Is Apple going downhill? (2016)

Let me start this with an anecdote:

Recently, Apple released an open beta for iOS that disabled the use of the Apple pencil for all UI elements other than in drawing apps. People quickly got upset and made a fuss, and then Apple went back on their change and re-enabled support for the pencil in system menus.

I argue that your position on Apple going “downhill” will largely correlate to your reaction to this sequence of events. First of all, let’s realize that the Apple of 5 years ago would not be giving an open beta for their iOS platform and certainly would not change a key design function of their platform based on user feedback. The Apple of 5 years ago was solely focused on their ‘design vision’ and would frequently ‘mess things up’ from a user perspective to lay the groundwork for future developments.

Remember how hesitant they were to change the size of the iPhone? Remember how standardized the product SKU’s were for Apple’s devices until recently?

So in that sense, yes. Apple has lost their air of being a monolithic, hyper-focused company. However, let’s not forget that this style was often to their detriment. Apple TV was hot garbage until they allowed 3rd party apps on it, as was the iPhone. So there are benefits to bend to the will of the consumer / developer.

To answer your question, ‘Is Apple going downhill’, I think the jury is still out. Steve’s passing obviously had a big effect on the company. Under Tim Cook’s leadership, we’ve seen big changes: a lack of design clarity, but also a new approach to crafting a more diverse catalog of devices. Apple has opened up their inner workings to public scrutiny quite a bit more (i.e. open betas), so perhaps we’re just seeing things that would have been shielded behind NDA’s in the past.

There are some very valid ‘canary in the coalmine’-esque products which make even the most bullish-Apple fans take pause, like the bizarre Apple battery case for the iPhone and the Apple Pencil - both of which made tech enthusiasts’ eyes roll. (It is worth noting that the Apple Pencil has reviewed very well)

However, I believe that Apple hasn’t yet lost their edge: the Macbook line is still very strong, as is the iPhone. As long as they don’t deviate too much from what made those products the successes they have been, I don’t see Apple doing poorly anytime soon.

Oh, and just keep in mind, Apple is one of the most wealthy companies on the planet so I think they can safely afford a bit of a slump.


This was originally a Quora answer which you can find here.