My time in the Apple ecosystem has finally come to an end, sort of. While I still have two late-model 2015 Macbook Pros that I will continue to use until they become too painfully slow to tolerate, they are now void of almost all traces of Apple software... Except for the glowing white logos on the back signifying them as Cupertino products, they are otherwise normal Windows laptops.
It didn't hit me as much of a surprise as I thought it would, considering my tech background. My first personal computer shipped with Windows 95 way back in my youth. Dismayed by the disgusting looks and poor performance, I was exposed to FreeBSD by one of my teachers at the time. The idea of console control, changeable interfaces, and unrestricted access stuck. From my childhood until well into my mid twenties, I ran some form or another of either FreeBSD, OpenBSD, or Linux (most typically Gentoo or ArchLinux).
As most technocrats back then, I derided Apple, Inc for its contained and walled garden approach to technology. The lack of control and expansion insulted users who were capable of it, while the decidedly forced hardware choices left little imagination or room to build upon needs. For a long while, their tech looked goofy (the 1999's iMac colors, the early iBooks with their stupid round clam shell looks), it was unappealing and behind on interface design, and the software availability was comically lacking.
By 2005, when I came to possess my first iBook G4, the game had changed with the release of OS X. OS X, at its core, is a Unix kernel called Darwin, and is built upon the BSD system of which I grew up on. There is terminal access and more control over the system than historically available, although interface meddling is rare and almost impossible. When I came to possess my first mac, I found it tolerable - but it would be years before it replaced my Linux machines... Fast forward to 2014...
By this point, I had a young child, a full-time job, and photography was becoming a major hobby in my life. I was a part time student in business school and had a wife at home growing a young family... I was losing time to tinker with machines every day. ArchLinux was becoming a pain to deal with because I'd miss releases for a while and when I caught up, things would be broken and I'd lose a day repairing the system just to repeat it all over again in a month. My 11 pound gaming laptop had not aged gracefully, as most things Asus made hadn't. I was also a heavy android user but the devices at this period were unrefined, buggy, and garbage. I'd had every Nexus in the lineup and one day, while on a video call, it crashed and powered off... Again... One of a dozen that day.
I had enough. I was done tinkering and suffering through the limitations of mediocrity. No true android phones existed that were worth a damn at this point, all major PC manufactures were in a race for bottom line, bottom quality products. Cheap plastic, crappy parts, Windows 8, and buggy, childish-looking android interfaces. The tech world was bleak. I threw my Nexus 5 in the garbage (after formatting and encrypting it), and I set off to T-mobile... I bought an iPhone... Then I bought a Macbook several months later.... Then my ex-wife bought an iPhone.... Then we got Apple Watches... And things were good. Ish....
OS X, as a primary OS, was refined and simple. Things "Just Worked", the go-to defense of Apple lovers. And, indeed, things just worked... Simply. The OS has many functions that are frustratingly absent, like an ability to just maximize windows, to name one... The layout and controls treat the end user as too incompetent to know what they want, and therefore lack a large section of customization and features that are otherwise standard in literally every other OS or user interface since 1993. The device treats you as a moron, but in exchange for being treated like a moron, you get a stable product that simply does what it is intended to do. Features trickle in slowly, long after other manufactures have tested it, and you get a more polished and basic version.
As photo editing went, Adobes suite of products (while a massive ripoff) do work well... Though, I'd argue no different than on any other x86 based PC. The iPhone played nice with the macs in the house (and only them), ran good, and didn't randomly shut off or reboot like my Nexus devices of yore. I was content, but a few stops short of happy.... One thing I did like, however, was the build quality of my Macbooks... Something I still love. They're well designed, hold up good, have aged gracefully, and are still my most favorite laptop design I've ever used.... But that's it, that's as far as my happiness goes....
In 2017, I was on my second iphone iteration. I had retired my iPhone 6s+ to my work phone and had an iPhone 7+ as my personal one. Things were good, but the iPhone's lack of headphone jack and introduction of the (undeniably stupid as hell) "dongle" system was already starting to grind my axes. I left the company I had helped co-found by early 2018, and no longer was required to supply my own device. My next company opted to provide their own cellphone to me... A brand-new, Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.
I remember holding the phone for the first time and, before powering it on, just rolling it around looking it over. This... Was different than the android devices I recalled... This was... New... Fresh... It was.... Grown up... It was.... dare I say it? Nice... I turned it on and, after years of playing with early Galaxy editions, was expecting to be met by a childish and disgusting interface that Samsung had once called "Touchwiz", a fitting name because using it felt like pissing your time away on a Fisher Price themed toy.
In place of this comical interface was still yet-another custom layer over stock android, this time called "oneUI"... But unlike interpretations before it, oneUI was under-spoken, elegant, unobtrusive, functional, easy to customize, and pretty. I liked using the android phone and the vibrant screen was a real treat from the basic, LCD backlit turd the iPhone 7+ had shipped with.... In about a months time, the S8 became my daily driver, with my personal iPhone being left behind for most tasks.
As months went by and 2019 came around, several updates came to the 7+ and Apple had begun doing its regular tricks... Updates started slowing the device down, the battery was being software-locked against fast charging, the device was not getting as many new features, and it was getting slow. By this time, my company had gone out of business and with it went my S8 and my HP Envy laptop, which had introduced me to Windows 10 and quickly slashed OS X out of my life... We were acquired by another firm and they were iPhone centrist, and thus I had my personal 7+ and a work-provided 6s.... It was miserable, as the only thing worse than one intentionally nurfed iPhone is two... By this point, I had stopped using OS X all together and had placed Windows 10 on both my Macbooks. A decision I have yet to regret for a second, but Microsoft isn't perfect, either...
