Blog Post

Why Apple’s obsolescence effect is overblown

Not long after Steve Jobs’s keynote, a lament went out about apps and services iOS 5 and iCloud will render obsolete. However, after reviewing early reports of how iOS 5 works, I’d argue that many of the “threatened” apps will still hold a place in the hearts of users.

Instapaper. After watching Steve Jobs demo the new Reader function in Safari(s aapl), Instapaper developer Marco Arment famously tweeted a one-word expletive in response. Like Instapaper, the Reader tool does make text-heavy pages much easier to read on the iPhone and iPad, but Instapaper does much more than just that. It saves files for reading later across pretty much any platform, and allows you to download them to local storage so that you can check them out even when you’re without a connection. Instapaper also works great with third-party services like Evernote, and it’s hard to imagine Apple’s offering will be as strong in that area.

SMS. Oh, how quick people were to proclaim SMS dead. We’d be free from the cost of alerting our significant others we were running late. While iMessenger’s iOS-to-iOS “free” sending is indeed a boon, I text with exactly one person who has an iOS device. To add insult to this injury, I text her so infrequently I’ll see no text savings. It may be anecdotal, but considering the trajectory of Android (s goog) in the U.S., it’s also representative of the experience of many others. SMS won’t be felled by iMessage alone.

Camera +. For quick pics of my cat doing something stupid, iOS’s native Camera app being accessible from the lock screen will make it go-to app for quick sharing. However, Camera+ will still sit on my main screen for primary picture-taking. Camera+ is an app designed by a professional photographer, and brings tons of great enhancements not offered by the stock iOS 5 alternative.

OmniFocus. While this one hasn’t specifically been proclaimed dead, the Reminders app covers a lot of what basic users need it and other to-do apps for. I don’t deal with much project-level stuff, and I could probably just enter  my school, work and writing assignments into Reminders. (Plus, the new location feature is actually pretty darn cool). What I live and die by in OmniFocus, though, are due dates and forecasting that let me see at-a-glance the big picture of what I have to do and when. So long as to-do apps can provide compelling features that aren’t available in native offerings, users will remain interested.

Dropbox. Dropbox is actually likely to get more of my money now. Jobs was vague on how Documents in the Cloud will work when it comes to OS X and Windows. Dropbox still seems like it’s going to be my go-to place to shove a document I need to share or access from different PCs. Also, having gotten burned by iDisk syncing issues before, Apple is going to have to earn the privilege of keeping my mission-critical files on iCloud. It is, after all, the company that brought me MobileMe.

Zinio. At first, I thought Zinio was a goner — assuming I could transfer my subscriptions to Newsstand. A Twitter exchange with Macworld’s Jason Snell educated me that Newsstand isn’t a true service, but rather “a place where apps (like Zinio and Daily Reader) can live.” Here’s hoping Zinio has an update at iOS 5 launch to take advantage of background downloading.

Instacast. It’s a little unclear how podcasts will work with the Wi-Fi Sync / iCloud stuff. My gut tells me it’ll work the same way it currently does, meaning you’ll have to manually fetch new episodes. On a cellular network, this usually just isn’t going to happen, because episodes tend to be over 20 MB, especially when dealing with video. Instacast is my go-to podcast fetcher now. I love the badge that pops up telling me I have a new episode, and I can download new episodes even on a cellular network.

I’m very excited about iOS 5, especially since it looks like it’s bringing me lots of great new functionality, while still giving me a place for my favorite apps. How about you? What “dead” apps will still live on your iOS device, and which do you think will be genuinely replaced?

5 Responses to “Why Apple’s obsolescence effect is overblown”

  1. This piece is a self correcting piece you thought these apps will be goners but now you are justifying to yourself that they will not be.

    Get real each app has a place in our life and the better they are the more like they will be and Apple is not that stupid to kill apps which bring them loads of cash.

  2. Am I the only reader who is tired of blogs on this site being 1) about next to nothing; and 2) full of anecdotal “facts” and personal opinions?

    As an example, I must have missed the “SMS is dead” proclamations. Anyone who did proclaim that was an alarmist – in which case, why is the author paying any attention to them? The “big” news about iMessenger was that it would allow texting from any iOS device, including the lowly iPod Touch, and that it would be free of charge. Whoever thought that would be enough to kill an entire industry should surely have their head examined, and this author should know better than to use those proclamations as a “valid” point in an article.

    As for anecdotal evidence, in my household we have three iPhones and two iPads. Texting among the iPhones is already free with our plan, but iMessage will sure be a welcome addition on the iPads. Whenever I’m with people, 4 out of 5 smartphones are iPhones. What does this mean to anyone? Absolutely nothing, same as the author’s anecdotal evidence.

    • waltah

      The “SMS is dead” proclamations came from sites like Techcrunch (as linked) and I’ve seen talk of this throughout the interwebs. While it won’t kill SMS, I believe it will change how people do it. Apple users will just start calling iMessage texting. RIM will feel the pinch even more than they already are when their BBM users migrate on over to iOS. I see people giving the author crap, but he’s just throwing it out there looking for responses (see last line of article).
      Perhaps you could all link me to your tech blogs so that I can see where you are all coming from. Just sayin.

  3. Pipermalibu

    Am I just the luckiest SOB on the planet? I have 5 Apple devices and have been flawlessly syncing to MobileMe all my bookmarks, address book, calendar, todos, etc. The function they showed of adding an entry to the address book and it being pushed to the other devices takes just a few minutes, and I have had it for a few years now. So what is all this complaining about MobileMe – It looks like MobileMe is just changing names to iCloud and adding some new media features, etc.

    I agree though, it will only make InstaPaper and Evernote, etc better, as they will fill in all the gaps that Apple misses.