By Jason Snell
January 25, 2018 11:33 AM PT
Apple in 2017: The Six Colors report card
It’s time for our annual look back on Apple’s performance during the past year, as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple.
This is the third year that I’ve presented this survey to a hand-selected group. They were prompted with 11 different Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1 to 5, as well as optionally provide text commentary on their vote. I received 50 replies, with the average results as shown below:
Since I was using the same survey as the two previous years, I was also able to track the change in my panel’s consensus opinion compared to the previous year. The net changes between 2016 and 2017 surveys is displayed below:
Judging by my panel’s responses, 2017 was something of a bounce-back year for most of Apple’s core platforms. But there was still plenty of concern to go around, especially when it came to the quality of Apple’s software.
But enough of this top-level summary. Read on for category-by-category grades and commentary from three dozen different Apple watchers.
Grade: C (average score: 2.9, median score 3, last year: C-)
After a year of frustration in 2016, the Mac in 2017 was more of a mixed bag, which some promising signs—and a lot of residual frustration. Josh Centers of TidBITS described it as “a mixed bag,” and Serenity Caldwell of iMore cited “the highest highs… and depressing lows.” (One procedural note: This survey includes answers from both before and after the iMac Pro began to ship.)
“Tim can say whatever he wants, but the evidence to date is that Apple doesn’t care about the Mac very much at all,” said my former Macworld colleague Rob Griffiths. Developer James Thomson said “it’s still a great time to own a Mac, but it doesn’t seem to be getting the love from Apple right now.”
“I feel like the Mac rallied a bit this year—we got a new file system and nothing blew up,” wrote Mac Power Users host David Sparks. “We’ve had the beginnings of a Mac revival, if not full-on renaissance,” wrote Accidental Tech Podcast co-host Casey Liss.
“Apple’s apologetic recommitment to ‘pro’ Macs in April is a big step in the right direction,” wrote Accidental Tech Podcast co-host John Siracusa. “But Apple’s track record with Macs in the rest of 2017 is not great. The new Mac Pro is still a promise…. Apple said all the right things about the Mac in 2017, but it hasn’t yet done all the things that need to be done to get the Mac back on track.”
“I miss feeling confident that Macs represented the most stable and trustable part of their ecosystem,” wrote podcaster Merlin Mann. Wirecutter editor Dan Frakes wrote, “For the first time since the early 2000s, there’s no current [laptop] model that I truly enjoy using.”
“I can’t think of a more dispiriting year for Mac users… not in the iPhone era, anyway,” wrote tech columnist Andy Ihnatko. “In an age when Windows hardware is vibrant and flourishing, the Mac is looking shabby and forsaken.”
Writer Glenn Fleishman put it well: “Despite shipments, upgrades, and improvements, 2017 seems like one of the worst years emotionally for the Mac as a platform since it seemed that Apple might be about to go under.”
Grade: A (average score: 4.4, median score 4, last year: B+/A-)
With the addition of the iPhone X to the product line, as well as revisions to the “classic” iPhone line with the iPhone 8, the panel’s general mood about the iPhone was good. The iPhone’s rating returned to the score it received for 2015, after a flagging of enthusiasm in 2016.
“iPhone X, baby. It’s everything I could possibly have asked for in a 2017 smartphone,” wrote Joe Kissell, publisher of the Take Control ebook series. Dan Provost of Studio Neat called the iPhone X “the most exciting iPhone since the iPhone 4.”
“The iPhone X, simply put, feels like a new generation of phones from Apple,” wrote Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels and Relay FM. “It sheds a decade’s worth of conventions and hardware to usher in something new… it’s a light, shining the way down the road to the next ten years of iPhones. That’s super exciting.”
“Huge breakthroughs in security and ease of use thanks to Face ID, and the screen is beautiful, and the cameras are just stunning,” wrote independent writer Shawn Blanc.
“A heck of a gamble… and Apple seems to have pulled it off,” wrote educator and podcaster Fraser Speirs. Developer and podcaster Marco Arment said iPhone X “took a lot of huge risks, and they paid off… it’s great.”
“I really think no other company would have been able to implement a core UI change like Face ID and make it feel like the most natural thing you have ever used,” wrote Analyst Carolina Milanesi.
“By releasing both a new ‘best’ plus an ‘even-better-than-best’ iPhone, Apple got to freestyle into the super-luxe price point while doing nothing to leave conventional users behind,” wrote Andy Ihnatko. “And the iPhone X is damn purty.”
