Apple in 2023: The Numeric Citizen Report Card

Spoiler alert: I have mostly positive feelings about Apple's performance for 2023.

Apple in 2023: The Numeric Citizen Report Card

My scores

It’s the time of the year when SixColors comes out with their Apple performance report for the previous year. As usual, there is a lot to cover in this edition. I wasn’t invited to contribute this year (and the years before, for that matter), but I decided to write my take (just like him and him). I'll use the order of relative devices’ importance to me.

HW reliability (5/5): Apple is at the top of its game when building high-quality devices. I can’t remember when I had a hardware-related issue with my Apple devices besides aging batteries. It’s one of the many ways to be environmentally friendly.

SW Quality (4/5): Is it getting better? Is it getting worse? Was 2023 a good year? It depends. Apple is undergoing a massive development effort each year by releasing many operating system updates in sync for all their devices. It is a significant feat in itself. But what about the quality of those releases? Is the ecosystem becoming too complex, introducing new and hard-to-fix bugs? For example, on my iPad, I see more and more visual weirdness in iPadOS 17, much less on my iPhone. My iPad can’t always keep up with the animations and drops many frames here and there. I suspect AutoLayout issues when rotating the device. It is not as smooth as it once was. On the Mac, macOS Sonoma is one of the most stable releases in recent times. I’m not a developer or doing advanced research work but a power user. On the Watch, watchOS is a less positive experience. WatchOS got too complex to interact with when Apple removed force touch as an input trigger.

iPhone (5/5): The year 2023 was one for an iPhone upgrade for me, coming from the iPhone 13 Pro. I’m enjoying the iPhone 15 Pro Max a lot. Battery life isn’t what I expected, though. But for the rest, with the Titanium finish and rounded edges, it’s one of the best iPhone designs since the iPhone 5. Oh, did I forget to mention USB-C? Besides replacing a few accessories, I'm happy to see the convergence happening on the iPhone, too.

Mac (5/5): I think the Mac has never been in better shape in hardware and software. Sonoma is my favourite release in a long time. Thanks to Apple Silicon's apparent endless power, I’m in a constant mood of wanting to upgrade to something more powerful. I'm currently using a M1 Mac mini and a 15-inch M2 MacBook Air, and I'm pretty happy. If I had to make an upgrade this year, I would probably go with the Mac Studio once it gets the M3 treatment. An M3 base model would be a major upgrade compared to my 2020 Mac mini.

iPad (3/5): I no longer understand the iPad product line. It is way too crowded. It looks like it is in a permanent state of transition. The lack of compatibility between models and accessories is surprising. I have the feeling the iPad Pro needs a better differentiation factor. An M3 version won’t fix the iPad Pro differentiation. The software will be if Apple is willing to be slightly more adventurous. What about having the possibility of running macOS on the iPad Pro? One can dream. I know my Magic Keyboard won’t fit the new iPad Pro casing. I'm due for an upgrade for my aging 2018 11-inch iPad Pro. Will the upcoming iPad Pro be cheap enough and worth every penny for me to upgrade? Time will tell.

Wearables (3/5): I still love my AirPods Pro 2. I use them for music and for conference calls at work. I also have AirPods Max, which I use for music listening and on long-distance flights. I feel my AirPods Max could be lighter. I would buy a lighter pair with USB-C and improved noise cancellation. But now we have the Apple Vision Pro. It is a technological marvel. I’m playing the wait-and-see game for the Apple Vision Pro. I think the latter is a major technical achievement, but a demo at the Apple Store will be the first step in deciding what I will do.

Watch (3/5): All in all, it was a slow year for Apple in this space. I wear an Apple Watch Series 8. I didn't find the Series 9 worth an upgrade. The Ultra is not for me, and I'm not too fond of its design. I still like the Series 8 design, but it is due for an overhaul, similar to what we got with the iPhone X. Will Apple make the watch exciting again in 2024? Maybe I could upgrade with the rumoured Series X, marking a two-year cycle.

Environment/Social (4/5): Apple is showing the lead here while playing the marketing game. Some cynics will say that Apple doesn't care. I would argue quite the opposite and that their actions are concrete and worth their efforts. It’s better than nothing.

Services (3.5/5): What can I say? I’m an Apple One subscriber. I heavily depend on Apple services in general and iCloud in particular (for photos, mail, private relay, email aliases, etc.). I don't read much Apple News or play games on Apple Arcades. I think Apple has been too pushy for subscriptions in recent years, and 2023 was no exception. I hope they don't go ahead with ads-based services; that would be anti-Apple (imagine ads in Maps! Sounds awful, right?). I wouldn't be surprised to see Siri+ this year.

Developers relations (2/5): I’m not a developer but depend on developers to build great software to power great hardware devices. Apple is playing with fire here with its developers. It's time for an attitude reversal toward the developer’s base and governments. If 2023 is any indication, 2024 might be challenging for Apple, especially in Europe.

Apple TV (4/5): I use the Apple TV quite often, but as a TV, so it's an invisible device. I don't play games on it. It's small enough, fast enough, but not cheap enough. I'm not too fond of the tvOS 17 navigation sidebar. I don't navigate content much, but everything needs more clicks now.

HomeKit (3/5): I use a few HomeKit devices and Siri to turn the lights on or off. I also have a camera that I use when I'm away from home to peek inside my house if necessary. That's pretty much it.

The Apple Health Index

Finally, I have built a table of indicators that try to convey the current state of Apple. They cover the products, our expectations, the market landscape and finance. It’s purely arbitrary (choice of criteria) and subjective (score attribution).

The Apple Health Index as of 2024-02
The Apple Health Index as of 2024-02
Overall, Apple’s performance in 2023 can be seen as a mixed bag. While the hardware remains top-notch and the iPhone and Mac lines continue to impress, areas like the iPad and wearables could be improved. The company’s commitment to the environment and social responsibility is commendable, but some may argue that more could be done. Services have been a strong point for Apple, but the aggressive push for subscriptions may not sit well with everyone. Developers' relations appear to be strained, and it’s something that Apple needs to address. The Apple TV and HomeKit are useful, but minor issues could be worked on. As we move into 2024, it will be interesting to see how Apple addresses these areas and continues innovating in the tech world.