Earlier this year, Apple beat its self-stated goal of doubling Services revenue in 2020 with time to spare, and the company has not only recently announced that it will be launching a new service, Apple Fitness+, but also finally elected to offer a competitively priced bundle of its many services to consumers.
With all of that said, there are some elements of Apple’s services that are still a bit lackluster, and more than a few of them are parts of the very systems on which the company and its users rely. In the same way that you might want to look to patching a foundation before worrying about painting the walls, there are a few places where Apple might want to shore up its fundamentals before launching into something new.
Pay for this, pay for that
As someone who spends a lot of time buying software from Apple’s various app stores for both personal and business use, I find myself continually annoyed at Apple’s poor support for multiple payment methods in the iTunes and App Stores.
Yes, you can input multiple credit cards into your Apple ID profile and even use Apple Pay…which is all well and good until it comes time to check out. Then, the App Store doesn’t allow you to pick which payment to use, instead relying on whatever your primary payment method is and then, only if that fails, trying your backup methods.
So, for example, if I want to buy an app for work, I have to go into my account settings and re-order my payment methods in order to use my work credit card. The end result? Nobody really does it, because it’s a lot of friction for what should be a simple experience.
Look, associating a single credit card with your iTunes account has been the way Apple has done business for 17 years. Why stop now? The company loves to tout the number of credit cards it has tied to accounts as a metric of its Services success, and removing friction in payment is one of the chief ways in which it pitches the ease of use of the App Store for consumers and developers alike.
What’s most frustrating here is that Apple’s manner of using Apple Pay doesn’t match the way it’s used pretty much anywhere else. When I order food for delivery or request a ride, the Apple Pay option lets me pick any card in my Wallet. Why can’t I have the same option when I’m downloading apps, music, or movies? (And, for that matter, why can’t that be extended to third parties selling digital goods—but that’s a piece for another time.)
All in the family
Apple’s Family Sharing system is, at first blush, a great benefit, allowing you to share content, services, storage space, and so on with the rest of your family. But it’s got its own flaws, too, not least of which is that because of the aforementioned lack of multiple payment systems, everything purchased for the family must go through one account when Purchase Sharing is enabled.
That might work fine in a lot of situations, but it hardly deals with cases in which different adult members of a family might want to purchase things separately, for any of a variety of reasons (especially, say, where adult children have remained on their parents’ Family Sharing plans, which is going to increasingly be the case).
Apple has taken a very one-sizes-fits-all approach to Family Sharing, as with its payment methods, and that has meant and increasing number of cases with people butting up against limits that can at times seem arbitrary.
Finally, it’s time for the annual beating of the iCloud storage drum: what’s up with the 5GB limit? With Apple’s recent unveiling of its Apple One bundle, these storage plans have started to look even more long in the tooth. The free 5GB storage is the same as it was in 2011, when iPhones maxed out at 64GB, and most people had only 16GB or 32GB models. Meanwhile, the 50GB and 200GB tiers and prices have not changed in five years.
Here’s the thing: iCloud is a linchpin of Apple’s holistic product strategy. From backup to email to iMessage and photos, Apple’s devices rely on iCloud to function. Moreover, many third-party apps take advantage of the system as well, to readily make their data available across all of a user’s devices. It helps makes the experience seamless, which is definitely something that Apple likes to brag about.
But 5GB is increasingly not enough for the average person. I’ve had to walk more than a few family members through upgrading their plans because their iPhones or iPads chastised them for not having enough cloud storage space to back up their precious photos without ponying up the princely sum of $1 a month. Is that a lot? Not particularly, but the attitude of “nice photos, shame if something were to happen to them” feels very much against the image that Apple is intending to promote.
Apple’s got a few levers it could pull here, from upping the base storage amount to making device backups not count against your storage limits. But to keep things as they are now feels very much like cheap nickel-and-diming for which Apple would all too gladly criticize one of its competitors.
Dan has been writing about all things Apple since 2006, when he first started contributing to the MacUser blog. He's a prolific podcaster and the author of the Galactic Cold War series, including his latest, The Nova Incident, coming in July 2022.