Why Many Great iOS Apps Simply Don't Work for Me

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read
Why Many Great iOS Apps Simply Don't Work for Me

The average Apple customer has an iPhone and a Windows computer. It’s important to remember this sometimes, especially for us in the Apple-centric community where we’re all in on Apple.

A great example of this is recently when I was looking for a better service for saving links to read later, as neither Pocket nor Instapaper were doing it for me anymore. I got tons of recommendations for GoodLinks and Safari Reading List, both fine products in their own rights, but both completely impractical for anyone who is less than 100% bought in to Apple’s platforms.

As someone who works from an iPad, iPhone, and Windows PC at home(and occasionally Android), and a Mac for work, here’s a few features that are straight up showstoppers for me when looking at a new app or service:

  1. Only supported on iOS and iPadOS
  2. Data syncs over iCloud only

For example, GoodLinks looks great, but it syncs across iOS devices linked to the same Apple ID. This is fine for my iPhone and iPad, but all my other devices are left in the cold. Likewise, I appreciate that several RSS readers on iOS let you sync your feeds in the app, therefore saving you a few bucks per month that you would pay to use something like Feedbin or Inoreader, but again, these sync over iCloud, which makes them useless on my work Mac which is signed into my work account.

So what do I look for in a new service? The Mac diehards will kill me, but I look for things that are a web-service first and foremost. I want to make sure that no matter what device I’m on, and no matter what account I’m logged into, I can get to my stuff. Inoreader is a good example of this, as it lets me view, read, and manage my RSS feeds in a competent web app on Windows, but it has an open API which developers can use to integrate the service into native apps.

The closest I get to breaking my own rule is Things, my task manager. Things is only for the Mac, which means it’s a pain for me to get tasks to it from Windows or Android, but for me it’s been okay just having it on my iPhone, iPad, and work Mac. I can use it on my work computer as well because the data syncs over Things Cloud, not iCloud. If Cultured Code shut down Things Cloud tomorrow and switched to iCloud for data syncing, I’d be switching back to OmniFocus in a heartbeat.

None of this is to say that apps that are only on Apple platforms and only sync over iCloud as bad or that you should not use them, but I wanted to add some context for why I, and the average iPhone customer, can’t always choose the apps used by the die-hard Apple fanbase.