Should we settle for "good enough" from Apple when there are 3rd party alternatives?

One of the themes I keep hearing on the podcast and elsewhere is whether product or software or feature “x” from Apple is good enough to use instead of a 3rd party option.

Part of the success of the Apple platform is due to availability of high quality third party software and hardware that works smoothly with Apple systems.

But I sense an ongoing bias to settle for “good enough” as much as possible when Apple offers something while we beat up on other companies for not having ultimate perfection and reject their products even when they are clearly better simply because they are not from Apple.

It’s not simple - integration of 100% Apple solutions can be better so should “good enough” always trump “better” or should we be more open to alternatives and not so quick to swallow anything Apple throws our way?

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I can’t speak for anyone else but when I decide to default to Apple apps, even when there are third-party apps that may be more powerful and feature rich, it is often an assessment of a cost benefit analysis. When developers charge a subscription, and let’s not start a debate about that again :-), then the equation changes. It’s not merely a matter of just going with Apple products, it’s a matter of one’s perception of the relative return on investment of the various options. At least, that is how I look at it. “Good enough“ is relative to not just features and quality but also the overall value based on price. For some, if not many of us, it takes a lot to overcome free and good enough versus the superior and expensive. :slight_smile:


I wholeheartedly agree with @Bmosbacker in this.
For me it’s about return on investment, with deep system integration mixed in.


I’m in favor of using the best tools for the job. I don’t find it distressing or wasteful to have a lot of alternatives available to me, so long as each contributes some additional benefit that exceeds its cost. That said, I use Apple Notes for an awful lot…

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I can’t think of any answer besides, ‘It depends.’


“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

— Leo Tolstoy



It depends how we are measuring. Look at Reminders app, since the redo… it has become good enough for me. Now… Things and Todoist have more function, but Apple having the advantage of the default which is important on iOS means the good enough aspect of Reminders is… well good enough. I have switched from Evernote to Notes for much of the same reason… though I think Notes is legit one of the best Notetaking apps for what I use it for.

I’m fine with Apple making apps along as they are good even if it’s not best in class for that application type. While I may want a more robust task manager than Reminders I realize that I’m not the target audience. They are mass market products and made for people that want something that comes with there system to keep a few reminders for them.

That said as long as Apple allows an environment that still allows people to compete with the apps on their systems I’m fine with it.

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My feeling is that this is an intentional decision by apple when it comes to iOS apps etc. Apple gives you these things for for free, where as the third party apps make apple money. If apple makes the perfect calendar app that eliminates any want for any third party app, all they have achieved is cutting off a revenue stream. You can then extrapolate this out across all the other apps. Apple needs to make something that is good enough, but nothing special. This leaves room for developers to make more specialized apps with different bells and whistles while apple collects a percentage of the revenue.


That is an interesting take, one I’ve not considered.

You’ve got a few strong statements in there suggesting “we” are contradicting ourselves.
I don’t beat up on other companies for not having ultimate perfection and I don’t settle for good enough as much as possible from Apple.

I do think that ultimate perfection does not come from having all the best features, rather from having all the features I want done in an accessible, useful, powerful, delightful way. Perfection is not an absolute, and what’s clearly better for you may be worse for me (often for over complicating things).

Also, many times Apple’s good enough hits as close to the mark as another company’s attempt, though maybe for different reasons, but Apple’s is free/built into the cost of the machine.


I don’t think anyone, including anyone at Apple, thinks they’re up to creating, maintaining and updating the perfect anything app, especially for free- unless it establishes a benefit over other platforms. Even so, iTunes and Apple Music would fall into that category and have been relative mediocre apps. Even pay apps like News+ are pretty average (on iOS, worse on macOS). The apps Apple makes that are competitive are few and far between - Logic and Messages (on iOS only) and … well, not much else, I think. And I don’t think it’s because they choose not to be “perfect”.

Doesn’t matter to me if Apple makes software if it’s not software I want to use. Does anyone really lay out a few thousand dollars for a computer that is bundled with a few apps whose market value is probably less than $100, just because those apps are in the bundle? I doubt it.

