APPLE

Jason Snell Releases Six Colors Apple's 2023 Report Card

Jason Snell has published his excellent Six Colors report card, summing up and assessing Apple's 2023 performance. Jason was kind enough to ask me, along with my colleagues Benjamin Mayo and Zach Hall, to participate in this year's survey.

Head over to Six Colors to read the entire article. You can also find a breakdown of the average scores for each category and how those scores have changed over the past nine years. Full comments from me, Benjamin and Zach are below.

Mac

Chance: 4/5

The Mac continues to evolve at an impressive pace, even three years into the Apple Silicon era. The 15-inch MacBook Air is a great addition to a line that I think more people are buying than some of us realize. The Mac Pro sits in an awkward spot, but at least it now has Apple Silicon inside it. I still hope that Apple will be able to release this “extreme” Apple Silicon chip someday. It's pretty hard to justify choosing a Mac Pro over a Mac Studio these days. Finally, 2023 was the year the Touch Bar died. The new entry-level MacBook Pro is a much more attractive machine than its predecessor, even if it's a little more expensive. This gorgeous ProMotion display is more than enough to justify the increased price of my book

Benjamin:

I think both the 15-inch MacBook Air and the base MacBook Pro M3 are very important steps forward for the Mac. Their appearance meant that Apple had finally given up matching display characteristics to the processors that powered these laptops. This was a big improvement for the squad. The Mac Pro was a disappointment, although that doesn't really matter since the machine had niche appeal anyway. But I hope that one day Apple will be able to offer a real trophy top-end Apple Silicon Mac

iPhone

Chance: 5/5

The new 5x camera was a real achievement for me. I've already found myself viewing photos and videos from it much more fondly than I ever did photos and videos from the 3x telephoto lens on previous iPhones. The ability to record spatial video for the Vision Pro is also a nice bonus, even if you have to make some compromises in video quality.

FineWoven's new iPhone cases are absolutely terrible. I'm hoping that Apple has already gone back to the drawing board and planned something better for the launch of the iPhone 16. iOS 17 was a solid update for me, headlined by things like Live Voicemail and Stand By for me. Interactive widgets are useful, but not as useful as I expected.

Benjamin:

The industrial design of the iPhone 15 series is on par with the best iPhone models. The matte glass of iPhone 15 and the titanium body of the Pro models will make this generation memorable for years to come.

iPad

Chance:3/5

There's no new iPad hardware in 2023, and that's not a bad thing. I don't see anything wrong with Apple taking its time to release meaningful hardware updates for the iPad. I certainly don't think the world needs another iPad Pro update where the only change is a new processor inside.

In iPadOS 17, Stage Manager has made some very nice improvements. I was glad to see that Apple made these changes just a year after the feature was first launched. We don't always see Apple making such improvements over last year. For me, these updates to Stage Manager mean that I can actually use it without losing my mind.

Benjamin:

Fixes some critical Stage Manager issues just a year after the feature was first introduced in iPadOS 16.

Wearables and Apple Watch

Chance: 4/5

Does Apple really need to release a new Apple Watch every year? I don't think so, and this year's Apple Watch update was proof of that. I'm still a very happy user of the first generation Apple Watch Ultra, and nothing in the second generation even remotely tempted me to upgrade. I'm sure Double Tap is useful, but I really don't think it needs to be tied to the new Apple Watch hardware.

The most impressive feature of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Series 9 is the device's built-in Siri. This makes Siri noticeably faster and allows you to ask Siri for your health data for the first time. But at the end of the day, it's still Siri.

AirPods Max came out three years ago, and it's a shame that Apple is still selling them for $549. Don't get me wrong, I have AirPods Max and use them every day. I just wish Apple would give them some attention.

Benjamin:

Sometimes double tapping is useful. watchOS 10 has come a long way and has succeeded to some extent. AirPods Pro gets better with new software features. But the AirPods Max are on the decline, and even the base model AirPods don't have a USB-C case option.

Apple TV

Chance: 4/5

tvOS 17 brings a surprising number of improvements to the Apple TV, including VPN support and FaceTime support. It also adds an extra column of app icons, so you can see six icons in a row instead of five. It sounds like a small change, but the ability to fit six icons in the top row of apps is very useful. I still think the Apple TV is the best streaming box money can buy, even though there are no changes made to it in 2023. She does everything I want her to do and does almost everything perfectly. I just wish it was a little cheaper.