Around this time my iPhone 7+ started having screen issues (which I guess was a known problem), the battery sucked and I'd kill it routinely before the day was over, and my charging port required Aztec sacrifices to make it work... Time to upgrade, I figured... So off to the T-mobile store I went.
I had largely tuned out the iPhone X and XS/XR hype as I don't care much for minor upgrades or yearly releases. I had followed it a bit and found it comical how a design flaw like "The Notch" could be sold as a premium feature... But, what can you do? Consumers are stupid and if you can trick them into buying a flaw as a feature, they'll pay for it... So I decided to look over the current lineup regardless of my sheer apathy towards it. The first thing that caught my attention was the price. Apple had created what was simply a minor spec bump and an ugly screen mess, and slapped a 20-60% bump in price on it... Under the guise of new features, more memory, and this stupid notch thing... In reality, Apple had just stopped releasing its iPhone sales numbers after several quarters of slumping performance. The days of yearly upgrades were over... Apple wasn't going to start innovating again, they were just going to offset the slump by drastically pushing a price increase against its loyal customers, who would literally buy anything this company sold, so long as it represented a premium status. This wasn't me... I laughed, and walked away.
I spent weeks researching online, and the Galaxy S10's impending release date was just around the corner. The device kept coming up and I found myself stuck between waiting for it or getting the OnePlus 6t... I opted to wait and go see the S10 in person. On the 9th of March, I went to T-mobile and played with the demo unit. Every small feature I didn't like about my S8 Plus was gone, the already sleek body was refined, the pin-hole camera, while still a stupid gimmick, was less intrusive than a notch. The OLED display was incredible, and the small bezels meant beautiful screen real estate. I was sold. I bought a black S10 128gb edition that day, at $500 less than a comparable iPhone, and I sold my 7 Plus on the Facebook Marketplace a week later. I never looked back.
Weeks later my Apple Watch, which I had now synced to my work iPhone 6 purely for health tracking, suffered a known fatal flaw. The Gen 1 watches were known for the batteries to swell. When they did, they separated the screen from the body. Funny enough, I happened to be standing on the roof of a building three floors up when I heard a noise on my wrist. I went to look by pulling the sleeve up a bit, and the screen to my apple watch flopped off, and went flying down a storm ditch across from the roof I was on... Whoops.
I shrugged and threw the piece of garbage in the trash. I didn't buy it, it was a gift, so I lost no money. I never much cared for it, or the ugly looks it had, as it appeared childish in my mind. I set out on a quest to find a good fitness tracker replacement.... But ultimately was drawn towards the Galaxy Watch by Samsung. What I can only describe as the most elegant smartwatch I've used to date, and the only one I've actually liked more than I've hated. With its comical departure from my life, the Apple Watch signified the end of an era for me... One that I am glad is over.
Apple had been earning my ire for a while... After Steve Jobs died, the company languished in design hell... Innovation seemingly stopped and features were being chunked into the same phones over and over with new color schemes, seemingly to keep people buying. The new MacBook Pro lineup was a laughable insult to anyone in design or photography. SD card reader? You'll need a $60 dongle for that. USB-A/B? Dongle... Dongles, dongles, dongles... I laugh every time I say the word. That's exactly what I want for a premium laptop, the physical equivalence of DLC's... And, stupid shit that can easily be lost while travelling. I already have to manage $15,000 in camera gear on a trip, in addition to the laptop... Can I please have one fewer damn thing to lose?
The new iterations of the Macbook have all but solidified my departure from their hardware once my mid-2015's start failing. My eyes are closely watching many of the high-end HP and Dell products, as Windows 10 has finally matured to a great OS and PC makers finally stopped racing to the bottom on quality. I am done with their laptops once their laptops are done with me... And that, most likely, will be the last time I venture into the Apple ecosystem.
Looking back three months into my conversion to Android, Samsung, and PC, it hasn't been flawless... I do miss the small things like AirDrop and Wifi Password Share on macs and iPhones. As well as the messaging integration into OS X and notification sharing. But nothing is perfect, and there are general workarounds for all of this. Samsung features its own notification and file-sharing app between PC's and its phones, which works adequate enough.... And frankly, with Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and Telegram, I find that I don't even notice the lack of iMessage support.
Three months in, this feels more like breaking up with a controlling person than it does the loss of great products worth their price. I finally feel like I've got my money's worth of the products I've bought, and I am glad to have the freedom to use my devices as I see fit. Apple served to fill a void that existed at the time... A void that its competitors have long since closed up and refined, realizing they were losing because of it. I love my S10 and Galaxy Watch, I enjoy using windows 10, and I will likely never come back to Apple...
So before you buy the next iPhone simply because that's all you've used, or because they find a new notch or remove another port to dupe you on... Shop around. The market has changed drastically just in four years, and while Apple itself isn't worth the premiums they stack their logos on, many other manufactures have rightfully fought for and won their place to be called "premium" manufactures now. Don't buy something just because you've applied status to it, buy it because it matches your needs, your wants, and your lifestyle.