Can Apple make any good applications any more?

On another popular, but “accidental” tech podcast, the hosts bring up the popular opinion that Apple hasn’t been able to make a great application of their own in a long time. (Not systems, but end user applications).

As I keep moving away from Apple Apps that are either discontinued, dumbed down, or not updated in a long time (Fantastical instead of calendar, the new CardHop contact app, Adobe Lightroom instead of discontinued Aperture and limited Photos, Bear instead of Apple Notes, DropBox instead of iCloud, Adobe Premiere instead of Final Cut, 3rd party Email clients, etc.) it has got me wondering.

Other than “putting up” with some existing Apple standard apps, what Apple app has gotten me updated or happy to stay with in the past few years? Not much.

So has Apple lost the ability to innovate create apps that delight us?

(The majority of the interesting Apple products discussed on MPU always seem to be hardware (AirPods, new iPad Pro, superfast iMac Pro, etc.) and all the complaints seem too be software.)

Safari, Final Cut Pro, Shortcuts.


One could argue that they have an inherent conflict of interest with freeware bundled with the OS, when they make 30% off of App Store purchases.

I agree this is a concern. We pay a premium for Apple products. The software needs to be better.

I haven’t listened to the ATP episode yet, but I take issue with the argument that if third party software is better than free first party software, there is an issue with the first party software. Apple Notes, Calendar, iCloud Drive, Reminders, etc. set the floor for software quality in their respective areas. In order to be viable, third party software must not just be better, but be better enough that they make money after customer acquisition costs.

In the cases where Apple’s paid professional software is compared to third party competitors, the track record is admittedly mixed. I do think that it’s unproductive to be upset about the FCPX release several years ago; it’s really productive software now and gaining market share from Premiere in some industries. Same for Logic vs. Audition. It would be nice to have professional photo and vector editing software from Apple again, but a discontinuation isn’t necessarily a sign of poor software quality.


I think it’s important to keep in mind that most of the listeners of MPU are outliers amongst the users of the 1 billion Apple devices in use. Apple makes apps to please the majority of its customers, as it should. If those don’t blow your hair back, there are third-party apps available.


Agree with all 3 of these!

I enjoy Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Because of work, I’m stuck with the O365 Pro Plus apps, but I always use Pages, Numbers and Keynote for my own documents. I like Notes too.

These all work great on macOS and iOS – as expected. Safari handoff between macOS and iOS is excellent – again, as expected. Keychain is great.

That said, 90% of the software I use is not made by Apple. What I need and want, they don’t make. So, that’s fine. It’s not because they “can’t make good applications” – it’s because consumer software isn’t their thing for the most part.


I think Apple make brilliant software, but we should be careful not to conflate features with quality, or to conflate simplicity with dumbness.

I buy far too many apps, but here are the Apple ones I use and love having tried alternatives. For some of them it is the simplicity that I find brilliant.

  • Reminders
  • Notes
  • Logic
  • Safari
  • Mail
  • Keynote
  • Numbers

I also use Messages, iBooks, Pages, Photos, iTunes, Final Cut Pro and maybe others, but don’t love them so much.

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After listening, I think Siracusa said something interesting in that (long) segment.

  1. Apple does not make traditional complicated applications anymore (tables of data, lots of views, accessed via an arbitrarily deep menu bar in addition to whatever in-app UI is made available.)
  2. Apple does not store complete local data that applications can present via a local API (e.g., they aren’t going to store and present all of a user’s music information locally so anyone can develop an iTunes replacement.)

I agree with both of those but disagree with the idea that a professional app is either or both of those things.

My personal experience with my own friends and family is that they get frustrated with apps.

If it doesn’t do what they want is one thing, but another is if it asks them questions they can’t answer (eg in settings). The biggest problem, by far, is if it stops working and this is where I find Apple shines (generally). The gains in daily productivity can be offset by troubleshooting (which is why Macs can beat Windows).

A friend of mine, a part-time musician and longtime apple user was lamenting Apple earlier this week. I think most of his heartburn was with hardware. The last few years it seems the focus has been more on iOS applications. Some users have gone the route of iPad/iPhone only. Or leaving the laptop at home on trips.

Notes are all superb. Also I like how they tie in with their iOS equivalents.

Now a Mac user has plenty of choices of applications to suit their needs. There are at least three different office productivity applications. There are also ample options for more detailed out in the weeds applications. Third parties offer more viability.

Has apple dropped the ball? The answer depends on what you are wanting to do. I am of the opinion that Apple makes good applications.