Sometimes it’s astounding to think of the attention Apple receives from its fans (and critics). I doubt there are as many sites dedicated to talking about one brand as there are for Apple.
Many a times, fans (like me) get very excited and start wondering why the company hasn’t done X or Y already. We all want Apple products and services to mould to our precise expectations.
A lot of these suggestions are valid, and we’ve seen Apple actually deliver on many things users have asked for in the past. But there are several intricacies behind every decision the company has to make. Today, we explore five such seemingly obvious things Apple hasn’t done yet with the iPhone, and try to hypothesize why that may be.
1. Why Apple Watch Doesn’t Auto Unlock an iPhone?
Since version 5.0 Lollipop, Android phones have Smart Lock — a feature that keeps phones unlocked when they’re simply paired to a trusted Bluetooth device, like your smartwatch. Similarly, since watchOS 3, the Apple Watch can also be used to log into a Mac without a password.
Apple’s method — called Auto Unlock — is more secure since it forces you to use a four-digit passcode on your Apple Watch to enable it. The watch prompts you for that passcode every time you remove it and wear it back, thanks to those motion and heart rate sensors. So, your watch remains unlocked as long as you’re wearing it, and when in that state your Mac nearby can unlock automatically too. Though, this is not a foolproof method of authentication, as the video below demonstrates.
Now the question is — why not have the Apple Watch auto-unlock an iPhone the same way, since it’s paired to it anyway. The simplest explanation that we can think of is this — the entire Mac lineup doesn’t have biometric authentication, it’s only the high-end MacBook Pros that come with Touch ID. So, it makes sense to offer a more seamless way to unlock a Mac.
In contrast, the entire iPhone lineup has had Touch ID (and now Face ID), which is a fast and more secure way to unlock your phone than the Auto Unlock feature. So it makes little sense for Apple to implement Auto Unlock for iPhones.
Some of you may also be wondering, why can’t iPhones just Auto Unlock Macs? You could say it’s a clever way to keep it a unique feature to the Apple Watch. We think it could just be that Apple Watches are proactively unlocked (as you saw in the video above), whereas iPhones need to be explicitly unlocked with Touch ID or Face ID. So, from a usability perspective, it would be weird to unlock the iPhone just to unlock the Mac, because then you’ll need to turn it off again.
2) Why No USB-C on iPhones?
Editors of several tech publications up in arms about this topic. As Apple transitioned exclusively to USB Type C ports on the new MacBook and MacBook Pros last year, many expected iOS devices to follow. Since 2012, Apple has been using its proprietary Lightning connector on iPhones, iPads and several other accessories for charging and connectivity.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that real "courage" would have been switching the iPhone to USB-C for a unified system with the Mac.
Way more courageous, good for the ecosystem, and user-friendly than pulling the headphone jack, anyway.
— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) December 17, 2017
Switching to USB-C on iPhones would have had many advantages. You could’ve used the same adapter and cable that charges your Mac to charge your phone. This would have worked especially well for the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, that support the USB Power Delivery based fast-charging standards, which the newer MacBook Pro USB-C power adapters also support.
Not just that, USB-C is being rapidly adopted by Android phones and other computing devices too. This way, you could borrow and use someone’s Android phone charger when needed.
But switching Apple’s portfolio of devices to USB-C would have several ramifications. Only switching iPhones and iPads to USB-C would create fragmentation. Ancillary products like the 3.5mm headphone jack adapter, Apple TV Remote, Apple Pencil, the AirPods charging case, etc also use the Lightning port. Then there’s the vast MFi certification program — which certifies the usage of the same Lightning port on a vast array of accessories. Apple charges the companies that make these ‘Made for iPhone, iPad and iPod’ products, so it’s a revenue driver too.
Having a proprietary port also acts as an ecosystem lock-in of sorts. If, over the years, you’ve gathered several Lightning accessories, it would be harder switching to Android, since charging or using those same accessories won’t be as seamless. And lastly, some hypothesize that switching from Lightning to USB-C right now is moot, since Apple is inching closer towards its truly wireless future, where iPhones won’t need any port at the bottom.
3) Why iPhones Aren’t Dual SIM?
Dual SIM phones are wildly popular in the eastern part of the world. In countries like China and India, it is very common to have two mobile connections, simply because it’s inexpensive to maintain. A prepaid connection in India from an operator like Jio costs just Rs. 300 (around USD 5) for 1GB of 4G data per day, with a validity of 49 days (that’s 49GB of data). Previously available only on entry-level handsets, today even flagship-grade Androids like the Samsung Galaxy S8, OnePlus 5T, LG V30 are available with dual SIM capability in this part of the world.
