Apples Lock-In

As you maybe know I switched recently to Linux and Android and lived before that the Apple-Lifestyle. I had a 2011 MacBook Air, an iPhone 4S and an iPad1. So I really could see what Jobs meant with his e-mail when he wrote“tie all of our products together, so we further lock customers into our ecosystem“.

This is only a critique about Apples way locking someone in. That doesn’t say others do not try the same. Google tries to get you into their eco-systems or Amazon wants you to lock you into the Kindle-ecosystem. Therefore Google can show you more ads and Amazon can sell you more Kindle-books etc. But their lockin-strategy involve to be ubiquitous thus I can at least change the manufacturer of my laptop or my phone. Yes, I know Apple is in the hardware-selling business but not being able to change hardware and operating systems is in my experience worse than having several apps for reading ebooks on my device.

So, let’s start.

iCloud

I’ve seen more and more applications adopting iCloud as a medium to share documents between devices. Usually you need the same applicaiton on all your devices. Like iA Writer on the iPhone and iA Write on the Mac and the iPad to get to those documents. So if you saved your documents to iCloud, you won’t be able to get them onto another operating system.

Contacts and Calendars

Apple uses Caldav and Carddav, standards, to synchronize calendars and contacts between devices. It should be easy to get read/write-acces to them, right? Right? Nope. You can share a caldav-URL easily but that is read-only. If you want to give someone write-access, you can do this only easily when they are also in the Apple-ecosphere. And I cannot remember having something similar available for Contacts at all. Sure you can export all the data and get ics-files for your calendars and vcs-files for your contacts but I cannot use iCloud easily. And I need to use iCloud for syncing because I am doing stuff together with people and we are all accustomed to use the the Apple-service.

Fortunately some other people wrote software to get those URLs2 but you have to find that first.

iTunes

iTunes won’t let you sync music to other devices than iOS-devices and iPods, everybody knows that. And getting your music collection onto those devices iTunes is the only way to use. Btw. I know several people who switched away from iOS-devices or wouldn’t get one because they dislike iTunes or cannot use it for some reason like using Linux.

And iTunes Match is only usable with iTunes and iOS-devices. It’s nice to have but when I thought about switching, I didn’t want to give up that functionality. Contenders have at least software for iOS and Android to make that possible.

And then there is the DRM. It is not necessarily Apples fault but the content industry that wants DRM. But if I do not have iTunes available, I cannot legally watch the video-content I aquired licenses for. Yep, I am into buying DVDs3 again.

Podcasts.app

I checked it today and couldn’t find any way to export podcasts. To be honest it is the only podcast-app on iOS that I know that doesn’t allow exporting subscriptions as opml. But afaik it works great together with all the other Apple-products.

Update: You can export your list of podcasts from iTunes and you can sync the app with iTunes. But you cannot export a list of podcasts right from the podcast-app on the iPhone.

Apple TV

Nice device, if you are living the Apple-lifestyle. Step away from the path and it becomes pretty useless afaik.

Facetime and Messages

Oh, you want to use Messages or facetime with someone who doesn’t have an Apple-device? That’s your problem. All the people you know have iOS-devices, but you don’t? Well you can’t use what they might be accustomed to.

Apps

This is actually a problem of all operating systems and ecosystems. But this was a reason for years for not even thinking about switching to another mobile OS. I just spent too much money on apps, that I won’t be able to use anymore. This was really hard to overcome in my mind.

The Future

Thinking about upcoming releases and the lock in, Continuity comes to mind. The feature in which you can start working on something on your computer and seemlessly continue to work on it on your iOS-device. Sounds great, but moving away from Apple and that feature will be lost.

Conclusion

Using only Apple-products is great. Everything works pretty much seamlessly together but moving away one step and a lot of things just break. Thus Apple really tries to get you to use their new features, so you integrate them into your workflows. And when you use only Apples products and some of their third-party-developers like Omni, you are becoming dependent on them and cannot switch easily to anything else. After all you have to rethink how you get things done at the end of the day. With using those features you gain some utility but also loose a bit of freedom of choice in the future.

I don’t have a grudge against Apple that they are doing what they are doing. It is an important strategy to get more sales. But I see often complains about other companies that try to lock you in, but Apple mastered it imho.


  1. which I still have and use

  2. A solution for desktop-computers is here. For syncing iCloud-calendars on Android you need iCloud Sync for Android and for syncing contacts you need Sync for iCloud Contacts. Or if you have already the URLs you can probably, just use apps for adding caldav- and carddav-support to Android which makes it a more general approach.

  3. And maybe sometime in the future Bluerays but HD doesn’t give me enough bang for the buck that I will start using Blueray in the near future.

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