Grasping Apple's Reach

Rumors are swirling: Apple will soon unveil a virtual reality headset, adding another device to its lucrative portfolio. There’s also talk that Apple’s grasp is stretching to reach the mental health space with a new journaling app. And recently, it debuted a new Apple Pay Savings Account; could this portend a forthcoming Apple Bank? It seems the tech giant’s ecosystem knows no bounds.

Meanwhile, I’ve grown wary of ceding so much of my digital life to Apple’s walled garden. It’s time to step back and rethink being “all-in”.

Too much of a good thing

After using only Apple products for years, I started to ”think different.”

First, I let my AirPods go. Next, I sold my iPad. Then I decoupled from many of Apple’s apps and services.1 I was happy to embrace its ecosystem but now I’m cautious — with healthy suspicion — about placing all my eggs in the Apple basket.

It’s eye-opening when you realize how far reaching Apple’s tech platform is. From computers of all kinds to entertainment, financial services, and more, the company has managed to grasp a lot. And though praised for privacy and security, its pervasive ecosystem has me concerned. Going all-in is risky. And it’s harder to use competing options, especially as Apple’s basket expands, tempting you to give it more of your time, money, and data.

More new Apple things

What more could Apple market to the masses? Maybe an electric car; maybe not. Other things are more likely.

Apple Pay Savings Account

This one isn’t a rumor; it’s available now. Though it sounds simple enough and seems like a good way to earn some cash, I’m reluctant to move any money from my traditional bank to Apple’s quasi-bank. I don’t think it’s a good idea to trust Apple so much, or to grant it more reach and power in such a way.

Apple Reality Headset

No longer content to make a computer for your car, desk, lap, pocket, wrist, and ears, Apple reportedly will make one for your entire head. Do we really want more screen time? Don’t studies show we need less?2 I’m skeptical about the rumored headset. It sounds expensive, unnecessary, and like it will add complexity.

Apple Journaling App

Apple makes a Notes app; you might already give it your thoughts. Apple also records your physical health data if you want, thanks to the Fitness and Health apps with the Apple Watch. If that’s not enough, you may soon be able to let Apple record or interpret your emotions.

Various reports suggest the company hopes its algorithms will help improve your mental health. But this sounds creepy and invasive. And for a subject like mental health, I think Apple might tread on sensitive ground.

From Apple Insider,

But in the future, Apple wants algorithms built into the iPhone to infer a user’s mood from their speech, the words they type, and other information stored on their devices.

Andrew Orr

Most tellingly, from Bloomberg’s “Power On” newsletter, April 30, 2023,

The company is looking to further lock users into its ecosystem with major new health initiatives

Apple, after many years of development, is also getting into mood and emotion tracking, aiming to put people in better touch with how they feel on a daily basis.

Mark Gurman

I’m an adult. And I already journal daily. Why do I need an iPhone to tell me how I feel? As Gurman says, Apple is “…looking to further lock users into its ecosystem…

I don’t need an iPhone to know how I feel about such lock-in.

One less thing

Should Apple make “one more thing?” How much more of my digital life does Apple want to consume?

The more Apple products and services I own, the more the company owns me.

Maybe I should have one less Apple thing.

I might replace my Apple Watch with a Garmin fitness watch or go back to a “dumb” watch. I could cancel my Apple Card or stop using Apple Pay. I’m also considering a Windows laptop instead of my MacBook. Whatever I choose, I likely won’t stop using my iPhone3,4.

How about the convenience of adding my driver’s license to the Apple Wallet, or my car keys? These could be so convenient…to be more locked into Apple’s ecosystem.

What is the true cost of total dependence on one for-profit company?

Don’t buy all the things

The point is to not be swayed by marketing into buying all the Apple things. Don’t totally rely on its ecosystem no matter how well each part works together.

Consider these cautions:

From NBCNews,

The excessively optimistic rhetoric of the tech giants, their slick PR and the years of uncritical coverage they have garners have let us sleepwalk into handing them control over the global information ecosystem beyond that of even the largest media conglomerate.

…we should remember we still have the means and ways to hold them to check — our wallets and our laws — and we should get ready to use them.

James Ball

And from Slate,

Apple has, for the most part, avoided the appearance of outright malevolence—a contrast with some of its Big Tech contemporaries. But it is also, in the end, operating toward the same end goals: growth and profit. For that reason, if not others, consider well how much of your life you cede to its digital realm. You may find it’s hard to take it back.

Damon Beres

A little bit of everything

Instead of using only Apple products, consider what’s outside the walled-garden. And while one might say using cross-platform apps and devices is “fragmented,” it’s a good way to diversify your tech portfolio.

This opens you to enjoying the best tech solutions irregardless of company origin. For example, Microsoft Surface devices may be great; don’t automatically reject them due to lacking an Apple logo. And though the Apple Watch is excellent, it doesn’t work with an Android Phone. But Garmin fitness watches work with either iPhone or Android and have great ratings.

Given Apple’s expensive ecosystem, diversifying also opens you to more affordable offerings. Want good noise canceling headphones? You can buy JBLs instead of AirPods Pro, saving a lot a money.

Spreading your computing needs across multiple platforms protects you from lock-in. You’re free to be flexible and adapt your workflow from far more tech tools than Apple alone can offer.

Using various services also protects from single-point failure. If all your data is in iCloud and the service suffers a hack, breach, or a data-center meltdown, then all your data is compromised or lost.

Here’s the thing

I admire Apple for its many strengths as a computing platform. It does a lot of things and does them very well. But I’m afraid it tries to do too much. And I’m afraid I gave it too much credit and trust. It happened by small steps over time; I realized how much they added up. It’s time to take a few steps back.

What do you think?

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  1. I quit using: Safari, Notes, Reminders, News, Maps, Podcasts, Pages, Numbers, Photos, Time Machine, and iCloud Keychain. ↩︎

  2. Whether excess screen time is a negative or not remains a subject of study and debate. ↩︎

  3. Though Android phones are tempting since they: are inexpensive, have USB-C ports, microSD card slots, headphone jacks, longer zoom lenses, or no display notches. ↩︎

  4. If I gave up my iPhone, I’d also lose: AirTag, Apple Card, Apple Pay, Apple Watch, iMessage, Find My, and FaceTime. ↩︎