“It’s a great f—-ing phone,” wrote podcaster and podcast-industry executive Lex Friedman. “Can you say f—-ing on Six Colors?” (Good question, Lex.—Jason)
“iPhone X is a 5. Apple’s messaging on the battery issues was a 1,” wrote iMore’s Serenity Caldwell. “A year that should have been a slam dunk for the company was marred by security issues and battery concerns.” (Most of the responses to this survey occurred before the iPhone battery story broke.)
Grade: A- (average score: 4.1, median score 4, last year: B+)
This was a bounceback year for the iPad, as new hardware and improved sales gave Apple’s larger iOS device a shot in the arm.
Here’s what Federico Viticci of MacStories had to say: “Apple didn’t disappoint with the 2017 iPad Pros - quite frankly, after the lack of updates in 2016, they absolutely delivered with a refreshed 12.9-inch model and the new 10.5-inch one. I love the form factor of the smaller iPad Pro, and its thinner bezels give us an idea of how beautiful an edge-to-edge iPad might be in the future. The ProMotion Display available on both models is hard to describe, but it makes a difference in everyday usage; I recently had to use an old iPad without ProMotion and thought the screen had issues. The combination of iOS 11 and new iPad Pros was a great year for the iPad. Now let’s hope we won’t have to wait another two years for updates on hardware and software…”
Stephen Hackett wrote, “The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is my favorite tablet to come out of Apple. The size and power feel like they are in the perfect balance…. iOS 11 brought a brand-new multitasking system to the iPad, and for the most part, it’s pretty great. I think the idea of pairing apps is limited in some ways, but I understand the concepts behind the choice. Where I struggle is in the differences in iOS 11 between the iPhone X and iPad. Too many implementation details simply clash if you use both apps often.”
“iPad hardware has never been the problem,” wrote Fraser Speirs. “It’s always been about the relative capabilities of iOS in the tablet form-factor. Many were delighted that Apple had done anything at all for iPad in iOS 11, but my view is that many of the core features simply replaced one set of non-scaleable design decisions with another set of non-scaleable design decisions. Notes has evolved into a lovely and mature app… at the same time, other iOS apps like Mail and Calendar are stagnating.”
“Applause break,” wrote podcaster James T. Green. “This is the year that my iPad has become my new general purpose computer.”
“The 10.5” iPad Pro is the best all-around iPad ever made, and iOS 11 got significant iPad productivity enhancements,” wrote Marco Arment. “There’s still a long way to go, but this was a great year.”
“This is Apple at its best,” wrote MacDrifter’s Gabe Weatherhead. “2017 was the year of the iPad.”
So has the iPad reached its zenith? Not hardly. Our panel singled out all sorts of areas that deserve growth and attention.
“I was really hoping to have an improved [keyboard] design with backlight,” wrote Carolina Milanesi. “I still feel that the keyboard is the iPad Pro’s weakest link.”
“As a photographer, I feel that Adobe’s doing a better job of integrating apps with the iPad, but without real file management options, I can’t take my iPad on the road without feeling some pain about image storage, productivity and more,” wrote former MacWEEK and Macworld editor in chief Rick LePage. “I know many people are able to do it, but every time I talk to someone about their iPad workflow, it’s full of ‘then I need to do this’ or ‘I’ll fix this when I get home’ workarounds.”
“I’m still waiting for an even larger, more powerful iPad that can be used for professional creative work that currently requires a Mac—or a Microsoft Surface Studio,” wrote John Siracusa.
Grade: A- (average score: 4.0, median score 4, last year: B)
The only platform in this survey to have improved its score every year, the Apple Watch has seen its standing increase a full point from 2015 to 2017.
“Typically, I put my Apple Watch on every October and stop wearing it sometime in early November,” wrote Josh Centers. “It’s January now and I’m still wearing it, which I think is a testament to how reliable and responsive watchOS 4 is.”
“The new hardware plus the incremental Watch OS improvements have made the Apple Watch a truly good piece of kit,” said software developer Jessica Dennis.
“LTE hasn’t been the game-changer I thought it would be, but I blame my addiction to my iPhone, not LTE or its implementation on the Watch,” wrote Stephen Hackett.
“The Apple Watch Series 3 is simply sensational,” wrote Fraser Speirs. “And Siri on the S3 Apple Watch might just be the best Siri on any of Apple’s devices.”
