This column was written on a MacBook Pro, within sight of a newish iPod nano and a third-generation iPad. I’ve never owned an iPhone; my latest smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, runs on Google’s Android platform, like every phone I’ve owned before it. And my Mac use is fairly recent; nine years ago I was a PC user. I switched over because I needed a laptop, and at the time, Apple made laptops that felt more substantial than most others on the market.
You need to understand all this before I tell you why I’m done bending a knee to the cult of Apple. Once this laptop bites the dust, I’m swearing off the Genius Bar for good. I may stick with the iPod—no one has ever made a more durable, inexpensive and consumer-friendly music player, and I doubt anyone ever will. But I’ll consider other laptops—lots of good ones being made these days—and the iPad’s days are numbered, too; at least of half of those laptops boast removable touchscreens, and by the time I’m ready to buy a new laptop, I’ll wager that all of them will.
In fact, there’s very little coming out of One Infinite Loop these days that impresses me. A watch? No thanks; don’t wear them. Apple TV? I have a Chromecast dongle that does the same job as Apple TV at a fifth of the price, and Google doesn’t block access to my Amazon streaming account like Apple does. (Admittedly, Amazon is equally to blame for its exclusion.)
Sure, Apple products are pretty. (Keep doing you, Jonathan Ive.) What’s happening inside those well-designed doohickeys, however, is reprehensible. Apple has rejected the latest version of Spotify’s iPhone app, demanding that Spotify use Apple’s billing system instead of its own. Meanwhile, Apple’s own streaming service, Apple Music, has come under scrutiny for replacing locally stored music files with streaming versions—erasing a user’s personally-owned files in the process.
But that’s not even the scariest shit Apple has pulled in recent months. That would be U.S. Patent #8,848,059, an “infrared emitter” that can be located “in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited” that will “temporarily disable (a) device’s recording function.”
At first blush, it seems innocent enough: A tool that allows concert venues to prevent unsanctioned recording. It might work, though I don’t see places like the Cosmopolitan installing camera-killers in its venues; they count on customer-generated social media for promotion. And small venues like the Bunkhouse have better ways to spend their money.
Now, I can imagine Apple’s new invention installed in restaurants, bars and shops, out of an ostensible desire to protect “customer privacy” (and to cover up shoddy business practices, where they exist). And I can easily see the camera-killer installed in airports, train stations, schools and government buildings. From there, it’s a slippery slope to car-mounted infrared emitters and entire city blocks awash in camera-killing infrared signals.
We know the names of Derrick Price, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile because someone used their camera phone in a moment where many of us would have turned away. Apple just took away that wedge. And either they were blithely unaware of how the emitter could be misused, or they knew and didn’t care. You tell me which sounds more like something a $500 billion corporation would do.
I’ll keep my MacBook and iPad until they break down. And I hope that Apple will redesign its phones to circumvent the camera exploit that they themselves created, but I’m not holding my breath. Apple no longer practices introspection. For them, it’s all about the gleaming exterior, the angelic silver finish.