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Please Fix This, Apple

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My closet is so overfull with boxes from Apple (s aapl) that I hardly have room for anything else. I love my Macs, iOS devices, and Apple software, but there are some things about Apple products that just leave me wondering: why don’t they fix this?

Apple has oodles of cash, and the love of millions of adoring fans. In general, the company also have a very good reputation for quality of design and build, and usability, but there are a few places where that sterling reputation isn’t backed up by experience. These are the things I’d most like Apple to fix:

Lame Headphones

I now own so many pairs of white earbuds I could probably outfit an entire NBA team with the things. Of course, NBA players would never use them, and neither would I. The in-ear headphones Apple released in 2008 were a bit better, but just a bit, and after less than a year, mine failed. Instead of opting for another pair, I went with a third-party solution.

According to a new patent found by Patently Apple, we might soon see better headphones from Apple, with much-improved noise cancellation for making calls. The materials Apple uses in its headset construction do make them pretty much tangle-proof. But if Apple doesn’t pay more attention to actually increasing sound quality, I’ll still leave the things in the box.

Custom Sounds for Text Message and Email

This is just cruel. Apple provides all iPhone users with the option to select whatever ringtone they want, though you have to convert your audio file of choice first. It’s still not hard to do, though.

But what if you want incoming texts or emails to make a noise that isn’t in the stock set? It sure would come in handy when you’re at tech trade shows or special product announcements to avoid confusion. In order to do that, you have to jailbreak your device. All I want is for my phone to make an R2D2 noise when I get a new text. Is that modest level of customization really too much to ask from Apple’s wunderphone?

A Better Mail Program is okay, but it’s just okay. The problem is, there’s scant competition out there, beyond Postbox, which is probably a little too feature-heavy for most users, and Outlook, which is a Microsoft (s msft) product, so it feels like a betrayal. Plus Outlook is apparently quite buggy at the moment.

Apple’s built-in mail client has remained relatively unchanged for quite  a while. Most frustrating of all, none of the changes it did receive with the Snow Leopard upgrade fixed its most annoying problem: a chronic failure to actually make the “New Mail” sound when new mail arrives. I’ve searched far and wide for fixes, and there doesn’t seem to be a permanent one. At least my iPhone can consistently notify me when I get new mail, even if I can’t change the sound.

Multi-Format Video Support in iOS

iOS devices support at least a few different audio formats, including .MP3, the most widely available variety. But video support is limited only to specially formatted .M4V, .MP4 and .MOV formats. Just give us some DivX love, Apple.

Obviously, Apple wants to make piracy more difficult for users by limiting the video formats its devices can play, but people who really want to use pirated media will be the ones who find the converters that let them do so anyway. All that’s achieved by preventing average users from loading their own videos is device owner frustration.

Yes, apps like VLC have made this less of an issue, but broader native codec support would make things far easier for everyone.

Just Fix It

Like I said, generally speaking, I love what Apple’s doing. Life without my iPhone 4 and iPad and at least one Mac computer is pretty hard to imagine these days, which is why I become really annoyed when I think about these relatively minor things that would be so easy to fix for a company with $50 billion in cash on hand.

There have to be more things like this that I’m missing. If you can think of any, please share in the comments, or on Twitter followed by the hashtag #pleasefixthisapple. We’ll be watching, and your suggestions might make their way into future posts.

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26 Responses to “Please Fix This, Apple”

  1. We need formatting in emails on mobile devices, eg Bold, Italic bullets etc.

    On the iMac, getting things like bullets etc is clunky.

    Sad to say but I actually like the fact Microsoft put Calendar, Email and Contacts in one application. It saves having all 3 open and more often than not, its really the only time you would use them anyway.

    It would be a tough call to see Apple move to copy MS in that respect but it works for me. Outlook 2010 on Windows I think is by far the best email client yet.

    By i love my mac and use a combination of both.

  2. I’d like there to be a forward and backward buttons in mail as i jump between mails a lot i’d like there to be a history of the emails i jumped to today instead of searching for them

    i’d also like better search criteria and a warning for when i don’t have an attachment even tho i wrote “please find attached”!

    having said that – i was trying to install thunderbird on a pc recently – on setup it tried to do things automatically but set up the email boxes as imap without me realising and then when i figured out why it wasn’t working it didn’t let you change the setting to pop3 – turns out it’s a bug – one that means i’ll never use thunderbird again. I’ll stick to windows live mail on pc, and mail on mac.

  3. Hamranhansenhansen

    > headphones

    Most people like the Apple headphones, and many of us purchase accessory headphones. No matter what Apple does with headphones, they have to be one size fits all, there will always be some of us who prefer an accessory set.

    > custom sounds for text messages

    I believe this is in iOS v4.2, coming either today or next week.

    > a better mail

    The MobileMe browser mail is excellent, and it is likely we will see significantly change to match it and the iPad in Mac OS Lion in mid-2011.

    > multi-format video support

    Modern consumer electronics devices support standard video (ISO MPEG-4) in their hardware. This is similar to how DVD players supported ISO MPEG-2 in hardware. The devices don’t have the CPU power to play arbitrary codecs, they must use their video decoder. This is even true of PC’s, many of which cannot play a full HD 1920×1080 with their CPU, they must decode in their GPU, which has an ISO MPEG-4 decoder. An MP4 file is a “discless DVD”: it’s playable everywhere. If you have nonstandard video files, transcode them to MP4 on your Mac, add them to iTunes, and play them anywhere. This is consumer electronics where things have to just work, not the PC industry where you can express your individuality by breaking and configuring things constantly. So you will not be getting nonstandard codec support from Apple. End of story.