Mayo:

tvOS 17 was a really strong update. You won't believe how much joy it can bring to have one extra app icon on every row on your home screen. Features like FaceTime via the continuity camera will require (in the future) special hardware accessories, but being able to use your iPhone in a pinch is good for now.

Services

Chance: 3/5

Apple Arcade, Apple News+ and Apple TV+ are more expensive in 2023, as are the corresponding Apple One packages. This was the first year that I really questioned my Apple One Premier subscription, which is currently $37.95 a month! It seems to me that the math still works in favor of the Apple One Premier, but the buffer is much closer than before.

For example, it's pretty hard to recommend Apple TV+ at $9.99 a month. If it wasn't included in my Apple One package, I don't think I would be a year-round subscriber. Apple News+ now includes The Athletic, which for me more than makes up for the price increase. I've been a paid subscriber to The Athletic for years, so this is a big win for me. Plus, bonus points for adding crosswords to Apple News+. I love crosswords, and Apple's are very good.

HomeKit/Home Automation

Chance: 2/5

The Home app is still a mess, Matter is a disappointment, and Siri is still unreliable even for the simplest smart home tasks. To make matters worse, Apple failed to launch a new architecture for the Home app and HomeKit. The feature arrived in iOS 16.2, but was quickly disabled after people said it broke compatibility with a number of their accessories. Apple finally relaunched the new architecture in iOS 16.4, but has anyone noticed any significant improvements? On the other hand, Apple released a new full-size HomePod in 2023. Siri issues aside, it works great and sounds great. However, I still hope Apple is working on more smart home hardware.

Benjamin:

I love that Apple is making a regular-sized HomePod again, but I'm a little disappointed is that they haven't changed much from the 2018 original. But I'm glad it's back at all. There's not much new for Home overall this year.

Hardware reliability

Chance: 5/5

All my Apple hardware is very reliable and seems to get better almost every year. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is also the most reliable iPhone I've ever owned, and my first-generation Apple Watch Ultra still looks as good as day one. It's been a few months since I received my 14″ MacBook Pro in space black and it's cleaner than my midnight MacBook Air ever was.

Benjamin:

I'm struggling to think of a real reliability disaster in 2023. The temperature issues with the iPhone 15 at launch do come to mind, but these days it's not an issue.

Software quality

Chance: 4/5

The software on all my devices seems more reliable than ever. Apple is also getting better and better at fixing bugs quickly, especially on the iPhone. They are not afraid to release several small, targeted updates to fix problems rather than merging everything into one larger update.

Benjamin:

As with hardware, Apple had a very successful year in terms of software reliability. Everything worked well. Some features missed their original launch dates but still came out before the end of the calendar year in good shape.

Developer Relations

Chance:

WWDC 2023 was clearly focused on getting as much interest from Vision Pro and VisionOS developers as possible. The Vision Pro Developer Labs seemed to be quite popular and helpful for those who attended. Apple has not lifted the so-called “pause” from casino and gambling advertising in the App Store. I guess this is a point in their favor. There will be big changes to the App Store in 2024, whether Apple likes it or not.

Benjamin:

Developer relations remain positive, especially for indie developers, but more and more large companies are getting screwed by App Store policies. And yet Apple doesn't change much until the government forces them to do so.

Environmental, Social and Social Impact

Chance:

Apple launched its first carbon-neutral products, which should not be overlooked as the company works towards its goal of becoming fully carbon neutral. neutral by 2030. The Home app in iOS 17 also adds a new Grid Forecast feature that shows you a forecast for when your energy supplier will produce electricity from carbon-neutral sources like solar and wind. Features like Grid Forecast and Clean Energy Charging in iOS 16 are still in their infancy, but I think they can play an important role in educating Apple users on how they can be mindful of their environmental impact.

I wish Apple would have suspended advertising on Twitter sooner than it did. I also didn't like Tim Cook's half-hearted explanation of why Apple still advertises on the platform.

Benjamin:

Providing carbon neutral watches is a big deal, even if 20% of that comes from purchasing carbon credits.

Any other comments?

Zach:

Have you ever thought that Tim Cook might be the first Apple CEO to retire?

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