I’m canceling my four-year-old Spotify subscription not because Apple Music is a better overall service than Spotify, but because it’s better for owners of Apple devices. I’m an iPhone owner and I’ve grown accustomed to asking Siri to play specific bands, songs, albums, or playlists. “Hey Siri, play Beats 1 Radio,” I say and she delivers. And when I add a song on my iPhone at the gym, it’s automatically added to my iPad and Mac at home. Apple Music also works best on the new Apple TV I’ll be upgrading to in the fall, as well as the Apple Watch I’ll almost certainly own someday.
See, I’m already locked inside the Apple ecosystem and so is my family.
I’ve owned an iPhone since the iPhone 3G and now distribute older, otherwise unused models around the family: my wife has a 5S, my oldest kid has an iPhone 5, and the middle kid has an iPhone 4. Soon my youngest will also get a hand-me-down. The same is true for my old Macs and iPads, each getting distributed like discarded bits of second-hand clothing. Being able to stretch the lifespan of these devices is both economically and environmentally smart but it also handcuffs us to Cupertino: we share apps, photos, films, GPS coordinates, calendars, storage, and now, streaming music, all served up by Apple. Not because Apple always offers the best of all possible discrete solutions, but because Apple’s apps and services are increasingly the best options for Apple device owners.
I still fight Apple at the fringes by using products I find superior for navigation (Google Maps), email (Gmail), calendar (Google Calendar), office automation (Google Docs), collaboration (Evernote), photos (Google Photos), and network storage (Dropbox). But I also set up (and ignore) Apple’s Mail and Calendar apps in order to take advantage of new intelligent features like Proactive Assistant which requires my data be stored inside of Apple’s own software.
Right now I find this dual setup manageable but I can’t hold out forever. The future of iOS and Android (see Now on Tap) will be a user experience that seamlessly spans the OS, apps, and services to control and interact with an entire internet of things. You’ll "Ok Google" into your wrist to prepare the living room for a film, while I shout "Hey Siri, I’m leaving for vacation" in order to hibernate the house. Google’s Nest and Apple’s HomeKit smart home platforms are quickly maturing as are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It won’t be long until your choice of phones will also determine your watch, TV, thermostat, light bulbs, dryer, doorbell, locks, and car, in addition to your laptop, tablet, and desktop computer. Hell, that’s probably already the case for many Verge readers — it is for me.
When we’re all locked into ecosystems that vast and that intractable, what motivation will companies like Apple and Google have to make all their apps best-in-class? Not quite as good will be good enough because people will use inferior apps if they provide the base-level means by which we enter our homes and start our cars.
I’m sorry, good people of Spotify — although I worry where this will take me, I really have no choice but to graze in the ecosystem I call home.
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