After 10 years of loyalty, I have made my first unfaithful gesture as an Apple supporter. I have changed the primary email client on my phone from Apple’s mail app to the Gmail app. I have also started forwarding all iCloud mail to Gmail.
I cannot say Apple has forgotten the user experience but they have been neglecting it. Take, for example, the one simple thing Apple can do to make me switch back to the mail app - fix its dysfunctional search system on both the phone and its iCloud website.
As it stands now, Apple mail limits searching to local copies of emails by category - from, to, subject etc. Moreover, the results of such searches are generally inaccurate. Searching for more results “on the server” is even more of a headache. On iCloud, I have to login, wait for the web app to load, search, wait for the search result to load and, in most cases, it never returns the correct result.
In contrast, the Gmail app is quick and responsive. Not only do I get accurate results but I have access to the search feature instantaneously. It is, in all respects far superior to the mail app as is Gmail on the web.
The obvious counter argument here is that a search company would, of course, have a better search function. But let’s look at the bigger picture. Apple made its billions off of creating world-changing devices, Google made it off of curating data. Apple, however, has thus far shown that it has only invested its huge cash hoard in revising the same devices, while Google has invested in the best ways to deliver its data expertise to people. Its Gmail app search function is just one example of that. Google Now might be a better one.
I would imagine the recent decline in Apple’s stock price is the product of, among other things, millions of customers making little changes like mine. Rather than focusing on customer experience, Apple has focused on the market and how it can compete in little niche segments, hence Apple Maps, the iPad Mini, and countless releases of relatively unchanged iPhones.
There is a Steve Jobs interview you can get on Netflix or Amazon Prime, in it Jobs says he thinks he has figured out what makes a business great, it is not its focus on the bottom line but its support of designers that make great products. You can read some excerpts from the interview here.
Rather than focusing solely on market share, Apple may want to shift its focus back to what helped it make its great products in the first place - the philosophy that, regardless of personal preferences, all people respond to good design. That philosophy yielded game-changing hardware and seamlessly integrated software which delivered a fluid user experience.
Apple is still one of the most well-managed and well-funded companies in the world with the luxury of capital and resources. Hopefully, it will continue to employ those resources with a focus on the user and not the bottom line. Only then will we see if it can stand the test of time.