“The hardware is getting faster and more capable, but the software is still holding things back,” wrote James Thomson. “I don’t get the impression that 3rd-party apps are gaining traction, even now that the devices are a lot faster which makes them feasible to use.”
“While I might not rely on the cellular connection much, it was smartly implemented and it does what it is supposed to: give me an option to leave my phone at home,” wrote Carolina Milanesi.
“I’d give this 5 stars if only Apple’s rollout of the Cellular Series 3 had gone better,” wrote Federico Viticci. “Most plans turned out to be more expensive than what Apple advertised, and Cellular is only available in a handful of countries right now. An uncharacteristically disappointing launch given Apple’s scale and relationships with carriers.”
“The Apple Watch 3 is what we all hoped for when the Apple Watch was first released,” wrote security consultant and writer Rich Mogull. “My watch is now nearly as essential as my iPhone.”
“I wear my Apple Watch about 23 hours each day… and I love it,” wrote Dan Frakes. “That said, when people ask me if they should get one, I rarely answer with an unequivocal ‘Yes.’… Much of this is simply the state of smartwatches as a whole: They’re not yet must-have devices.”
“It’s great to see Apple moving forward in this category,” wrote Tonya Engst of TidBITS. “I have the new cellular-enabled watch and it’s been a great experience, allowing me to leave my (too big) iPhone at home. Paired with AirPods, it’s an especially good experience for working out. I love being able to take calls and issue reminders during a run, with my iPhone left behind.”
Grade: C+ (average score: 3.2, median score 3, last year: C-)
Our panel’s still pretty cranky about the Apple TV, but its scores rebounded this year when a new 4K model was announced and shipped.
“But at $180, [the 4K Apple TV is] ridiculously overpriced,” wrote Josh Centers. “To add insult to injury, the old model is still $150. tvOS hasn’t seen any appreciable advancement this year, and it definitely feels like Apple’s forgotten love child.”
“Adding 4K/HDR is the minimum necessary to keep up with the market, and that continues to be what Apple TV feels like much of the time,” wrote MacJournals’ Matt Deatherage.
“The Apple TV 4K seems like too little, too late, and too expensive,” wrote developer and writer Michael Tsai. “I don’t understand Apple’s strategy here. It’s disappointing that they haven’t fixed the design of the remote yet.”
“I’m not sure why I would recommend an Apple TV to anyone over a Roku or Amazon device or even Google’s equivalent,” wrote Jessica Dennis.
“The TV app evolving and starting to incorporate more streaming services has made it increasingly my go-to location,” wrote Glenn Fleishman. “I hope a future tvOS makes the TV app the primary navigation means, and apps are relegated down a notch.”
Grade: B- (average score: 3.4, median score 3.5, last year: C)
iCloud may still have a bad reputation in many circles, but the panel’s estimation of Apple’s cloud services approach has improved for two straight years.
“iCloud is not perfect, but has become much more reliable over the years—I couldn’t live without it,” write Michael E. Cohen wrote. “Managing it, though, is another matter: it’s full of hidden gotchas, and explaining it to people is an exercise in frustration.”
“The days of iCloud being a joke are mostly behind us,” wrote Stephen Hackett. “iCloud Photo Library, iCloud Drive and the various syncing components of iCloud feel rock solid. With services like keyboard snippets syncing moving to CloudKit, I think other features continue their march toward reliability.
“I think iCloud is still too confusing to consumers and doesn’t just work,” wrote Lex Friedman. “The only iCloud feature I use reliably and consistently is iOS device backup. Apple needs to make iCloud storage unlimited for photos, or significantly larger at the free level, and it’s hilarious that we’re all still saying this. I rely on Google to backup my iPhone photos. That’s nuts.”
Writer Steven Aquino: “I use Apple Music every single day and love it… Apple Pay continues to be magical. The editorial changes on the App Store have made browsing and learning about new apps a much more enriching experience; I’m a big fan of the work there.”
“While I am happy I can finally share my storage with my family, I think Apple has still a lot of work to do when it comes to cloud,” wrote Carolina Milanesi. “Collaboration on iWork is very rudimental compared to Google Docs.”
“This year I moved nearly all of my data out of Dropbox into iCloud Drive and I’ve been really happy with the experience,” wrote David Sparks. “The way it only downloads what it needs on my small SSD laptop but still shows me all files is really nice.”