There are advantages to having two network providers on the same phone — you’re twice as likely to remain connected, especially in remote areas. Plus, some operators may provide a better internet plan (or speeds) than the other. Lastly, even if you use a single SIM, when travelling abroad it’s nice to put the temporary local SIM of that country in the other slot, while your primary still remains active.
So why aren’t iPhones Dual SIM ready yet? Like I mentioned above, since this isn’t a popular concept in the west yet, Apple probably hasn’t considered it to be a top priority (the way Google’s Nexus or Pixel phones haven’t either). Then there’s also the matter of precious real estate inside every iPhone. Adding another slot in the SIM tray means it’s going to eat up additional space inside. This is important for the company that removed the universal 3.5mm headphone jack, citing space constraints. It’s speculated that Apple may take the eSIM approach (like the Apple Watch Series 3), should it allow two connections on iPhones.
Then there are also some software-based limitations to consider. Thanks to the iPhone X notch, there’s barely space to fit one signal strength indicator between the Bluetooth indicator & battery meter. Where will the other set of network bars be placed? Beyond this, it will also require reworking of everything from the dialer and contacts, to even the Messages app.
There’s some hope that Apple is considering this — as a popular Apple analyst thinks that the 2018 iPhones will support dual SIM. Much like how Apple caved in to the big screen phone demand in 2014, adding dual SIM should give it a similar surge in sales, typically in emerging markets.
4) Why Is iMessage Not Available on Android?
Messages is the default messaging app on iOS. It is the place you go to read your SMSs (marked in green), as well as instant messages (iMessage) from other Apple device owners (marked in blue). There has been a lot of discussion over why iMessage doesn’t cross over to Android, like how every other popular messaging app (WhatsApp, Telegram, etc) is available on both major platforms. This would increase iMessage usage of iPhone users, since they could talk to non-iPhone folks too. The idea gathered more traction since the official Apple Music was launched on Android. But there are a few good reasons why Apple would never do it.
First — iMessage is a great lock-in to the iPhone. Since a single app handles both SMSs and iMessages, if someone switches to Android, their further conversations switch over to regular SMS. For a lot of people, iMessage is their primary mode of instant messaging. And in many countries, cell plans don’t offer unlimited SMSs. If Apple was to introduce iMessage for Android, the incentive to stick to an iPhone for connecting with others using iMessage goes away.
Next, by its own admission, Apple doesn’t need widespread adoption of iMessage — they’re satisfied with the billions of people using it already. That’s because they’re not in the app business; they are in the business of selling high-end electronics. iMessage won’t have a direct revenue impact like Apple Music on Android (because it needs a paid subscription to use).
Lastly, iMessage has become a complex application with its own apps and features like Animoji or Apple Pay that require the company’s custom hardware. Creating and maintaining a version of iMessage for Android, even if it didn’t have all the features, financially just doesn’t make sense for Apple at this time.
5) Why Apple Doesn’t Allow Changing App Defaults?
This is yet another feature available in Android for long, that several iPhone users have asked for over the years. In Android, you can change the default launcher, email client, web browser, dialer, SMS client, camera, music, gallery and even voice assistant apps. This means clicking a hyperlink can open Microsoft Edge instead of Chrome, or clicking a phone number can open TrueCaller instead of the built-in dialer. Even keeping the home button pressed can summon Cortana instead of Google Assistant, if you like. This parity between first-party and third-party apps makes Android more functional than iOS.
On the other hand, in iOS there’s no way to replace the default apps — the likes of Phone, Mail, Maps, Music, Safari, Siri etc. So, for instance, even if you may have Chrome installed on your iPhone, clicking a hyperlink will always open Safari. And there are a couple of reasons why Apple may never change this.
First — Apple is aware that some of its default apps are no match for the competition. For example, Apple Maps came out six years ago, but nowhere close to the functionality Google Maps offers in several parts of the world. For instance, in India Apple Maps don’t even have basic turn-by-turn directions. If they allowed apps like Google Maps to be the default option, there’s a good chance that people will completely ignore its offerings. And mapping apps need active users to improve themselves. Hence, Apple would rather keep improving its own default apps each year, than let people replace them (however slow the pace may be for some of them).
Next, Apple is a privacy-focused company. Handing over the keys to third-party apps goes against its self-instilled pledge. That’s why it’s unlikely that we’ll see phone dialer replacements like TrueCaller taking over the Phone app, since that would mean sharing the call list of individuals with a third-party.
To mitigate some of these limitations, Apple has opened up APIs. Since iOS 11, apps like VeroSMS and SMS Shield can filter spam texts in the Messages app. TrueCaller can also notify spam calls within the call screen from iOS 10 onwards. Not to say that these solutions work perfectly, but at least show Apple’s admittance to functional gaps in its OS.
So, do you have a better answer for why these things are like so? I’m sure many smart readers would like to share their two cents on the matter in the comments. We’d love to listen.