Let’s face it: The iPhone has come a long way since its debut several years ago. And along with hardware improvements, we have seen major software improvements as well. Apple’s stock iPhone apps are now more useful than ever (thanks, in part, to both iCloud and Siri), making using them not only more appealing – but more productive than in the past.
But using them and forsaking third-party apps in the process is a bad idea.
The temptation to use stock apps alone is going to be high for those who have recently obtained iPhones. This is especially so for those who aren’t exactly familiar with technology of this sort. While these stock apps provide a lot more usefulness than before, they also do have limitations that third-party apps can help lift. Now, that doesn’t mean that Apple’s own apps can’t do more than many of these third-party apps, but it does mean that they don’t have to if there aren’t any viable – or even better -alternatives.
Apple is all about innovation, and third-party developers have helped to foster that on the iPhone. While Calendar on the iPhone is good, Fantastical or Agenda is better – and in different ways. I’d bet that natural language entry will come to Apple’s own calendar app, but they may not have even been considered had these third-party apps not introduced them in the first place. If new – and existing – users decide to stick with what Apple offers right out of the box on the iPhone, then such innovations may be slowed (or even halted) for certain apps.
I do think it is important for Apple to have control over what they believe the device should do, but I also believe that users need to be able to choose depending on their comfort level. I haven’t jailbroken my iPhone since I had my first-generation device, and I don’t see a reason to any longer. Both Apple and third-party developers have delivered (and continue to deliver) better and better apps, making the iPhone a better device. The rise of third-party apps means that users can have a healthy balance of stock and installed apps; and Apple has helped play a part in creating that balance. And they’ve done it through the element of controlling the space in a way that allows for innovation – innovation that they can choose to adopt to their own apps because they’ve seen first-hand how it makes their hardware better.
Essentially, the practice of controlled innovation has led to progress. That seems counter-intuitive in idea, but when put into practice in the iOS ecosystem, it works.
The idea of using what is offered initially on the iPhone is a good one; it will help new users get familiar with their new device and help seasoned users deal with any of the improvements that Apple delivers on apps that are a vital part of the iPhone’s ecosystem. But I think it’s important to continue to expose all users to the wonder of third-party apps – they serve to advance the device and the ecosystem in their own way. And it’s a way that actually serves to allow Apple to continue to innovate both efficiently and effectively.
Apple’s stock apps give users what they need; third-party apps give users what they want. Both types are necessary and valuable for both the device and for the user – and that’s perhaps the thing that needs to be fostered more than anything else that the iPhone has to offer.