“[Apple has] done a lot of good work in raising its batting average here,” wrote Andy Ihnatko. “iCloud Drive is even a compelling choice.”
“2017 is the year I stopped worrying about data syncing—iCloud works consistently for me,” wrote Gabe Weatherhead. “Unlike previous years, I’m actually looking forward to more things moving to iCloud. I’d like to see Apple add more Dropbox-like options but I’m pretty happy where they are going with the service.”
“The Files app is still pretty clumsy when it comes to searching and selecting, especially in Dropbox, but syncing through iCloud has become very reliable over the past couple of years,” wrote blogger/engineer/snowman Dr. Drang. “My main beef with iCloud Drive is that it still wants me to organize my files according to the app that created them instead of by topic, which is stupid.”
“I love how good sync has gotten (mostly), but it still seems staggering how terrible, broken, and frustrating the whole Apple ID model is,” wrote Merlin Mann.
“I think that they still have a lot of catching up to do, especially where photos are concerned, and I wish they’d at least let people back up their iOS devices without paying for extra storage, but overall I think it’s fine,” wrote App Launch Map’s Aleen Simms.
“Running cloud service is a thankless job,” wrote John Siracusa. “When everything works well, cloud services are invisible. When things don’t work, people get angry. Apple still has a shaky reputation in this area. Each new cloud service from Apple is viewed with suspicion instead of enthusiasm. This suspicion remains well-founded… It’s going to take many years of steady, boring improvement to change this perception.”
HomeKit (Home automation/Internet of Things)
Grade: C- (average score: 2.7, median score 2, last year: D+)
HomeKit’s scores are on the rise, though it’s still got a lot of work to do.
“2017 marked the first time I’d used Apple Home after a long period of exclusive Alexa use,” wrote game developer and podcaster Shahid Kamal Ahmad. “Everything made sense to me when for the first time I could talk to my Apple Watch to tell Siri to turn a Philips Hue lamp on. I suspect I will be using Home a lot more in 2018.”
“Apple made a hugely significant change this year by enabling software authentication for HomeKit,” wrote Dan Moren of Six Colors. “Apple’s also continued to make improvement with the Home app, but it still needs easier ways to build in more complicated automation…workflows, anybody?”
“I can’t lay this one all on Apple—they’ve done a lot to improve HomeKit integration,” wrote Merlin Mann. “But this still feels like the wild west. Hell, it feels like the EARLY days of the wild west.
“HomeKit and the Home app still can’t compete,” wrote Rich Mogull. “I have extensive home automation with well over a hundred devices integrated directly or with Homebridge and Alexa still offers a much better experience…. Apple is still a long way from delivering a smart home experience that meets their own standards.”
“HomeKit has been a real plus for me, and I like the built-in security, although the December security hole with smart locks shows that everything requires vigilance,” wrote Matt Deatherage. “The iOS 11 Home app allows more kinds of simple automation, but needs to go further.”
“HomeKit continues to suffer from bugginess and more limited device availability than other ecosystems,” wrote Marco Arment.
“Alexa and Google Assistant (but especially Alexa) are kicking Apple’s ass here, and every conversation I have with vendors confirms this even more,” wrote Dave Hamilton. “A lot of them choose to support HomeKit as almost an afterthought, where possible, but every single one of them supports Alexa out of the box. That tells the HomeKit story right there.”
“I think Apple has more work to do to make HomeKit broader,” wrote Carolina Milanesi. “I hope HomePod will help.”
“I’m still satisfied with walking over to the switch to turn my lights on and off,” wrote Dr. Drang. “Quite reliable.”
Grade: A- (average score: 4.0, median score 4, last year: A-)
With just a slight dip over last year, Apple’s scores for hardware reliability remained strong among our panel. “Still best in class,” wrote Dan Provost. “Still the gold standard for initial build quality and overall endurance,” wrote Andy Ihnatko. Or as Rick LePage put it: “Listening to friends with Fitbits that don’t work all the time, PCs with broken plastic and poor screens, bad Bluetooth speakers and headphones, I continue to marvel at the continued solidity of the vast majority of Apple’s hardware.”
That all said… there was one issue that kept coming up.
“The thing with the new MacBook Pro keyboards breaking due to dust, and that condition requiring an expensive repair, is really really bad,” wrote Jessica Dennis. “That said, overall I still feel like Apple hardware is of high build quality, with excellent fit and finish.”
