You’ve got five minutes with Apple boss Tim Cook. Quick: how would you use your time? What idea would you pitch Which product would you beg him to launch – or ditch? And (assuming he asks) where would you advise him to take Apple over the coming years?
For this fantasy feature, we put ourselves in that wonderful (and entirely imaginary) position. We created an Apple manifesto for 2013 and beyond. From iPhone mini to iPad 5, from iWatch to iOS 7, here’s what we’d like to see from Apple’s next round of launches. Oi, Mr Cook! We’d like a word…
The Next App Store
App video previews
We get to listen to 90-second clips of songs on iTunes before shelling out (fun fact: at one stage the record companies wanted to charge royalties on these). And we can view trailers before buying digital films. So why can’t we see what an app does before clicking ‘download’?
Considering the number of negative reviewers on the App Store who complain that the app they’ve just bought isn’t what they expected, it would be in all parties’ interests to include brief video previews as well as a few screenshots.
Whether you got bored of typing your password and disabled the warnings, or just clicked on an app too soon after buying another, the chances are that you’ve bought an app by mistake at some point. Many of us swear, sigh and put this down to experience; the only alternative is to report a problem with the app, which usually leads to a refund but is obviously unsatisfactory if you don’t want to spoil the record of a blameless developer.
We’d like to see a ‘Silly me! I hit download by mistake!’ button, which would refund your money if pressed within 15 minutes of the download.
Finally, and most importantly, Apple needs to sort out search on the App Store. There’s 800,000 apps on there,
but most are effectively invisible because the search function is so weak.
It should be sensitive to version numbers, for one thing, since many users won’t know if a sequel to an app is an update (iBooks 3) or an entirely new release (Fieldrunners 2).
No more secrets
Don’t Gossip!, 1941, by Nina Vatolina and Nikolay Denisov
Followers of Downton Abbey will recall the Lady Grantham’s great lament: “Is there anything worse than losing your lady’s maid?” We believe there is. It’s when you buy a new iPhone on launch day and, due to its new shape and size, you can’t get a decent case for it – or connect it to any of your old accessories.
Sure, this is a minor issue in the broad scheme of things, but it’s just one example of how Apple could stand to temper its legendary secrecy with a little more openness in order to improve its customers’ lives. This is the final item on our Apple wishlist.
In the weeks leading up to the launch of the iPhone 5, rumours abounded about the phone’s shape shifting and, in particular, about the replacement for the dock connector. But many vendors – like consumers – didn’t have a chance to see the new connector until launch day.
This meant that vendors couldn’t update their docks and other accessories ahead of the launch. So they rushed to implement those changes without, in some cases, adequately testing their products. The end result? Consumers suffered from a less than optimal out-of-the-box experience. And that type of disappointment undermines the excitement of an Apple launch.
Likewise, while a few apps here and there had been optimised to take advantage of the new, larger screen, the overwhelming majority of developers had to head back to the digital drawing board, or suffer the indignity of seeing their apps with black bars displayed at the top and bottom of the screen.
iWork in secret
You can make an argument for not releasing information outside the company prior to a launch (especially Apple, which so often has to play the expectations game). But why keep your own employees in the dark?
According to Inside Apple author Adam Lashinsky, many Apple employees end up working in a vacuum; he has described the “lockdown rooms” where those developers toil. The problem is that when employees can’t see the whole picture, they can’t always make good decisions. (Might the launch of Maps have gone better if more of Apple’s employees – and their spouses and friends –had been able to provide more real-world testing?)
And the thing is, cross-innovation could very well help Apple. Remember back in 2011 when iCloud was first released? It worked beautifully with iOS. With Mac OS X Lion? Not so much. If the iOS and OS X development teams had merged back then, we might have been a step ahead of where we are now. And that would be a good thing,
at least from where we’re sitting.
The black market
When you walk into most high-street shops and they’ve run out of whatever you came for, the staff can generally tell you when the item will be back in stock. They might even be able to locate you one nearby.
When you walk into an Apple Store and ask for an in-demand item that’s out of stock, don’t expect a lot of information. Sure, they can put in an order for more iPhones, but according to one former employee, that might not be granted, since corporate powers-that-be determine where units are most needed.
This lack of information from Apple also creates some truly insane black markets, particularly in the Far East. In Singapore in late October 2012 – after the iPhone 5 had been officially released there – we visited six or seven Premium Apple Resellers, and none could say when they’d get a new shipment of iPhones. Yet they were surrounded by unofficial sellers in kiosks with plentiful stock at a hefty markup. In some places, 16GB phones were being sold for as much as $1,250. The price gouging only feeds the frustration of even the most dedicated Apple fans.
Here comes the sun
Despite these and similar issues, there are signs that Apple may be lifting the cone of silence. Last October, the company announced a restructuring that put several key executives in a position to oversee larger groups of developers. If we’re lucky, this will, as the press release promised, “encourage even more collaboration between hardware, software and services teams.”
We can haggle over whether “even more” is the right term to use, but Tim Cook doesn’t seem to be afraid to kick down a few windowless walls and open things up a bit. So we think there are grounds to be cautiously optimistic that things are changing for the better. And that’s one secret that should be shouted from the rooftops.