We’ve seen over the past couple of days that a lot of people are angry about Apple removing the headphone socket from the next iPhone. Personally it doesn’t affect me. My iPhone 6 Plus will be my last iPhone, so anything missing from the new one is irrelevant to me. But Apple’s decision to drop the headphone socket is something that should concern — and indeed frighten — everyone.
For a few years now, many people in the tech community have taken it as a given that Apple are developing a self-driving car. It would be laughable to think that they aren’t. And one thing that we can confidently predict is that it will be a spectacular commercial success. In a few years, right at the point when other car manufacturers have conditioned consumers and governments to fully accept autonomous vehicles, Apple will pull back the curtain and reveal the iCar, or whatever they decide to call it. Backed by Apple’s marketing savvy, and a gazillion over-reaching promises of how much better it is than every competitor’s offering, there is simply no conceivable way that it can fail. You can be one hundred percent sure that within the next decade, whether you’re a driver, or a passenger in a vehicle, or just walking along the pavement, somewhere nearby there will be a two-tonne metal box, travelling at lethal speed, controlled by an Apple operating system.
The idea of an Apple-developed self-driving car is terrifying. Because as much as Apple is known for making nice products, they’re also known for making flaky products and then not just failing to fix them, but wilfully choosing to leave them broken.
I currently use an iMac, a MacBook, an iPad and an iPhone. I’m far from an Apple fanboy, but I’ve certainly been a fan of their products. The trouble is, a big part of why people like me choose to use Apple products is because they work well together — and nowadays they simply don’t.
For example, a couple of times each day I get a notification on my iPhone saying that I need to authorise it to use iCloud, Apple’s cross-platform syncing service. So I do. Apple send me a code by text message, and I use that code to go through the authorisation process. Right up to the very end, at which point it fails. It has been like this for years. Apple’s message boards are full of cries for help from people who can’t authorise their devices. Apple’s response? They have no idea what the problem is.
People who use Apple computers to develop software mostly use an Apple product called Xcode. It’s a fantastic piece of software. Right up until each new version comes out, that is. Because when you go through Apple’s update process, not only does Xcode fail to update, but it stops all of your other software from updating. The only solution is to delete Xcode from your system, then download it and install it fresh. Apple’s response? Silence. Another problem that has been going on for years, unsolved and unexplained.
All of my Apple devices should be able to share files using a service called AirDrop. Doesn’t work. Sometimes I can send a file from my iPhone to my iMac. Sometimes I can’t. MacBook to iMac? Forget it. And don’t even bother trying with the iPad. Apple’s solution? Well for a few years now they’ve been quite happy to just ignore the problem, so I don’t see them fixing it any time soon. They do still like to advertise what a good feature it is, though, regardless of how unreliable it is.
But of course all of these problems are dwarfed by the Lightning cable and socket. This is how you charge current iPhones and iPads. It’s how you get data off them, do backups, sync iTunes, etc. And they’re awful. The cables are so prone to breaking that Apple only guarantees them for three months. The sockets on the phones fail for various reasons — they get dirty, they slacken off, and the connection to the phone’s main board becomes loose. As a consumer, I don’t care why it happens, I just care that it does. I have to charge my iPhone two or three times every day, and I can’t use it while it’s charging because moving the phone even slightly can cause the charging to stop. Worse, the cables/plugs are a well-documented fire risk, so it would be foolish to leave the phone unattended while it’s charging, or to charge it overnight.
If you live in the real world, where people have to take responsibility for their actions and are driven by some crazy desire to just do the right thing, you might think that Apple would have owned-up to making a “duff” product. Lightning cables were a nice idea, but they’re badly designed to the point of being annoying and dangerous.
But in not owning-up, Apple helpfully revealed a lot about the disdain they have for their customers. Did Apple re-think the design of the faulty Lightning cable? No, they reduced the length of guarantee, knowing that customers would then have to buy replacements. Did they fix the problems with the Lightning sockets? One would like to think that they might have tried, but there’s certainly no evidence of it.
And now, Apple customers have received the greatest slap in the face of all. Rather than Apple admitting that Lightning cables/sockets are flawed, and perhaps moving to a standardised and reliable USB port, the company is sticking with Lightning and now also using it as the headphone socket. Apple claims that this is an act of “courage”. The pretence is that it will allow them to make nicer phones. Nonsense. They’ve done it so they can extract a licence fee from headphone manufacturers who want to make compatible ‘phones. And they’ve done it to sell their own $159 wireless earbuds.
In itself, dropping the headphone socket from the new iPhone isn’t a big deal. Apple can do whatever they want with their own products — nobody has to buy them.
But sticking with the Lightning connector most certainly is a big deal. As consumers, we now have 100% cast-iron evidence that shows how Apple deals with faulty products. They stick with them. They don’t back off. They don’t admit the fault and fix it.
Apple is a company that doesn’t admit to faults, and doesn’t fix them. In a few years, Apple will want you to gamble your life, and the lives of people around you, on trusting its autonomous car. That’s a very high stakes gamble.