“I had a Late 2016 MacBook Pro quoted for a $450 repair after a single keycap broke,” wrote Stephen Hackett. “It’s clear that I’m not alone, and that the keyboards on the MacBooks and MacBook Pros are fragile in a way previous one were not. Apart from the MacBook keyboards, the rest of my modern Apple gear just works.”
“This year it became clear that the new laptop keyboards (regardless of how you feel about their travel) have reliability problems,” wrote David Sparks. “This will be a dark cloud over Apple’s reliability until resolved.”
“Given the obvious hardware issues with their MacBook line, I think they have some room for improvement,” wrote Gabe Weatherhead. “That’s balanced out by nearly flawless iOS device reliability for me.”
Writer John Moltz wrote, “I have a 2016 MacBook Pro and haven’t had any of the keyboard problems others have… My personal problem with the unit is more the trackpad which I keep clicking by accident because it’s so large…. I have used laptops from PC vendors and Apple’s build quality is still so much better it’s not even comparable.”
And for the record, there’s this from Fraser Speirs: “I’m just not hearing about widespread problems from my sysadmin friends who are managing thousands of modern Mac portables.”
Grade: C- (average score: 2.7, median score 3, last year: B-)
In 2017, our panel’s perception of the quality of Apple’s software took a nosedive. Nobody who has been following along to Apple news and opinion for the last year will be surprised.
“Apple’s QA team has dropped the ball this year, with huge bugs in macOS, iOS, and even HomeKit, with often flawed patches for those bugs,” wrote Josh Centers. “Apple looks a bit amateurish lately,” wrote Kirk McElhearn. “It’s getting embarrassing,” wrote Rob Griffiths.”
“I don’t know how quality assurance works inside Apple, but something needs to change,” wrote Brent Simmons. Fraser Speirs wrote, “It’s as good as anyone else’s but it’s not good enough.”
“My family consists of a couple of big nerds, but mostly average users, and everyone agrees software reliability is trending down,” wrote Casey Liss.
“Dear Apple: release less frequently and release better,” wrote Jessica Dennis. “Consumers don’t really mind more time between major revisions; we vastly prefer reliability and stability.”
“Some things are great: iWork, for example, has become better and better,” wrote Michael E. Cohen. “Other software, not so much. In particular, Apple’s almost total neglect of iBooks and iBooks Author discourages me.”
“I think Apple’s fast-paced software development cycles is catching up with it,” wrote Stephen Hackett. “Small bugs stick around for years, and many apps are clearly on a 2-3 year cycle for attention. I’m not suggesting Apple move away from an annual release cycle, just that more attention is paid to the details. That’s where Apple used to shine.”
“There were the much-publicized security issues in High Sierra, of course, but there are still so many flaws and deficiencies in macOS and in apps like Mail and Time Machine that I can’t even,” wrote Joe Kissell. “And iTunes is, of course, every bit the hot mess it has been for years, with the added insult of removing the capability to browse and buy iOS apps. It baffles me that this trend can continue for so long—it’s as if no one at Apple actually uses the company’s own apps.”
“Many apps and areas of the operating systems are in disrepair,” wrote Michael Tsai. “With the tradeoff triangle of schedule/features/quality, Apple has clearly been prioritizing the schedule and (to a lesser extent) features. Major OS releases ship with large numbers of bugs, and there isn’t time to fix them all before the next major release, which introduces more.”
“Not perfect, but not as bumpy as previous years either,” wrote Federico Viticci. “If anything, my main problem has been the poor reliability of text input when using a keyboard attached via the Smart Connector to the iPad Pro.”
“With the addition of machine learning, there’s a non-human element added in there that can sometimes provide unexpected results,” wrote Dan Moren. “I have faith that machine learning will provide even greater capabilities down the road, but right now it’s almost as if we’re in an uncanny valley.”
“They’ve had a few major letdowns/bugs this year and seem to be struggling to consistently meet their own promises, with late or scaled-back features,” wrote Rich Mogull. “It isn’t terrible, and perhaps I’m being too harsh, but this seems like an area they really need to put some focus back on.”
“This is not an illusion,” wrote Dr. Drang. “Apple’s software quality is dropping, and they don’t seem to recognize it. I understand that there’s much, much more to keep track of now than there ever has been, but being sympathetic to Apple’s difficulties doesn’t make me blind to them. When the Finder just stops in the middle of copying files for no apparent reason, that’s an inexcusable error. Apple has long believed that its programmers are far better than those elsewhere. That may be true, but they seem stretched to the breaking point and in need of help. Maybe you don’t need superstar programmers to do some of the fundamental things that are falling by the wayside.”
