Apple has long been accused of being a ‘walled garden’. This has several meanings. For an Apple user, it means the more Apple devices you have, the better, as they all communicate with each other to make your life easier. They’re all ‘in the garden’, if you will. This metaphor does not suit, say, someone who wants an Android phone but uses a Mac. The other criticism comes from developers: Apple ‘walls off’ its apps and the OS so you have to work within this environment. You can’t modify the environment itself, only the stuff in the flowerbeds. Developers like messing with the system – this represents a type of digital freedom, sure, but it also leads to multiple versions of the system, which is what you have in the Android world. Your app may work on your phone with your OS, but it won’t necessarily continue to work once you change phons or systems. This frustration is much, much rarer in the Apple world.
But, as I sometimes tell groups a little fatuously, a walled garden is more secure (true enough: Apple’s security record remains stellar) and besides, ‘gardens are nice’.
These criticisms have resurfaced lately with iPhone 7, since the only port into the device now is an Apple-designed port, that being the Lightning connector. That means everything interpreted though this port has to be mandated and controlled by Apple, or at least fit its Lightning guidelines. As Engadget points out, to create devices for the Lightning port, accessory makers have to sign up for Apple’s MFi (Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad) program.
However, the same can’t be said of iOS 10. iOS is now much more open than it was three years ago. IOS 7 was a huge visual overhaul, but it was nearly as locked down as the previous versions. The following year, Apple started opening things up. Now, claims Engadget (again) iOS is nearly as open as Android, at least as far as users are concerned. Look at the new Messages, for example: you can add stickers, draw on photos, send your heartbeat and even use other apps from inside iMessage.
I haven’t seen an iPhone 7 yet (anyone got one and willing to comment?). Going by the specs and reviews, it’s a brilliant iPhone in every way. But now we’re already wondering what next year will bring, with even Fortune posting a speculative piece on what Apple might offer for an iPhone. Why? Next year is the tenth anniversary of the introduction of the first iPhone, which appeared and changed everything in 2007.