Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

The grades are in!

Since 2015, the site’s first year, I’ve been doing the Apple Report Card, a survey of sentiment from people who spend an unusual time thinking about (and, often, talking or writing about) Apple. This year’s panel featured 65 different people, and the grades are in. I’ll be posting the results, along with commentary from the panelists, later this week.

(The commentary from participants ran to 30,000 words! After going through all of them and highlighting favorite passages, I’ve cut that down to about 7,000 words. Next up this week is threading them together into something that passes as readable. It’s a lot of work.)

Anyway, here are the scores:

Our panelists generally feel like Apple’s doing a good job with the Mac and a great job with the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Just as Apple’s balance statements indicate, Services are hot and Wearables are through the roof.

The pain points are perhaps the most interesting. Apple TV was greeted with a rousing “meh” from the panel, and HomeKit barely fared better. While hardware reliability scored well, the quality of Apple’s software earned a grade of D-plus. Ouch.

The trends of 2019 are even more apparent when you see the overall change in average scores from last year:

2019 really was the year of Services, with Apple launching many new ones. Despite a pretty uniform dislike of Apple News+, the panel dramatically raised the Services grade. Full credit to Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade, I suppose, as well as a general feeling that iCloud is far more stable than it used to be.

Then there’s software quality, which took an ugly swing the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before in the survey. The iOS 13 and macOS Catalina release cycles… were not appreciated by the panel. If this survey measures general sentiment, the general sentiment is that Apple needs to turn around its flailing software process in 2020.

Finally, a note about the “Environment/Social” category. This is a weird category, in that what it’s really about has changed a lot over four surveys. Back in 2015, the category was mostly about the working conditions in Apple’s Chinese factories. It’s also been about Apple’s privacy stance, its support for green power, and the recyclability of its products. This year, it seems to have become (at least in part) about Donald Trump’s appearance alongside Tim Cook at a Texas plant that assembles the Mac Pro, and about Apple removing an app from the App Store that was being used by Hong Kong protesters—along with more broad concerns about Apple’s choice to accept the rulings of authoritarian regimes in China and Russia.

There’s no consistency in the scores from that category from year to year, but it’s definitely an empty vessel into which the panelists can pour their sentiment about whether Apple is living up to its own lofty ideals as a corporation. It’s always fascinating to see what bubbles to the surface every year.

You’re the first people to see these results. Look for the complete report card on the site later this week!

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