My entry into the Apple world took place in 2007 with an iPod Classic. I made school presentations on my first desktop computer: an iMac. Shortly afterwards, I held my first Apple smartphone in my hands - the iPhone 4. At some point the first iPad followed, a few years later during my studies I purchased the first MacBook. Now it is not without a certain comedy that Apple managed to bind me to the company with the Apple Watch (which is, apart from the AirTags and the iPod Shuffle, one of the smallest Apple products). Although I recognise the ingenuity behind this marketing strategy, I curse Apple for it.
My first smartphone was actually a Samsung i8910 HD, which was far ahead of the first iPhone generations in terms of camera. In fact, it was the first smartphone to record videos with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at the time - hence the "HD" in the name.
However, I could not get along with the Symbian operating system, which is why I switched to the iPhone 4 quite quickly. iOS was so simple and intuitive and the first apps were just great. Hard to believe, but back then I actually spent money on an app that simulated a beer glass on the iPhone screen, so that when you tilted your smartphone, it looked like you were drinking beer from an iPhone. Isn’t it awesome what makes technology makes possible!
Since the iPhone 4, I have remained loyal to Apple. I have tried many different iPhone models over the past eleven years and have witnessed all changes since iOS 4. After eleven years of iPhone and iOS, however, I fancied a change of scenery. There are also many Android devices in our editorial office, which is shared with PC Welt (and in the UK with Tech Advisor, and the US with PC World) so you inevitably come into contact with Apple’s competition.
Therefore, I dared to experiment. The iPhone 12 Pro went into the drawer and for three weeks the OnePlus 9 Pro was my daily driver. And although I was very satisfied, Apple managed to curb the "bad Android" in me and claim me back to the Apple fold again.
Apple's ecosystem: good and bad
The OnePlus 9 Pro has some features that, if one believes the rumours, will not all come to the iPhone 13 (expected in a few weeks time). These include fingerprint sensor under the screen, 120 Hz display, and a good camera… At the first the new operating system was a welcome change from the iPhone. But I quickly realised that the iPhone simply has certain advantages that an Android device just doesn’t offer.
Apple's ecosystem is perfectly coordinated: Once you are sucked into iOS, Mac and iPad, App Store, Apple Music and iCloud, there is practically no escape. You might be able to replace an iPad or Mac with a tablet or computer from another manufacturer, but it is a lot more complicated with the iPhone. Apple has succeeded in a stroke of genius, especially when it comes to Family Sharing.
With Family Sharing, you can share access to Apple services such as Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade with up to five family members. And your group can share even more: iTunes, Apple Books and App Store purchases, an iCloud storage plan, and a family photo album. You can even help each other find lost devices.
That's nice, isn't it? After all, you can save a lot of money if family members only have to buy a service or digital offers (apps, music, books, movies) once and can then share them with each other. That's true, of course, but in reality, Apple binds users even more to the company through such offers - without you really noticing as a user. Although Apple Music can now also be used on Android devices, it is not via Family Sharing.
This means if you want to use another smartphone instead of an iPhone, you have to pay for Apple Music again. Around £10/$10 a month. The same applies, of course, to your paid apps and movies that could previously be used "free of charge" via Family Sharing.
Apple’s secret weapon - the Apple Watch
However, Apple's real secret weapon is the Apple Watch. It is the reason why I returned to my iPhone following my Android experiment. For me, the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch you can buy at the moment. I have tried many other smartwatches over time, but none come close to the Apple Watch.
I actually own two Apple Watch models: the SE (without LTE) and the Series 5 (with LTE). Switching to an Android smartphone means that you can’t enjoy the full functionality of the Apple Watch. There is a way to make an Apple Watch work even without an iPhone, but you need an Apple Watch with LTE function, for which you have to buy an eSIM. Then you can set up the watch for someone without an iPhone via the family configuration (not to be confused with Family Sharing).
Another disadvantage is that WhatsApp messages are no longer mirrored because the watch is not paired with an iPhone on which the messages could be received. Also few, if any, of the health functions are available via the family configuration.
It would all be so easy if Apple allowed the Apple Watch to be paired with an Android device. I can't imagine how many watches Apple would sell if that was the case. Not every Android user wants to switch to an iPhone, but there are certainly one or two Android users who can be persuaded to buy an Apple Watch. There is a certain reason why Apple does not allow this - and that brings us back to the beginning.
Apple's strategy is undoubtedly clever and creates interfaces between the different products that make it difficult to escape from Apple's ecosystem. If you are willing to give up and compromise, an escape from the system is possible. But Apple manages to ensnare us with services and products in such a way that pure convenience ultimately forces you to remain loyal to Apple if you don’t want to do without great experiences. As already mentioned at the beginning: I recognize Apple's ingenious tactics behind it. But I curse Apple for making it so difficult for me to break out of the Apple circle.
Different Think is a weekly column in which Macworld writers expose their less-mainstream opinions to public scrutiny. We've defended the notch, argued that Microsoft is out-designing Apple, and told Apple to stop being so successful and Why nobody needs a foldable iPhone.
This article originally appeared on Macwelt. Translation by Karen Haslam.