Apple’s iCloud problem

Ellis Hamburger wrote a great piece about why we haven’t seen more app developers supporting iCloud.

  • In short: iCloud is a fucking mess.

    I’ve never had a problem with iCloud (other than ridiculously slow syncing of Photostream between Macs and iOS devices), but I only use it for contacts, bookmarks, and calendar items on a daily basis.

  • I’ve never had much problem with iCloud, but my use of it is pretty limited: contacts, notes, reminders, calendars. The only 3rd party app that I’m actively using with iCloud is iA Writer, and it works as advertised. Maybe I’m just lucky – I didn’t have any problems with the infamous MobileMe back in 2008 either.

    On the other hand, I don’t deny those problems exist for a notable number of people (none of whom happens to be my IRL acquaintance). Ironically, if Apple would allow people to flawlessly merge their accounts (all their countless Apple IDs) there would be less need to shuffle them during work. Which brings us to the original point – Apple sucks at web-based products.

  • I can tell you why in four words: “It just doesn’t work”.

    People seem to confuse problems with iCloud as a user versus as a developer. As a user it works pretty well because people only use it for the things that work: contacts, bookmarks, calendar–the things Apple uses it for. And maybe document-based syncing. But no one has a chance to have problems with programs that use CoreData syncing. That’s because it’s so broken that no developer has been able to release software that uses it.

    Bare Bones, hardly programming slouches, has been taking a lot of heat from its users for almost a year because they haven’t released a version of Yojimbo that works with iCloud syncing. Black Pixel’s recent post about the future of NetNewsWire admitted that they had to give up on using iCloud.

    I have to think that Apple’s hiring of Kevin Lynch is related to this. I hope it helps because they’re losing a lot of credibility with the developer community. This has to be getting really embarrassing for Apple.

  • It is not “only” about developers’ problems (and those are more than severe enough and not new, these complaints are raised since iCloud is alive).

    While this is a huge failure, there is an even bigger one. While I am positive about most things Apple, I have to honestly say that I did not hear a single word from Apple where this is supposed to go.

    “Classic” file systems are a mess? Users don’t get them? Yeah. I absolutely agree with that. No effort is needed to convince me. But what alternative has Apple provided?

    I, for example, have apps on my iPad that create plain text documents (eventually with some markup). The most basic type of file imaginable. But those apps do not have, say, support for Dropbox. But I have GoodReader (and several other tools) that do. Now, the app creating that document does also not have an “open with…” command, or it does have one, but it simply does not list GoodReader for whatever obscure reason.

    What do I do? Yes. I email myself the file and either have some luck in getting the proper “open with…” command in, or – if everything else fails – can open the attachment using Good Readers support for opening attachments from IMAP accounts. In either case, I now have: 1 copy in the original app, 1 copy in and 1 copy in Good Reader and 1 copy in Dropbox. In plain language: 4 copies on my iPad and 2 on cloud servers.

    This is better than a “conventional” file system? How?

    And it does not stop here. I want to open that document, but can’t remember which app created it. So, I use search. Now I get (assuming all apps and services involved work nicely with search, which is a huge stretch) get up to 6 files meeting my search criteria. And I have positively no way of ever finding out which one is the most current. It does not exist.

    And I am not even talking about wasting 3G/4G bandwidth, limited disk space on iOS devices, etc. Apple just pretends we all have unlimited bandwidth all the time.

    And the madness does not stop here.

    While I can access mail, contacts, calendars, notes, reminders and iWork docs through the web interface, I have positively no mean whatsoever to access data from third party apps without using the actual application. No problem? Think again!

    Let’s assume Apple releases iOS 7 and application X is not updated by the application developer to run on it. He/she just went / died / called it a day / followed the way of the great parrot, whatever. I am safe, because the plain text files created by this dead app are conveniently stored in iCloud. Hehe. No. There is no way on earth you can ever access these files again. There is no folder in the Finder (like with iDisk) that would contain your files. There is no way to poke a hole into iOS’s sandboxing to give another app access. You are simply dead in the water. You have data in a private cloud account and there is no solution on earth to even download it.

    Shitty APIs, lousy documentation, Core Data and syncing support are NOT iClouds main problems (as severe as they may seem). A complete and utter lack of a decent concept is iCloud’s problem.

    • Blame that on the app developers. They have to build that functionality and support into their apps.

  • albertkinng

    iCloud needs to be accessible in any matter. As an external drive, as an online sync and as a file sharable option. If Apple open up iCloud like that it will be awesome!

  • I thought that was a great piece, really well done.

  • I’ve never had a problem with iCloud. It’s worked perfectly for me and I use it for EVERYTHING that’s available on it.

    • The point of it is more about “it doesn’t work so devs don’t use it” so iCloud documents is fine but data sync is a fail.

      Users are only seeing issues when developers use iCloud. (at least that’s how I read it)

    • Mother Hydra

      We aren’t really talking about the limited user-facing side of iCloud. This is more of a discussion on scaling and the relative fragility of syncing databases back to iCloud. Transactional receipts etc etc. You haven’t used any of those features from iCloud via any app because they are, frankly, broken.

  • Mother Hydra

    This article is spot-on. I’m distressed at how badly Apple does with services. The architectural details for iCloud were seemingly made in a vacuum where user behavior is predictable with puppies and rainbows.

  • Trapper

    iCloud can’t keep information strait. It insists on asking me to login on an email account I dismissed a year ago. There is no way to communicate with iCloud to sort out the problem.

  • caleb

    i don’t know what is it but there are picture in my gallery which loads after i open it and looks jagged

  • jimmyjonez565 .

    Honestly FUCK icloud! And naturally FUCK apple for making it!! Why the hell can’t it be a straight forward application with a list of your backups and 2 simple BACKUP and RESTORE buttons?!?! Is that so difficult for those sadistic morons?! Look at the fucking support page its a freaking enigma of steps that includes going to “Reset” on your iOS device and choosing “Erase all content and Settings”. Why the hell should I do that to restore from an iCloud backup!?!? ANd do those morons think that I wold trust there shitty iCloud after I just opened my phone to find that all my contacts have fucking vanished?!?! So now I’m supposed to jsut erase everything to be able to restore from the iCloud backup assuming that it will work after this major fuck up!?

    • Texbry

      iCloud just sucks. I was shocked. Ththe only thing it ever did for me was increase my appreciation for Google and all things android. You said it best, FUCK APPLE!!!!