Just a normal Tuesday using the OS made by the same company that brought you the truly amazing technical wizardry behind Deep Fusion and AirPods Pro…

All of the issues below are from up-to-date systems running Catalina and iOS 13 that I discovered before 11am on a normal Tuesday morning.

First, the Mac App Store.

Remember. This is the storefront Apple expects developers to base our livelihoods on and hand over 30% to use.

Let’s check in on Photos.

“10,376 Photos, 942 Videos” vs “10,773 Photos, 1,135 Videos”. No idea which one is correct. Both devices have been powered on and online for days – including overnight.

Take a photo on iOS and watch it sync to other iOS devices near-instantly. Never appears on Catalina.

Now, Music.app.

Since upgrading to Catalina, I simply cannot sign in on this Mac. Restart the machine. Sign out / in of iCloud in System Preferences. Restart again. Repeat. Nothing. Just silent failures.

I know my password is correct because if I purposely enter I bad one I get this.

But exactly how fucked is Music.app overall you ask? It’s this fucked…

And also perpetually-spinning-progress-indicator fucked…

It’s also they-even-broke-the-sign-up-page fucked….

As well as can’t-display-the-price fucked…

Now, I know what you may be saying. Surely this is just the result of a bad HTTP request when Music.app fetched the template data, right? Sure. Probably. But it persists across reboots.

So, while Music.app is walking around with its pants down in this seemingly-permanent fucked state, is it displaying any real data at all? You betcha!

First off, “###!###” is not the title of a playlist I’ve ever created. Secondly, those aren’t any albums I’ve ever listened to. So, 🤷‍♀️

And just to round out this totally normal Catalina Tuesday morning, here’s a final surprise that actually doesn’t relate to Apple’s inability to operate a web service.

It’s just a text editor that’s been installed on my Mac since Mojave and has been working fine since upgrading to Catalina a month ago. But this morning? Nope. Just not gonna run. I should probably contact my Administrator like macOS suggests.

iCloud and services failings like this happen to myself and tons of other folks I know All. The. Time. I’ve seen wonky behavior like this for years on macOS. How can this stuff not be solid? Services revenue is literally the company’s new financial focus.

A Growing Chorus

I mean, when the folks you go to for some free, developer-friendly podcast PR start turning on you…

From a conversation with another developer friend:

And then there’s this piece from Warner Crocker:

Look I get it. These are big complex systems and sometimes things need to be worked out. So, I’ll grant some leeway for that. But I also get this. Apple has more resources at its disposal than most other companies and it needs to figure this stuff out. It should be embarrassing, but apparently it isn’t embarrassing enough to martial enough of those resources to fix iCloud, which is a system that Apple is relying on more and more as the backbone for services that connect these devices.

 Apple Arcade Arcade Arcade

I’m really trying not to be too much of a jerk on this blog. Especially when it comes to picking on Apple – my most common target. I don’t like to point out small mistakes that are obviously just bugs. Rather, I hope to stick to meatier topics that follow recurring themes like Apple’s big push for services revenue, dark patterns, and other ways that I feel they (and the entire industry!) are regressing.

And so that means providing specific feedback as much as possible – instead of purely just dunking on billion dollars companies for fun. I don’t always stick to that guideline, of course, but I try.

I say all that as a preface to this: the following screenshots and thoughts about Apple Arcade aren’t particularly actionable, and so I hesitated on whether or not I should even write this post. But I decided to do so because I think they represent the general lack of care, attention to detail and polish, and quality that has permeated this entire new season of software.

Is it too many features? A rushed schedule? Poor management? I don’t know. But everything feels sloppy lately.

Look at this screenshot from the Apple Arcade section in the iOS App Store:

The word “Arcade” appears eleven times on that one screen. If this were a website, it would reek of poor SEO keyword stuffing. But it’s not a web page. There’s no search engine to appease. It’s the damn App Store. Either some whiz-bang Marketing genius thinks peppering the store with “arcade” will increase subscription conversions, or the designers just didn’t think through that every app cell saying “Apple Arcade” along with the tab and navigation bar might look silly. Whatever the reason, it’s sloppy and certainly not up to Apple’s typical (historical?) design and copywriting standards.

Here’s another screen:

Eight more times. And don’t get me started on how desperate the repeating “TRY IT FREE” buttons appear.

But let’s take it another step. Apple – famously and meticulously protective of every aspect of their brand – can’t even consistently market a major new services offering like Apple Arcade. Or is it Arcade?

“Apple Arcade” vs “Arcade”

The website doesn’t know either.

Again, everything about these new releases – from the too-soon Catalina public beta, to iOS 13.1 seeding to developers before 13.0 was released, to Catalina itself, to bricked HomePods, to watchOS 6 being delayed on older hardware – I could go on. It all feels rushed.

This isn’t an indictment of engineering. I just think Apple has too many plans rolling out at once via an outdated software development cycle that simply isn’t scaling anymore. Remember, Leopard was delayed for months because they couldn’t handle OS X and iPhone OS simultaneously. And the botched MobileMe rollout? Jobs outright said it was because they tried to do too much at once:

It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.

Steve Jobs

And now how many OSes and hardware products do they have?

The new Catalina TV app and forced advertisements

Benjamin Mayo tweets:

Also the TV app on the Mac is a web view in a (very) thin wrapper and lacks key functionality like the ability to open a context menu. You can’t right click or long press on anything.

If you Force Touch on something, you get this wonderful artefact of it being a web view.

I don’t pretend to know the timeline the Apple engineers who built these shoddy new apps were under. Maybe there simply wasn’t enough time or resources available to make a native app versus a hastily constructed web view. Lord knows, I’ve fallen back to using a web view for complex layouts in my own apps when up against a deadline. But not for the whole damn app.

His entire thread is a good critique worth reading – particularly this bit:

The Apple TV+ experience will also suffer from the ‘advertisements of stuff to buy everywhere’ design of the TV app — something which I think will sadly never change — that I first described back in April.

As I’ve mentioned before, this goes hand-in-hand with Apple’s new push for services revenue at the expense of UX and what customers actually want. The Catalina and iOS 13 App Stores feature new Apple Arcade sections that you can’t get rid of. And the latest Apple TV update includes a dedicated, non-removable Arcade app that Apple helpfully places in the top row of your apps when you upgrade.

(Side note: Even the Mac App Store on Mojave is running a giant ad about Apple Arcade, which isn’t even available for those who haven’t upgraded to Catalina. Further, they can’t even be bothered to take the time to do it right. Just look at how the headlines are truncated when the window isn’t fullscreen.)

I get it. They want their services to be successful. And part of ensuring that is making certain everyone knows these new offerings are available. It’s called advertising and I’m totally fine with that. I’m even all in favor of Apple Arcade as a way for quality developers to get paid for making quality games without resorting to dirty in-app purchase shenanigans.

So, please, Apple. Tell me all about Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ and your “vision for television“. Sell me on their immense value and benefits. But then let me dismiss your advertisements and get the fuck on with using the hardware I paid for.

macOS Music.app Disabled States

Apple design is so glorious. After iOS, macOS Music App:

  1. You barely see the difference between the active and disabled gray
  2. The active gray is lighter than disabled gray.

Basic usability stuff you would assume you can’t get wrong at this level.

I basically discovered this after my playing list stopped playing despite I thought it was in repeat list mode.

It’s only until I saw the light gray with the little ‘1’ that I realized the colors were wrong.

via Damien Petrilli