac Pro that makes one want to leave the Mac platform altogether?
Agreed.

However, the we don't have to analyze this situation as deeply as you did. Although I understand that benchmarks are not the "be all and end all," they are useful. Popular benchmark utility Geekbench developer Primate Labs maintains an excellent database of current benchmarks for Macs, Intel processors, and mobile devices.

The two processors that I will report on here are both running in 64-bit multi-core mode. I assume that this is representative of the needs of processor-intensive professional tasks.
  1. 36009--Xeon E5-2690 v2 3.0 GHz (10 cores) [White box PC]
  2. 32224--Xeon E5-2697 v2 2.7 GHz (12 cores) [Mac Pro (2013)]
The top-of-the-line 2013 Mac Pro is the second fastest Intel-based desktop computer available from anyone anywhere.
     
Stuke
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Dec 31, 2015, 02:17 PM
 
Hear, hear! Could not have said this better. Grant choice for worst product from Apple for 2015. If only they would rip apart the music app and like you say, give me back the excellent player for MY MUSIC, and something else for APPLE MUSIC. Heck, place a button in each to jump between the apps...anything is better than this terrible experience I'm having now (left Apple Music at trial end because of it!).
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Charles Martin
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Dec 31, 2015, 03:37 PM
 
I don't disagree with most of what Sanjiv had to say, but I am struck by the fact that everything he mentioned as problems is ... easily fixable. Apple has a habit of waiting overly long to upgrade its Mac Pros, but it would be easy to do so in the ways mentioned by Mike. The iTunes/Music app issues (not really as much about the Apple Music service, which is pretty terrific actually) are very likely to be fixed with software updates, but the kind of redesign users here are talking about would take a while to change over to. I know the response to that would be that "they shouldn't have messed it up so bad in the first place," but Apple still makes mistakes from time to time because it takes big risks, and while the missteps can be very irritating I'd prefer they keep taking risks and occasionally falling flat to not taking any risks, plus I know the power of the Apple community in getting its displeasure heard in Cupertino, so I remain optimistic that -- very much like Final Cut Pro X, which started out reviled and grew to regain its industry-leader status (many major films are edited on it, and countless TV shows), I have confidence that Apple is rethinking iTunes/Music in a measured manner and will respond in time to the major criticisms.
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Dec 31, 2015, 03:52 PM
 
Sanjiv, to change the subject, but have you noticed any improvement in coverage with the passive antenna in the Apple charger? I wonder if it's an improvement or merely compensates for the signal derogation created by the battery. If it's the later, I'd love to see other case maker add something similar.
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Steve Wilkinson
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Dec 31, 2015, 07:23 PM
 
I think I agree for the most part, but at least the battery pack is something useful.

The Mac Pro simply isn't a consumer products... nuff said.

The rest is cloud & software, which mostly now, or always has, sucked at Apple.
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Steve Wilkinson
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Dec 31, 2015, 07:32 PM
 
@ Charles - Do you really think the Apple community is being heard in Cupertino? If they are being heard, I have my doubt whether Apple cares anymore.

And, these software screw-ups don't seem to be mistakes, they seem to stem from clueless designers. Yes, that could be fixed in a software update, if they intended to, or knew how, to fix it.
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Sanjiv Sathiah
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Dec 31, 2015, 08:54 PM
 
@prl99 I honestly don't get your "logic" here. So you are giving Apple a free pass on the lack of any update to the Mac Pro in two years, while continuing with the same pricing as when it originally launched on the basis that Mac Pro users keep their rigs longer than most? I agree that when it launched it was good value for money and that it was an excellent product (see the review I penned for MacNN at the time here: https://www.macnn.com/reviews/apple-...late-2013.html). But you cannot convince me that paying the same price for an "Ivy Bridge" based system (Intel architecture that first debuted in chips in 2012), when Intel has since rolled out Haswell, Broadwell and Skylake architectures, is fair.

