Taking Apps Out Of The Apple Basket

Somewhere in the universe, a cosmic pendulum must have swung. I’m tilting away from my Apple-centric app focus toward cross-platform apps. For all the benefits of living nigh exclusively within Apple software, I’m reawakening to the wisdom and flexibility of not putting all my apps in one basket.

Big Tech Baskets

Apple’s walled-garden is nice: it gets the job done well, but does it always offer the best tools for every job? Fair question. And while the wall is “a feature, not a bug,” acting like a hedge of protection, what exactly am I protected from? And what sort of adventure might I discover outside the walls? Maybe there’s risk, but what if there’s a pot o’gold at the end of a rainbow?

There are other castles surrounded by moats. I was once all-in with Google, toting just an Android phone and a Chromebook. It was nice, especially when you consider the entry price. I got my tech fix for a fraction of the cost of Apple’s wares, using all the Google things.

Similar can be said of Microsoft with its line of Surface devices, Office suite, and OneDrive, for example. That said, without Windows Phone, one must rely on others.

Whatever tech giant you choose, it’s nice being able to dive in deep with as many apps and services as they make because their offerings look and work better together by design. Your computing is streamlined since your one account grants access to a whole family of apps/services.

But when you look past each tech giants’ synergistic advantages, you’ll see that there are many great third-party apps that deserve a chance. Indie developers, though relatively small, are no less creative and productive. In fact, since such devs can focus on one or a few apps, they tend to be better options with more robust feature sets or expert implementation.

Cross-platform Options

So I started looking over Apple’s wall. This year, I quit using Apple Notes for my journals and reverted back to Day One. The third-party developer was exclusive to Apple for years but went cross-platform with an Android app and now – in beta – a web app. For recording daily life, a dedicated journaling app far surpasses the capability of a general purpose notes app.

Last week, I stopped using Apple Podcasts and switched to Pocket Casts, also third-party and cross-platform. I just find the app better overall. It reminds me that, though Apple is great at software and hardware, it’s not the best in all cases.

Default or built-in apps typically have a low bar to pass, meeting basic functionality. In contrast, dedicated third-party apps typically offer more, better, or both in terms of features.

These moves were a crack in the Apple dam. What other non-Apple programs might I enjoy more? I’m reminded of the benefits of being less entrenched in a single tech giant’s ecosystem. It’s like mitigating risk and maximizing profit by diversifying your financial portfolio.

The Best Tools

For more examples, I’ve tried to use only Apple Books and an iPad for all my eReading in the past. Apple’s tablet is great, its Books app is very nice, and its eBook service is good enough. But despite my sincere efforts, I always run back to my beloved Kindle eInk screen and Amazon’s eBook market; I love it.

When it comes to gaming, I used to play iOS games and have enjoyed Apple Arcade exclusives like JRPG Fantasian from acclaimed Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. But gaming on Apple devices simply doesn’t compare to console gaming. Nintendo with its Switch is much better. Sony’s PS5 must also be greater since it flies off store shelves like the way people used to line up around the block to buy the new iPhones.

A few other moves I’ve made or am making to be less siloed:

  • I stopped using Apple News and now only use a third-party RSS reader, NetNewsWire (and formerly used cross-platform app Feedly).
  • I’m testing Firefox over Safari
  • I may use BitWarden versus iCloud Keychain
  • For reading later, Pocket instead of Safari reading list
  • I might also consider – gasp – a cross-platform alternative to Apple Notes like Simple Note (Markdown!).

Caveat: if I use Simple Note in addition to Day One and Pocket Casts, one might say I’m entering the Automattic silo. But Automattic, parent of WordPress, is open-minded and cross platform.

Apple makes quality hardware, very good software, and has the distinct advantage of the most holistic and cohesive computing ecosystem. But the problem of being all-in with Apple (or others) is having a closed mindset that misses out on potentially better apps.

Why rob oneself of the best tool for the job just because it doesn’t have a Big Tech logo on it?

Part of why I tend to switch up my tech setup is due to boredom. But this cross-platform push is more than a mere thought experiment or a geek seeking new tech toys. For me, a key advantage is the ability to compute on my family’s Windows computers, not just my MacBook, when the need arises. Or maybe I’ll someday revert to a PC for Steam gaming (that said, RPGMaker MZ runs great on my M1 MacBook Air).

If for no other reason, being locked into one computing platform seems unwise and feels restrictive. Though I plan to keep enjoying my MacBook and iPhone with much of Apple’s software, at least now I won’t have all my apps in one basket.

What do you think?

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