    > Just fix it

    Windows XP users, who make up the majority of the PC user base, have no sympathy for you. Same with non-Apple phone users, who rarely get updates. For example, Android v2.2 has made it out to only 35% of users, and many of those purchased new hardware to get it.

  4. Number 1 thing on my list is to be able to accept calendar invitations on my iphone and have them sync into mobile from there. It’s the only thing keeping me from ditching the ‘berry entirely.

  5. My father is a music-lover who listens to FLACs and CDs only and has all the noise-cancellation hardware at home, and he says the Apple earbuds that came with his iPhone have the best sound quality of all the high-end earbuds he has tried.

  6. I’ll agree with all points except for the one. It’s actually my favourite mail program, since it does everything I want it to (except coloured labels would be nice). Too many features and they obscure the simplicity. They make my easy email workflow more complicated by just being there. I know it’s not for every power user, but I don’t think it’s Apple’s responsibility to provide that. If you want a more robust mailer, download something else. Apple should make the one that works well (and simplest) for most people.

    I actually recommend people take a look at their email managing habits if they’re having a problem. I work with people who have rules set up sending things to folders and automatically doing a bunch of other things; these are people missing information, appointments, meetings… I actually take some time out a couple times a day to go through my emails. If it’s something I’ll need later, I manually move it to the right folder. If it’s something I can deal with right away, I do that. If I need to delegate, easy. If I need to defer, then I make a calendar appointment.

    Email is easier if you stop fidgeting with it and act on stuff. Getting to inbox zero was the best change in habits ever.

  7. And please, Apple, make iPhoto auto-rotate my pictures of people to the right orientation. I don’t have an iPhone, but I imagine they already do that with pix on the iPhone since it knows which way you’re holding the camera, but with their ability to locate faces, and to know where eyes are (red-eye reduction) they should be able to make a pretty good guess as to the orientation of photos with people. (Of course, make it a pref. option to turn off auto-rotate.) I would LOVE for iPhoto to have this option! It’d save me so much time. They already took away the icon for rotating a photo (now the only way is to use the menu dropdown or keyboard shortcut) … let’s just make it automagical!

  8. There is a setting in the settings app under mail, that let’s you customize when you get email notifications. I think to get alerts you have to take it off the manual setting. Then it can either check for your new mail every fifteen, thirty min., or even once an hour. I bet that solves the mail notify issue.

  9. I got one more.

    I have a macbook pro, I travel quite a lot, so the DVDs I can watch and that I buy are not all the same region…. Perhaps a license or other that enables people to watch DVDs from different regions without a limited number of changes would be nice. Mac are for productive and mobile people. I am.. but I do need too to clear out my head from times to another.

    • This is not really an Apple-specific thing. The DVD consortium requires the players be locked. I don’t think you can buy a name-brand DVD player that doesn’t have a region-lock (I bought a Philips that was unlocked in 10 seconds).

      Anyway, just install VLC. It plays just about everything including DVDs without any regard for the region code. The alternative is download some custom firmware, but this its a pain in the ass to patch.

  10. There’s a reason that Apple limits video playing to certain codecs and that is hardware-accelerated decoding. This is why iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad get such amazing battery life when it comes to video. H.264 video processing can be done in hardware which consume less CPU cycles which means less power consumed leading to better battery life. Sorry, this has nothing to do with piracy. In fact, the overwhelming majority of pirated movies (at least the high definition ones) are encoded with H.264. And most of the standard definition ones are encoded with MPEG-4 or an open-source codec based on it such as Xvid. Which, by the way, should play on iOS devices without too much effort.

  11. I still find that 9 times out of 10, someone whining about an Apple bug has some crap software on their critter that provides the problem.

    You don’t get to hear your mail arrive? Mine is loud enough that down the hall from the study and in the living room, I know when something just dropped – and if I feel like checking, I can pick up my iPad and see what arrived.

    Never failed once. Through a few Mac desktops in the past 5 years.

    • Andrew MacDonald

      Im sorry but im with the author on this one. My problem is not that I can’t hear the alerts, its the fact that for 80% of the emails I receive, I simply do not get an alert.

      It’s as if is choosing which emails to play an alert for, and the others, no alert is made, other than the red badge on the software icon.

      As for your comment about some ‘crap’ piece of software causing the problem, I find this very hard to believe, as I own four Macs at home, and 9 at my businesses office, and all have different software for different purposes, therefore I don’t think this is a third party software issue.

      • Andrew MacDonald

        Im sorry but do you really think I’m that stupid that I’d have not considered that this might be a volume thing?

        I spend 6 hours a day at my computer with the volume at a more than adequate level, so no, volume isn’t the issue.

      • Ah. Just because you’ve never experienced the problem, it therefore must be the fault of the person who is? Cripes. Good thing you guys aren’t in tech support. You’d drive your company into bankruptcy.

        I, too, experience this problem intermittently. No rhyme or reason to it at all. I don’t lose any sleep over it, but it is kinda weird. And having someone tell me it’s my fault is just lame.

      • Andrew MacDonald

        Thanks @NukemHill….

        Clearly to you other guys, this is a problem which isn’t limited to just a few, therefore it is indeed a problem that exists… one which none of us who experience the problem understand or know how to fix.