An app that’s good enough for most people still benefits from competition

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Francesco on his blog: Wishing for a Better Apple Notes

It’s fair to say that Notes has received substantial updates in the last few years. […]

The app is almost perfect, I can scan and edit PDFs, write or draw with the Apple Pencil, organise notes with folder and tags and summon a new quick note whenever I need thanks to iPad and iOS widgets or the handy 🌐 + q shortcut on my MacBook.

So, what’s still missing? Well, a few things…

I think Apple Notes is great, and I believe it is one of, if not the best note taking apps for the average person. Francesco seems to agree, but there are other things he wants from the app.

What’s notable to me about his list of requests for Apple Notes is that most of them come from features other note-taking apps have today. I’m not saying this to take a dig at Apple Notes, just that this is what happens in a software category with vibrant competition.

Yes, despite Apple Notes being pretty great for most people, there are a near infinite number of other note takers on the App Store. Some of these choices are successful enough to support a medium to large company, while others have really tapped into a niche audience and have developed sustainable businesses.

Do you think we’d have blog posts asking Apple to add backlinks to Notes if Roam Research didn’t get that ball rolling 5-ish years ago? Do you think Obsidian or Craft or Bear would have push to innovate and cater to different types of users if the free app on everyone’s phone already wasn’t so good? I know this is like Business 101 day one stuff, but competition drives innovation.

I bring this up in the wake of recent legislation that has people freaking out about the idea of enabling more apps to compete in the mobile space. “Apple Wallet is already really good, why do we need other wallets?” Just because something’s good doesn’t mean we don’t deserve other options, and just because something is good for most people doesn’t mean there aren’t people who would benefit from something else.

I often feel like I have different views than Andy Ihnatko, but he said something years ago on a podcast episode I’ll never be able to find again that stuck with me, it was something like:

Most default apps and default features work for 80% of people. But the odds of any one individual person being in the 80% for every single thing is zero. We’re all in the 20% for something, so having choice to do more than what is good for the 80% is good for all of us.

In short:

  1. Even if you like the default app, real competition can make that app better
  2. No individual is “the average user” across the board