The Sad Evolution of Apple?

I bought my first Apple product in the summer of 2010, a 13″ MacBook Pro, after years of encouragement from friends. At that point I was already pretty fed up about Windows (XP at the time) so my hesitations were due to the somewhat high price tag of the beast, at least compared to other laptops of the time such as ASUS and Dell, and even IBM. However one day I ended up spending some time in front of one, and magic happened: Windows all of a sudden seemed square and stuck, and only my old IBM ThinkPad could match the solid quality feel the MacBook offered.

A special offer meant I also got an iPod Touch with the laptop: unlike my little Logitech MP3 player (partially bought a few years earlier to rebel against the fact that everyone else was buying Apple) the iPod was ready for advanced applications such as Spotify. Later I’ve been long-time borrowing an old iPhone and have acquired an iPod Mini and an iPad.

I don’t think I have blindly invested in so many Apple: every item has been compared to the competition with a willingness to choose the best product. The Apple products simply won because they by far seemed the best, and whatever small gap they may have had in terms of cutting edge technology was plenty made up for in overall quality feel.

Unfortunately it seems that those days might be over; gone, some speculate, with Steve Jobs.

The thing is, I want to get an iMac. Or rather, for a while I’ve been wanting to get a proper desktop setup at home, with a large screen good for photography and a powerful stationary machine. Having used Linux at work and kept an eye on Windows through the machines of relatives, Mac OS X is still the clear winner in terms of operating system: Linux remains a hobby project and the people behind Windows are still not getting it. This more or less leaves an iMac. However, while Apple still wins hands down on operating system, their recent aggressive policy for making money on hardware makes the decision tougher than previously.

First off, the positions in the technological race appears to have been swapped, with Apple now being a fair bit behind the competition as opposed to keeping them on their toes. They are a huge company making a lot of money so it is not a question of not having the resources to keep up. More plausible is it that they are simply milking their current fame. This is supported by their new shorter product release cycle and the apparent mentality of stretching out the technology they have.

Secondly, and more importantly, they are making their products harder to repair and upgrade. One might argue that gadgets such as the iPhone, the iPod, and even the iPad, are not interesting to upgrade simply because they wear down or most of the technology in them become outdated quickly. However, this is a lot harder to argue for laptops and desktops; for these a new hard drive, more memory, or a new battery can prolong the lifespan by at least a few years. Still, Apple appears to be strongly pushing for a two-three lifespan of their MacBooks and iMacs.

Looking at the iFixit Teardowns there forms a pattern over the past year that Apple products have dropped rapidly in their repair and upgrade score: from 7 out of 10 to 3 out of 10 for the iMac, and from 7 out of 10 to 1 out of 10 for the MacBook Pro. In most case by glueing components together instead of using screws.

One may ask if glued-in components is just the natural evolution in making gadgets smaller. Unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be the case. iFixit gives a new Asus Zenbook laptop 8 out of 10 and the Sony PlayStation 3 Super Slim 7 out of 10. What about tablets then, can glue here be justified since they clearly must be as small as possible? The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 scores 8 out of 10 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 out of 10; only the Microsoft Surface comes close to the iPad with a score of 4 out of 10 — and the iPad 4? 2 out of 10.

In summary, it seems that Apple are actively trying to prevent you from upgrading any of your electronics, from the iPhone over the iPad to now also the MacBook — they want you to buy a brand new one, throwing out all the components (such as screen, keyboard, case, optical drive, and main board) that are still all right. Imagine the waste.

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