About a year ago, I penned an article about how happy I was that Google was taking over my iPhone. The premise was simple: Android is no match for the iPhone in most key areas — read my earlier article titled “8 reasons I still can’t leave the iPhone and switch to Android” for more on that — but Google’s mobile software and services are almost always far superior to Apple’s.
Three of the most popular Apple bloggers in the world recently began talking about Apple’s serious app and service problems, and it shoved this ongoing issue back into the spotlight. It also made me stop for a moment think about how I use my iPhone, which led to an interesting revelation that’s dripping with irony: All of the best apps on my iPhone are made by Apple’s two biggest software rivals.
It’s pretty interesting to stop and consider the current state of apps at Apple. The company has managed to create what is unquestionably the best mobile app ecosystem that has ever existed, and yet its own iOS apps are constant sources of contention. Hardcore Apple fans argued for a time that Apple’s apps weren’t as bad as people suggested, but even they seem to be changing their tune now that popular Apple bloggers are openly complaining as well.
I recently sat down and thought long and hard about which Apple apps I actively use on my iPhone. Discounting the Settings app and the App Store, I came up with four: Phone, Messages, Camera and Music.
When it comes to Phone and Messages, Apple’s apps are fine but in reality, it boils down to the fact that I have no choice. If Apple gave developers the ability to replace default apps and access to iMessage, I seriously doubt I would ever touch either preinstalled app again.
Where the Camera app is concerned, it’s a simple question of convenience and speed. There are hundreds of camera apps in the App Store that are far better than Apple’s but when I want to snap a photo, the quickest way to do it is to slide up on the lock screen using the Camera app shortcut.
Finally, I use the Music app all the time but I don’t like the interface or overall user experience at all. It’s sloppy and overcomplicated, but it works well enough and I like accessing streaming and my local library in a single app. I rarely play music on my iPhone when I’m anywhere other than my car, and Apple Music picks up right where it left off each time I start my engine.
For just about everything else I do, I use a third-party app. And it has to be a painfully bitter pill for Apple to swallow that some of the best iOS apps on the planet are made by Google and Microsoft, companies that can be considered its only two real rivals right now where consumer software is concerned.
In fact on my iPhone, just about all of the most important apps I use are made by one of those two companies.
To browse the web, I use the Google app. Unless I’m in an app and I click a link, all of my web browsing begins with a search anyway. Actually, the only time the actual Safari app is ever open on my iPhone is when I’m in a third-party app that doesn’t integrate the browser.
For directions and information about nearby businesses and locations, I use Google Maps. The Apple Maps app has gotten much better and I tried to use it exclusively for a period of time, but it’s still nowhere close to being a match for Google Maps.
For email and calendar, I use Outlook. It’s difficult to put into words how much better Microsoft’s email app is than the Apple equivalent. And I had been using Moleskine’s gorgeous Timepage app as my calendar, but having email and a calendar in one app is great.
The list goes on and on. Microsoft-owned Skype is far better than Facetime for video chats and conference calls since everyone uses it (though dealing with Skype’s customer service was arguably one of the worst experiences of my life). Google’s Snapseed is one of my favorite photo editors, and Google Photos backs up all of my images. I also use Microsoft’s Xbox One Smart Glass app to control my TV, and while I very much dislike using productivity software on my phone, I typically use Microsoft’s Office apps when I have no choice.
On the whole, the iOS experience on the iPhone is a terrific one and I do use many iOS features constantly, like Apple Pay, iCloud and plenty more. But where apps are concerned, I only use Apple’s apps when I have no other choice because the alternatives are far superior.
And when those alternatives are made by Microsoft and Google, it means Apple’s top rivals are using the company’s core product to bolster their own businesses by collecting more data, locking customers into their ecosystems, and so on.