Alex Kaloostian

Apple Certified Master Trainer | Systems Integrator | Video Editor | Motion Graphics Artist

What is Apple doing with their hardware??

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Apple has gotten a lot of criticism, especially as of late, and I suppose they deserved some of it- iOS8 and Yosemite has some pretty major bugs that took far too long to squash, Apple Music wasn’t perfect, but I really dont think it was as bad at the tech blogs made it out to be. Heck, even iCloud isn’t really that terrible- it’s no DropBox, but I’ve been using it daily and had no trouble since Mountain Lion. And even if you’re one of the unlucky ones who have been suffering data loss or other major issues, I’m happy to say that the betas of iOS9 and El Capitan are surprisingly solid and excellent, and I think we have a good year coming on the software front.

But what the heck is Apple doing on the hardware side? They have always frustrated me with their lightweight lineup of products and irritating tendency to hold back and hold back till the competition has almost finished their first lap. But lately it has been downright ridiculous.

The most glaring, maddening examples are certainly in the accessories department. Let’s have a look at the Apple Thunderbolt Display, once the undisputed zenith of display technology, with a resolution that outshines all the competition, a gorgeous IPS display, and a built-in Thunderbolt dock, with USB2, Ethernet, Audio, speakers, mic, camera and even a Magsafe charging cable for a Macbook Pro. It also came with a price tag to match it’s caché- $1,000! Though when it was introduced back in 2011, you could almost say its price was justified.

Problem is, its not 2011 any more. Now you can easily find displays from HP, Dell and others that have higher resolution, better clarity, at a third of the price or less. Apple’s own iMacs are now razor thin and make the Thunderbolt display look positively corpulent. And what are they thinking, keeping Thunderbolt 1, when 2 is standard on almost every other Mac and Thunderbolt 3 is on the way? And USB2??? But worst of all, worst of all, this thing still ships with a Magsafe 1 charger hanging off of it, though every laptop Apple makes now uses Magsafe 2. So its marquee feature doesn’t even work with their own hardware any more. Enjoy your useless dangly cable, people. You paid $1,000 for it.  Now, I know Apple isn’t known for caving into peer pressure and changing their prices regularly, but this thing is downright embarrassing and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

At the other end of the price range, the Magic Trackpad is anything but. I can get bluetooth trackpads for less than $30, but this thing is still $69. Yes, its meticulously engineered, beautiful and a joy to use. But The Bluetooth inside is old school and a battery hog, and with the Macbook  and Macbook Pro now sporting pressure-sensitive Force Touch trackpads with haptic feedback, its obvious this thing is due for an upgrade. I cant recommend anyone buy it right now.

Press as hard as you like, it’s not doing anything different.

Actually, even though I feel Apple as a company is still firing on all cylinders, the list of things I recommend people DO NOT buy is distressingly long:

  • I do NOT recommend you buy a MacBook. Though they are gorgeous, surprisingly light, and have great battery life, they are still nevertheless an overpriced proof-of-concept, and you’re going to get stung if you want to be an early adopter. Its almost a given the next model will be just as lovely, come with 2 USB-c ports, and a lower price tag.
  • I do NOT recommend you buy a Macbook Air. The last refresh was anemic, and its embarrassing they still only come with 4GB of RAM standard. And why no force touch?
  • I do NOT recommend you buy a MacPro. New Xeons are on the horizon, and they badly need Thunderbolt 3- they cant even support 5k resolution that the iMacs some with standard.
  • I do NOT recommend you buy a Mac Mini. I know they are the low end, but why the heck did they drop the quad-core option? I cant tell you how many people were using these as servers. And taking away the option of upgrading the RAM. even though its the EXACT SAME BODY, is just pointless and feels openly hostile to users. We have very big, heavy solid wood desks in our office. I may or may not have broken a desk the day I discovered the RAM could no longer be accessed.
  • I do NOT recommend you buy a Mighty Mouse, Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad.
  • I do NOT recommend you buy an Airport Extreme. Yes, its still one of the ebst wireless routers out there, has USB and 3 gig ethernet ports, and great range. It also fits nciely on a shelf. But the software is maddeningly light on features. Yes, Apple’s going for ease of use, not power users with this model, but if its ease of use that’s important, Apple is about to be eclipsed by Google, so I’d hold off and see how the OnHub is.
  • I do NOT recommend you buy an iPhone. Obviously New ones are going to be announced in just 2 weeks. They will almost certainly support force feedback and Force Touch (which will also make the Macbook Airs look even more outdated).
  • I do NOT recommend you buy an iPad Mini. Even though I just did, and I think they;’re fabulous, it was just… weird that they didn’t get the new processor. You do know the Mini 3 is the exact same as the 2, but they’re charging you $100 for the touchID button, right? Thats just wacky, and they need to fix it. They’ll be releasing a new model soon.
  • I do NOT recommend you buy an iPad Air. Like the Mini, I’m actually thrilled with these, and they do everything you could want and then some. But marketing is marketing, and they will be putting out a new model soon, probably with features you don’t really need. Which means the current model will be cheaper.
  • I do NOT recommend you buy an AppleTV. I use mine EVERY day, I love it, and the price is great. But it is being eclipsed by smaller, cheaper products form Amazon and Google, and not even considering the thought of an App Store or streaming TV service, its just sad that these things haven’t been upgraded in years. Apple was supposed to be at the lead of streaming, they killed the CD, they killed the Blu Ray, so what the heck are they doing sitting on their laurels on what should be their keystone product? It needs more storage, it needs better streaming, it needs a better remote, it needs HomeKit, and it needs it NOW.

So what WOULD I buy right now? Well, the Macbook Pro Retina is still one of the best laptops ever made. It has no peer right now, at the price or close to it. Id love a discrete graphics card in the 13″ model, but I acknowledge its not something most of the market needs. And if Metal is all its cracked up to be, I could see some nice performance gains even on my 3 year old model. Solid laptop, you wont have any regrets.

The iMacs are also still great. They have a bunch of options for hard drives or crazy fast PCI SSDs, the chips are more than good enough, the 27″ has upgradeable RAM, they come with great cameras, great mics, Thunderbolt 2, USB3, BlueTooth 4, and the 5k display is… just… gorgeous. I’m not kidding, if you haven’t seen one of these in person yet, you really need to get to an Apple Store and look at one. It’s breathtaking. I am covetous.

But this is a depressingly short list. Personally, I;d love to see Apple change the world again. I’d like to see them do something with the huge mountain of cash they’re sitting on. They have the best R&D department, the best designers, the best minds in the tech world. Why aren’t they throwing some things out there and seeing what sticks? They can certainly afford a flop or two! Are they just so arrogant or paranoid that one bad product will tarnish their shine? Don’t worry Apple, you already released a phone that couldn’t make phone calls, another one that bent in peoples’ pockets, a tower with no internal expansion, and let’s not forget the laptop with one port. And yet you’re still here.

I’m not suggesting Apple go full Sony and release 15 different cameras with indistinguishable specs, but there’s a big, big gulf between what Apple is doing and, say, putting a speaker into a TV remote. Come on, Dan, get off your butt and do something!

Just not this.

Author: alexkaloostian

I'm a video editor, motion graphics designer and Mac IT consultant in the Boston area.

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