I’m an Apple fan-boi. I have all the kit. I listen to all the podcasts.

But this year, I’m not loving it so much. I’m irked by my erstwhile favourite podcasters. Is it them? No. Is it me? No. It’s Apple.

There’s the long-running bad-tempered spat with “the developer community”. Using Apple products means that, as a user, I get to access a world of excellent applications which work seamlessly on all my devices. (More on that later.) On mobile platforms, Apple acts as a gatekeeper and charges hefty commissions to developers who want to sell there. It feels a bit anti-competitive, and some developers are fighting Apple in the courts while others are increasingly bitter.

The EU Commission has decided that it will not tolerate what it sees as anti-competitive behaviour. In response, Apple makes all sorts of smart legal moves to comply without complying. US tech companies have been running rings around legislators for decades. Very clever. Except that the EU Commission is not a legislator in the US mould. If the EU Commission is doing something, it will do it. Laws? Who cares? Fair? Who said life was fair?

To cut a long story short, we are at the point where the EU is saying:

“Oi. Cook. Stop playing the smart arse, or we’ll reduce your money machine of a company to a rotting carcass that the lawyers will pick clean.”

And they will, too, unless Cook wises up.

It doesn’t matter, as Apple, as the thought leader of big tech, is in decline. It has taken a bath on billions of investment into a driverless car that was never going to ship. It has launched a technologically advanced headset that’s too expensive and upon which there’s no software to run. Apple hasn’t made any, and developers are shrugging, disinterested. Whoops.

None of this is particularly new.

Apple sales rest upon customer experience. From unboxing onwards, everything just works and integrates seamlessly with all other things Apple. So, consumers aspire after the phone, then the AirPods, the watch, the laptop etc etc. We pay over the top for cloud storage, Apple Music and Apple TV+ because it all “just works”. Until it doesn’t.

The HomePod. The first generation came to market in 2018. Quickly, it became apparent that sales were low and the product was flawed. As always with Apple, they shrugged their shoulders and made no comment. I have a pair in my office and use them predominantly to play music or podcasts. For long periods, they refused to work as a stereo pair, sometimes playing slightly out of sync. For the best part of a year, they would make ominous popping sounds. In the absence of official commentary, the Techeratti confidently declared “hardware problems”. They had no evidence, of course, so they just made stuff up. Mine fixed themselves - presumably indicating that the problem was a software one. As of now, they’re misbehaving again. Falling off the network. Playing then stopping. It’s infuriating. Right now - the HomePods are excellent paperweights. Next month, they might work. Who knows?

HomePod doesn’t matter - but what it points to does.

Apple’s home assistant is the worst in class. By some distance. It has been for years. Siri is so bad; it’s funny.

AI - or, more accurately, LLM. Apple is way behind the peloton.

“But their laptops, desktops and phones are great!”

Sure. But are they different?

The iPhone is no better than Google’s Pixel or Samsung’s flagship. They’re all glass rectangles that run apps, and the apps are increasingly the same across all platforms.

Apple silicon makes for optimised machines that run Apple software very efficiently, much like Microsoft machines run Microsoft software very well. The “Pro” lines are beautiful machines, but there are plenty of other beautiful machines out there, too.

Why is it that I pay a premium on hardware, software and services again?

If I’m asking myself that question, others are.

There’s a narrative that goes, “Apple is obsessed with profitability, putting supply chain management and margin maintenance before all else. They’re shafting developers and shafting consumers.”

Am I throwing out all my Apple kit? No. But when it comes time to upgrade or replace an element - it’s no longer a given that I’ll buy from Apple.

Is it just me? Is the old man shouting at the clouds again? Let me know what you think at stuart at stuartlennon dot com or in the member’s Slack.

My writing is supported by people like you. You can become a member of the site here: Members access the serialisation of my first novel draft and comment on it in a member’s Slack. They also get a free electronic copy of anything I publish during their membership. Sign up—help me move writing from a side project to a main project.