A Few Annoyances Apple Needs to Fix in the Apple Ecosystem: in-app Purchases, News, Apple Cash, and Password Management with Keychain.
I pay for my Apple hardware and I pay to be a member of the Apple ecosystem. So unlike reviews where I get loaned hardware or temporary access to SaaS applications for analysis, I live with Apple and pay for the privilege. And as a paying end-user, frankly, there are a few things that annoy me I would like to see get fixed sooner than later.
I’m going to put out my of annoyances Apple needs to fix. I would love to have you contribute your annoyances.
The Transparency of in-app purchases
Some in-app purchases are pretty clear. You pay for a pro edition and you get more features, and they list the features. Or you pay and advertising goes away. But some, from graphics apps to games, tout in-app purchases that don’t explain what the buyer receives or how it alters the user experience, offers that don’t match against the developer’s website, or offers that just confuse or obfuscate.
For an organization that intimately policies the App Store much to the frustration of developers, this is an end-user exposure that they don’t seem to care about.
I will share an example of the in-app purchases with an app titled Pixeloop on iOS.
The first image shows the in-app purchases in the iOS App Store. A wide variety of similar names with no explanation or differentiation.
The next image shows the developer’s website with no explanation of in-app purchases or of variations between versions of the app.
This final image shows what the in-app purchase looks like from inside the app. It does not align with the App Store options—and it pops up with a poor exist UI ahead of providing access to the free version of the app. When in the free version some buttons do include a “Pro” icon, but until one gets this far into the process, these don’t get to see the differences between free and pay—or even what the purchase model looks like.
This stream of images reflects just one random app among many that share a lack of curation and transparency related to in-app purchases.
Here is a very confusing screen capture from LiquidText, which offers no detail about how items with the same name differentiate, except for a price. Note the multiple students and developing country listings.
From a more mainstream player, Adobe, you find their Photoshop Camera that says for $1.99 you receive 20 GB of Creative Cloud Storage. It does not say that if you already have an adobe account the app requires only a sign-in for access to existing Adobe storage.
The popular Paper app by WeTransfer simply says $11.99 unlocks premium features and content without further explanation. To WeTransfer’s credit, their helpdesk site does include a full explanation features unlocked by the $11.99 purchase.
The lack of detail likely derails app purchases because people don’t know what they get for free versus what they would get for a fee. It also likely leads, and I know it has for me personally, to disappointment and deletion within minutes of opening a free app to find it does almost nothing for free, or that its UI/UX is so bad I don’t want to put up with the advertising and delays to use the free features.
Along with this app permits free apps with limitations, along with pro versions as separate apps. They should improve transparency by including references to “professional” app versions. This will not only inform customers but it will
What Apple should do with in-app purchases:
- Reveal in-app purchases by default. Do not hide behind a dropdown.
- Clearly state what the “free” app includes and if it is useable without buying something, or what annoyances it may foist upon the user until the buy-in.
- Synchronize in-app purchase explanations between the App Store and the company’s website.
Font control and zooming. I like the news app because it provides me a one-stop-shop to most of the magazines I like to read at a single fee, plus the subscription can be shared with my family. What I don’t like is the lack of control over the publishing format. Unlike Zinio, my other source for magazines, usually those downloaded via access from my local library, each Apple News publication selects between what seems one of two general models. In some publications, the Font menu item resizes the font, but in those, zoom gestures do not work. The British UK consumer tech mag, T3, for instance, publishes a PDF-like format that does allow zooming. People magazine, however, publishes in more of an HTML format with font size defaults available, but no zooming.
Consistent navigation and publishing standards. The fundamental issue is the lack of publishing standards. These T3 and People also demonstrate a different News annoyance, a lack of consistent navigation. T3 flips horizontally and looks like a facsimile magazine, while People feeds vertically through its table of contents, with lower-level flipping between apps. The lack of consistency leads to confusion about how to interact with content, which robs readers of time spent reading and learning. Fixing this issue would likely entail a bit of Apple strong-arming to bring publishers into a standard, but it can and should be done as those publishers are now playing in the Apple sandbox and consistent user experience should be a reality, not just a goal.
Video. I am also annoyed that Apple does not support full-screen video inside of News. I can see the video. I can see the full-screen icon in the lower right of the video, but when I click on it, I am informed that my app does not support full-screen video. All native Apple apps should support full-screen video.
Annoyances Apple Needs to Fix: Apple Cash
I love that my Apple Card gives me cash back on every purchase. Yes, I have an Apple Card in my wallet. I love that friends and family can send me Apple Cash. That every purchase increments the total. I hate, however, that it is impossible to use Apple Cash to buy a movie on iTunes. There are a couple of ways Apple could make this work:
- Select a payment method from a list of validated payment methods at time of purchase (rather than forcing an extra step to charge the iTunes card before making a purchase—and making Apple Cash a valid member of this set).
- Include an option to use Apple Cash first when making an online purchase, including subscriptions (like running down a gift card before using real money).
Regardless of the method, I think of Apple Cash like I used to think of my eBay account: not real money. So I have less guilt buying a movie from my Apple Cash account than I do buying it on my Apple Card. I’m sure I’m not the only one. And that means not only a subpar Apple Cash user experience, but also Apple just plain leaving money on the table.
Password Manager (iCloud Keychain)
I have fallen prey to online extorsion of the kind that offers up an old password as proof that the thug sending the e-mail will expose me exposing myself to friends and family. When one of those e-mails arrives, I want to check my passwords for peace of mind. That means searching on the password and offering a workflow for at least seeing the passwords and the site that use them. Safari does not permit searching on a password, but it does not support a functional way of checking them. I don’t expect Apple to create the password change workflow, but I do expect the password manager to act as a database. And once I’m managing my passwords, I want them onscreen without the threat of a time out (perhaps an option), to show all the accounts with a shared password (or partial password), and to make everything cut-and-pasteable so I can more easily fix stragglers that require attention.
I also want to have the Password systems warning (the caution triangle) display the analysis not just the warning. Rather than telling me that a password is reused, I would like to right-click on the offending account and have it show me all the accounts that carry the duplicate password.
The use case for Safari passwords storage, it seems, was designed to address forgetting passwords, as well as making it easier to system create completely non-memorable ones. And that it does mostly OK, with a few moments of its own forgetfulness or confusion. If we are to use the Apple ecosystem as a digital way to remember our passwords, we need to have an equally elegant workflow for managing them. Password management should also include the ability to download all accounts and passwords. I recognize the risk, but Apple can manage that will multiple warnings, perhaps even forcing a password onto a downloaded Numbers file. With hundreds of passwords, we all need to slice and dice, analyze, and manage. Remembering is not enough for us or for our Apple devices.
Annoyances Apple Needs to Fix or Fixing the Holes in the Apple Ecosystem
I am sure many of you have your own annoyances, please share. While these may seem petty and narrow compared to big competitive issues like iCloud vs. OneDrive vs. Google, or macOS Catalina crashes of which also occasionally abuse my patience, they nonetheless create a less than pleasurable experience.
That Apple has these features for us to complain about is not in any way forgiveness for the poor design choices in the applications that many use regularly. I am OK with Apple trumpeting fixes for these issues as new features, but to many of us, these four items represent essential fixes, not new features.
Write a comment. What would you add?
For more Serious Insights software reviews click here.