“I feel as though Apple is generally pretty solid on the OS front, and marginally worse on the app front,” wrote Rick LePage. “The Photos update was good, but Numbers remains a poor spreadsheet app, Keynote really hasn’t been enhanced in years, and Pages is great in some places, and underpowered in enough other places to be relegated to correspondence and notes for me.”
Serenity Caldwell wrote, “Oh, Apple. Get your security house in order, ASAP. Some of the bugs released in iOS and macOS this year were outrageously bad (see: root bug), while mismessaging led decent features (battery CPU throttling) to develop nasty reputations.”
“Apple is moving too fast and cutting too many corners,” wrote Adam Engst. “No user wants a completely new operating system every year, much less four of them. This is thrown into stark relief by the fact that there have been so many quick bug fix releases for embarrassing bugs ranging from the root password security vulnerability to iOS 11.1’s reset loop bug. And it’s clear that APFS is nowhere near baked on the Mac.”
“Apple is moving so quickly in so many directions it would behoove them to have a team that stays behind and maintains and improves the foundations behind them,” wrote Rene Ritchie.
Grade: B (average score: 3.6, median score 4, last year: C+)
What was once a painful area for Apple, its relationship with app developers, seems to have improved an awful lot in the last couple of years.
“The App Store and iTunes Connect keep getting better since Schiller took over,” wrote Marco Arment.
“I’ve had no real problems with developer relations this year, and a number of useful things have been rolled out in iTunes Connect,” wrote James Thomson. “Review times are really quick on the whole. If I had a complaint, it would be that the TestFlight app review process is now slower than full App Review. And TestFlight for the Mac has still not happened, which does make the Mac feel like an afterthought again. But overall, things have been pretty good.”
“Many of the familiar App Store issues are still present, but there have also been many improvements,” wrote Michael Tsai.
“I really think that Apple is already having a bit of a reckoning when it comes to their obsession with secrecy… sooner rather than later,” wrote Casey Liss. “Apple can’t be reliant upon third party developers whilst also petulantly refusing to scratch our backs. The community puts up with it because we have little choice. What I fear Apple doesn’t realize is that this is leaving a gaping opportunity for an otherwise inferior platform to succeed, if for no other reason than because developers are actually respected.”
Environmental and social impact
Grade: B+ (average score: 3.8, median score 4, last year: A-)
We know, this is a weird category. But Apple as a company touches on an awful lot of social and environmental issues: FBI encryption, Learn to Code initiatives, accessibility, medical studies, the working conditions in its supply chain, its investment in solar energy, its commitment to creating a more diverse workplace, and an awful lot more. For a company that talks a lot about making a positive change in the world, it’s worth asking the question: how’s it doing?
“Apple tries, bless their hearts, to be more or less socially and environmentally responsible,” wrote Jessica Dennis. “The new Apple campus is at the very least thoroughly greenwashed (though the open-plan spaces within give me hives); Apple could always go further, e.g. using their pull with local governments to expand public transit for their use and incidentally everyone else in the area.”
“High marks for accessibility and green initiatives,” wrote Dan Provost. “Still lag behind in diversity, should be more outspoken about societal / political issues.”
“So much more could be done to help the poor and disadvantaged, and Apple has the money to do it,” wrote Michael E. Cohen. “I not only want to see more done in education, but I want Apple to be a much more vocal proponent of educational opportunity and enhancement; right now its efforts seems like a hobby.”
Stephen Hackett wrote, “Apple continues to lead the way in environmental and social issues, but diversity within the company — especially at the top — continues to be a problem. I understand this stuff takes time, but I’d like more visibility into what’s going on throughout the company when it comes to hiring and promoting women and people of color.”
“I wish Apple had made a strong stand against the Republican tax bill,” wrote Brent Simmons. “It might look good for Apple, but it’s bad for almost everybody who actually buys Apple products.”
“Apple continues to lead the industry in providing comprehensive assistive tools for its disabled users,” wrote Steven Aquino. “As a person with disabilities, it warms my heart to see Apple again include disabled employees in its annual diversity report. Diversity in tech is more than women and people of color—it’s people with disabilities too.”