Admittedly, Intel has been slow to release upgraded Xeon silicon suitable for the Mac Pro, but it did release an upgraded Haswell-based E5 Xeon in September 2014 that I think many expected would find its way into the Mac Pro 2015, sooner rather than later. AMD has also released faster GPU architecture that could easily have found its way into the Mac Pro too (although it would have had to deliver a custom solution for the Mac Pro). As a Pro buyer in 2015 or right now, wouldn't you want a Mac Pro selling at the same price as late 2013, but with upgraded silicon for the very reason that you propose - because you want the latest and greatest when you buy it (paying top dollar), because you are going to keep it for a few years? By the same token, if Apple were to give it a refresh after 15 months or so, you'd be nuts to upgrade to that model if you'd already purchased the late 2013 model.

It's not like consumers are upgrading the iMacs every year or every other year either, yet Apple updates those models on a much more regular basis (typically keeping the pricing at a similar point, despite the upgraded components). While I don't expect Apple to update their Mac Pro as regularly as they do their iMacs, I think we should have seen an update to the Haswell-based Xeon E5 by now -- given the launch timing of the Haswell- based Xeon E5, we could have expected an update to land around mid-2015 as it was pretty much a straight chip swap (same socket), thus not necessitating any tremendous engineering effort. After all, its iMacs are just about all running on Skylake architecture now.

The other thing I don't get about your mentality either, is why do you choose to endorse Apple's pricing approach to the Mac Pro? Apple is already making money hand-over-fist out of us, and yet you are happy to let them take your money (or other customer's money) despite it now offering less value for money? Have I committed some sort of heinous crime by suggesting that Apple should lower the price of a two year old dated piece of tech? They are making close to 40 percent margins on their overall product line for crying out loud.

So yeah, I think it kinda sucks that the Mac Pro hasn't seen any love from Apple in two years (over two years in reality, as its system config was locked in during mid-2013 when it was first announced, even though it didn't ship till the end of 2013). And, I kinda think it sucks that Apple continues to charge the same price for dated system architecture.
( Last edited by Sanjiv Sathiah; Jan 1, 2016 at 01:00 AM. )
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macguy59
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Jan 1, 2016, 12:06 AM
 
Proofread anyone ?
     
Sanjiv Sathiah
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Jan 1, 2016, 12:50 AM
 
@inkling Unscientifically tested, I would say that there is a slight net gain in reception with the Smart Battery Case on (thanks to its built-in passive antenna). I live in an area with poor cellular reception, with generally no more than two bars of signal reception showing. Typically, I would have trouble pulling data from the network without the case on. With the case on, it is still showing two bars of signal reception, but I seem to be able to pull data off the network that I otherwise wouldn't be able to get. So, nothing dramatic, but potentially useful.
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Sanjiv Sathiah
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Jan 1, 2016, 12:52 AM
 
@macguy59 If you came to the article via the forums, there is a bug that is affecting the formatting of the articles that otherwise appear fine when clicking on them through the home page.
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ADeweyan
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Jan 1, 2016, 10:34 AM
 
The problems with Apple Music/iTunes are bad, but my vote for worst product is El Capitan. Apple keeps removing control in an attempt to create a minimalist interface -- but minimalist is not the same as simple or efficient. I'm finding myself having to jump through hoops to work the way I want to work. Sometimes the hoop is having to undo something the OS is trying to do for me (I NEVER want to use full screen mode -- why can't I turn it off instead of triggering it accidentally and having to back out of it?), or working harder to do things that used to be completely transparent (am I the only one who used the arrows on scroll bars?). With the upgrade, my keychain became unreliable, and Mail.app continues to have significant problems. If Microsoft hadn't screwed up Windows even worse than Apple is screwing up the Mac OS, I'd consider switching, but at this point, there is no good solution out there. Mac OS has become the worst operating system -- except for all the others.
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Jan 1, 2016, 01:37 PM
 
@ ADeweyan - Actually, aside from a kind of ham-handed sales approach and customer-data collection, Windows has improved quite a bit in the last couple of revisions... unlike, as you note, OS X which is being ruined.