If the Apple app works well enough why should I spend the money for another app that might work a little bit better? Notes does pretty much everything I need in a note taking app. My needs are modest. On the other hand I find Overcast to be much better than the Apple app. Worth the extra cost to me.

Another case is maps. I prefer the way that Apple Maps works over Google. When driving in town I like that it works with my watch to tell me about upcoming turns. However when on long trips I use Waze because it provides better traffic and other information.

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As mentioned, lots of people do not care about the extra bells and whistles. For example, Apple mail while basic, works perfectly for me. It doesn’t offer snooze or sorting algorithms etc, but I get those from sanebox. I do find Apple mail always works though. Every time I take a detour and explore Airmail or Spark, I enjoy the extras, but the core functionality always seems to let them down (for me). There are some apps that I prefer the stability of the apple app over the perks of the 3rd party. Some examples are:

Notes - While I have lots of notes, I do not need it to be pretty or full of tricks, so I do not want to pay for something that does more when I don’t value it.

Reminders/Calendars - These are too bare bones for me, so I pay for Omnifocus and Fantastical

To me it’s a lot like cooking.

I use canned tomatoes in a number of recipes, and I buy the store brand. I personally think they taste fine.

I’m sure that if you dropped Mario Batali into my kitchen and gave him my store-brand canned tomatoes he’d just about have a heart attack. He understands and appreciates the difference between different types of canned, fresh, and everything in-between. And that’s cool. More power to him.

And honestly, if he served me “the good stuff”, I might agree that it’s much better - but also determine that it’s not worth paying the extra for. He would obviously see things differently. And there’s room in the market for both.

That’s pretty much exactly how I look at apps. I’ve hemmed and hawed around a number of app purchases because the value calculus just didn’t line up. Sure, I can do task X in (BusyCal or Fantastical or whatever) twice as fast as Calendar - but do I do that task enough that it justifies the price? For me, a good portion of the time the answer is “no”.

Apple’s apps, if nothing else, are almost always good enough for me to use, start to figure out my use cases, figure out where I start running into rough edges in the workflow, and give me a basis for starting the search for an app that will work better. And if I never hit a rough edge, hey - money saved. Bonus. :slight_smile:

But I don’t think I’d ever say “well, you know, this built-in app really sucks and it causes me all sorts of problems, but because it’s Apple I guess I’ll put up with it”.


Bundled applications have always been added to an OS so a (new) user can do something useful with his/her new computer straight out of the box. If Apple (or Microsoft for that matter) wouldn’t put an e-mail client and browser on the machine, people - especially new or inexperienced users - could feel lost with their shiny new machine. And also, they’re handy to show off the capabilities of a computer in a store.

The statement that has been maded above that Apple applications are (more) integrated in the operating system is nonsense. They’re all using the same api’s basically. Apple only has the advantage of having more knowledge of the api’s. Although it’s very likely that the developers working on applications at Apple (compared to those working on the actual operating system) still have to use the documentation that’s delivered by their colleagues in the other department.

For a lot of (casual) users the bundled applications will be sufficient. And in order to stay attractive to those people, Apple (and, again, Microsoft, and Google/Samsung/etc. for Android) will keep on improving these applications. Not to compete with other software developers, but just to keep their platform attractive for the average user.

What is good about being content?. Seems a very dangerous place to be…

It is easy to do but don’t confuse contentment—the quality of being thankful, satisfied, and at peace with what one has without the constant need to consume and possess more, with apathy. Contentment, rightly understood, is a virtue; it is not the antithesis of ambition nor is it to be confused with apathy and passivity, which are not virtues. One can be content and simultaneously highly ambitious and always striving for excellence.


This has been known to not be the case in the past. Listening to some developer podcasts over the past half-dozen years, it’s been noted several times that Apple has done something in an internal app, but not exposed the functionality in an API. This is particularly true on iOS / WatchOS where the system seems much more locked down.

Doesn’t necessarily mean the internal Apple apps are the best solution, but there are definitely times when they have a leg up on the third party options.