“Everyone Can Code and Swift Playgrounds has been an excellent initiative,” wrote Fraser Speirs. “I only hope that they sustain it into the future rather than use it as a one-off PR hit and then let it languish like, say, iBooks Author.”
“Apple’s been too quiet recently as U.S. politics, policy, and discourse are falling apart around it,” wrote Marco Arment. “They’ll make a fortune with the proposed tax changes, and I hope that’s not why they’re staying quiet on other issues. I’d like them to be a stronger advocate for net neutrality, diversity, democracy, and human-rights issues.”
James Thomson wrote, “I applaud Apple’s strong stance on user privacy. Even if sometimes the features might not be quite as good as others can offer, I am not willing to make the tradeoff of being data-mined and sold to advertisers in order to get them. And I gather Apple is doing a lot of work behind the scenes in the current political climate…. Still, I’d like to see Apple do more with its billions to change the world for the better.”
Lisa Schmeiser wrote, “It has been really interesting watching Apple try to negotiate an increasingly politicized landscape, especially in the wake of the Foxconn deal in Wisconsin, the immigration foofarah all year long, and increasing scrutiny of their tax structures…. it will be interesting to see whether Apple is able to spin any of its pro-Apple tenets (access to a talented workforce independent of geographic borders, minimal corporate taxes, etc.) into commercially palatable branding moves.”
I think Tim Cook has become a great ambassador and has given Apple a very human side,” wrote Carolina Milanesi. “I would like to see better numbers in their diversity report next year.”
“The immense positive impact of their health initiatives, plus the speed with which Tim Cook himself will come out in support of progressive issues that affect Americans, is impressive and gratifying,” wrote Andy Ihnatko. “The total lack of interest in cultivating a broader economic range of customers, and their eagerness to stay on the Chinese government’s good side despite the government’s continued exploitation of technology to control and intimidate its own people, is disappointing and worrying.”
Rich Mogull wrote, “Apple continues to lead the way in privacy. Their greatest risk now appears to be global governments, not bad guys. Apple is dancing on a pinhead as they put consumers first in ways we do not see with any other major tech company.”
“Apple says the right things, which is important, but their grade in this won’t improve until we no longer find it worthy of comment when we see a woman or POC on stage at an Apple event,” wrote Dr. Drang.
Serenity Caldwell wrote, “Incredibly pleased to see Apple’s work in health care and accessibility. Not so thrilled with continuing diversity issues inside the company.”
“I am proud of Apple for their public position about tolerance,” wrote Tonya Engst. “I also appreciate that their public position is that they strive for excellence. They appear to be trying hard with regard to the environmental impact of their products.”
Aleen Simms wrote, “While I understand the reasoning, I think it’s kind of bananas for the company to force Tim Cook to use a private jet to travel when they’re also touting how awesome their environmental initiatives are. Maybe they’ll tell us how many green rooftops it takes to offset his jetful use at the next keynote. From a diversity standpoint, I don’t feel like the needle is shifting appreciably. It will take decades for them to have gender parity at the rate they’re going.”
I didn’t participate in the panel. I invited about 75 people to vote, and 50 of them did. The panelists who voted were: Steven Aquino, Marco Arment, Leah Becerra, Shawn Blanc, Serenity Caldwell, Jeff Carlson, Josh Centers, Peter Cohen, Alexandra Cox, Matt Deatherage, Jessica Dennis, Dr. Drang, Michael E. Cohen, Adam Engst, Tonya Engst, Glenn Fleishman, Dan Frakes, Lex Friedman, Rob Griffiths, Stephen Hackett, Dave Hamilton, Myke Hurley, Andy Ihnatko, Shahid Kamal Ahmad, Joe Kissell, Rick LePage, Casey Liss, Merlin Mann, Kirk McElhearn, Carolina Milanesi, Rich Mogull, John Moltz, Dan Moren, Dan Provost, Rene Ritchie, Lisa Schmeiser, Brent Simmons, Aleen Simms, John Siracusa, David Smith, David Sparks, Fraser Speirs, James T. Green, Brett Terpstra, James Thomson, Michael Tsai, Federico Viticci, Gabe Weatherhead, and a couple of people who preferred to remain anonymous. Thanks to Khoi Vinh for the original idea to do this survey. The 2015 report card and 2016 report card remain available for reference.
[If you appreciate articles like this one, help us continue doing Six Colors (and get some fun benefits) by becoming a Six Colors subscriber.]