I'd recommend just switching to PasswordWallet (by Selznick) or 1Password anyway, so you can better manage your passwords (especially backup and archival... don't depend on normal backup for something that important!), and switch to something like Postbox for email... I don't think Mail.app is ever coming back (and, I say that as someone who loved that app).

Some of the UI stuff can be tweaked if you know the right setting, but yea, in general, it's been downhill for years now in terms of UX/UI.

Your last sentence is right on the mark! The question is... for how long?
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ADeweyan
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Jan 2, 2016, 12:23 AM
 
@Steve Wilkinson - Windows 7 was pretty good, but then it was off the deep end. Windows 10 is a bit of a step back, but still not enough. Windows has always tried to do too much for you -- often getting it wrong, and now Mac OS seems to be rushing down that path. I've been using 1Password for a while, but always loved the integration of Keychain until it stopped working.

For close to 30 years I was an early adopter, installing new Mac OS versions and updates with excitement for new features and little fear of problems. But I've been burned by the last few updates, and each one has gotten progressively worse as they first tried to iOS-ify the desktop OS, and now are removing control and flexibility in the name of minimalist design.
     
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Jan 2, 2016, 03:54 PM
 
I don't recall Apple launching a "Sanjiv Sathiah." Might as well wait till the next revision now...
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Jan 2, 2016, 06:07 PM
 
@ ADeweyan -
I didn't use Win 7, so I've just heard it was pretty good. But, I've used Win 8, 8.1, and now 10, and in terms of what I've used it for, 10 seems to be a pretty big step forward in terms of setup, refinement, etc. It's a huge step backwards in terms of advertising and privacy for sure.

I agree with you on the rest.

re: passwords and keychain - I haven't actually used it, as I just won't trust that kind of thing to Apple's cloud, but I could imagine the integration might be nice. I've been using PasswordWallet since my Palm days. The big feature for me was the 'auto type' aspect, as I used it a lot with terminal windows. That's not as important to me these days, but I still like that it can work with any app, not just browser windows. And, while it looks a bit more old-school, it's way more space-efficient on OS X. The iOS UI needs work, but I only use it there as a look-up for the most part.

We must have gotten into the Mac around the same time, as I've got to be around 30 years too. It was sometime in '86.
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applesean
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Jan 2, 2016, 06:10 PM
 
I would nominate the Apple Podcasts app, which see no love from Apple in terms of a dedicated team who desires to build a high-performance podcasting app. No app on my iPhone is as slow, buggy, or features as poor UX as the Podcasts app. It has ceased to be very useful since it was moved out of the music app.

I might also nominate all battery-powered devices, which have, still, too small to be useful batteries.

Finally, I would nominate all retina screens because Apple still fails to offer an anti-glare version of those screens.
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Jan 2, 2016, 07:16 PM
 
@ applesean -
I agree about the podcast app. It was once pretty good, but like most things, the 'new' Apple is bent on ruining it with 'flat', lack of thought about the app's use, and general programming incompetency.

Regarding batteries, I'm actually fairly happy with Apple there. Under normal use, most of their products go all-day now, which is fine for most people. If you're a special case, I guess just get one of the battery packs. If you're an OS X user with a laptop, the battery life is *so* much better than 4 or 5 years ago that it's night and day.

Regarding the screens, I suppose it depends on the environment, but I don't miss the matte that much. I did initially, but in my environments, I now don't anymore. But, it would be nice to have the option. I can imagine it still is an issue in some environments.
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MitchIves
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Jan 2, 2016, 08:03 PM
 
Wow, first... congratulations to the author on writing the most truthful assessment of the MacPro's dwindling on the vine... and as to "Climacs"... you really nailed it! For prl99, I see you're first retired, and two a graphics guy not a video guy. I love it when people tell us that the Pro is just fine. I tell them try 4K video in multiple streams. Here, you can simulate it on your end... take a basketball in your right hand and then shove it through the garden hose in your left hand. The MacPro needed multiple processors from day one. Second, where is the 4K monitor, let alone a 5K? Clinics is right... the consumer toys, the iPhone, iWatch and the other iToys are Apple's focus. One by one, all the power users will be forced onto the alternative...
     
   
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