What Apple is doing right and why I consider it to be minimalist


I was always an Android fan. I even remember resisting to buy one of the Samsung Android phones that had a Home button similar to iPhone. I remember saying in one of the forums that “I’ll never touch anything that resembles an iPhones”. Today I’m fully inside the Apple ecosystem. Why?

Time is a non renewable resource

You probably read my 10k steps a day post (if not - go read it!). At that time I’ve had a Samsung Android phone and got a Xiaomi Mi Band for activity tracking. After many years of resisting any smart watches, I’ve started to see their appeal. It’s nice to take a look at your wrist and know not only the time, but when’s your next meeting, how active you were today, and more - depending on your needs.

So I decided to purchase a smart watch. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into researching which one I want, which one suites me best. Apple Watch was obviously out of the picture, even though it ranked as #1 in most reviews I’ve read, but hey - I’ve hated Apple (sort of - I was using a MacBook provided to me by my employer) and I’ve had an Android phone. So I’ve settled on Galaxy Active 2 smart watch.

At first - it was great. I was spending time customizing it, putting different useful (and useless) widgets, browsing through Galaxy Store to acquire new Face Watches. My watch was finally doing more than one thing. It wasn’t as beautiful as traditional watch, but I’ve never owned any Omega or Rolex watches, and I’m more of a function over form guy anyway.

But then - problems started. Even though I’ve had Samsung phone and Samsung watch, the integration between them wasn’t that great. Notifications for events would arrive 2-3 hours after the event finished. Most of the watch faces were pretty useless (who cares about moon phase?) and I’ve spent more time looking for solutions in different forums and Reddit. Moreover - Samsung’s ecosystem wasn’t that great but their Smart Watch insisted on using Samsung’s calendar or email client. I’ve even started to follow Google Wear news to see when newer and better watch will come out.

However people around me - my friends, my wife, my colleagues at work - started to slowly switch to Apple and Apple Watch. Based on my observation, end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, should have been the best time for Apple in terms of sales. I’ve invested some more time to understand more about Apple products, make sure they fit me, understand their shortcomings and strengths. I’m a very calculated guy - what can I say. And eventually, I’ve purchased an iPhone with an Apple Watch. Sold my phone and galaxy watch, and happy since them.

If you followed closely, you might have noticed that I’ve highlighted the word time every time I had to spend it into something related to my phone or watch. I’ve spent time for research, I’ve spent time customizing and I’ve spent time troubleshooting. Time is a non renewable resource. You can’t earn time. Once its gone - its gone. And instead of investing time in pointless customization or troubleshooting a poor product, I could have invested this time somewhere else - like socialization or side hustle or my self. With Apple, things just work and I rarely need to spend time to troubleshoot or customize my gadgets because there is very little to customize.

The paradox of choice

One of the biggest complaints I’ve read about iPhone and Apple products in general - is the lack of customization. You can’t change the ringtone. There are minimal settings. Apple decides whats best for you. Those are all common complaints about Apple products.

Today I believe that Apple simply following the minimalist philosophy - remove unneeded distractions. There are zero reasons to customize your wallpaper or change your ringtone. You feel good the first few minutes, but then - poofff - this feeling is gone. You no longer care about your ringtone or wallpaper, and if you do - you are probably focusing your energy on the least important thing in your life.

In his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Barry Schwartz talks about how abundance of choice actually is bad for us. It makes us paralyzed and unable to make a decision. When you have millions of settings in your phone, you tend to avoid touching them because it too hard to find the right balance. So you are left with a non optimized device. While I don’t think that Apple got it right for 100% of their customers, I do believe that they got it right for the majority. And those who are left out - have a choice to get a more suitable device from other manufacturers.

On the same note, when I broke my old phone, I had to buy a new one. There were so many options. Different camera, different screen size, different manufacturers (each with their own customization). Being who I am - means I have to invest time to do my best research. I like to maximize the value I get for my money. However, once my iPhone will die, I know what will be my next phone - iPhone. I just have to choose the one the fits in my budget. I don’t need to spend time by watching reviews or scouting forums for suggestions. By purposely limiting myself, I’ve eliminated and unneeded future decision. Minimalism at its beauty - eliminate unneeded distractions. Phones are tools. At least for me. And a tool should work and serve me, my time and my needs. When I buy a car - I don’t put stickers on it and waste time painting the wheels in different colors. Nor I do it with my fridge or my TV. Why do I do that with my phone then? Yes, you can argue that its a form of self expression, but I’ve never heard of someone being judged by the wallpapers on his or her phone. There are others ways to express your self. It can be through creation - like writing this blog is for me.

Something for everyone

Everybody is different, obviously. People have different needs. I’m a believer in free market - demand equals supply. If a product is available on the market - there are customers who buy it.

However I’ve realized that by giving people too much options - it either confuses them like Barry Schwartz wrote in his book; or makes them curious - so they start to spend time finding the best wallpaper that works with their ringtone and matches their icon set. I’ve been there. But its time to move on and focus on things that fulfill me, rather than on customizing my gadgets. And while Apple is not perfect - there are annoyances, at the end their are targeting 7 billion market of potential, unique, customers - its obvious their products won’t fit everyone 100%. For those - there are other products and solutions.

But I believe more companies should adopt this mindset. Mindset of removing distractions. Mindset of simplifying decisions. I’m currently working on a product and I try to incorporate those mindsets in it. And its sad to see that many companies actually take step backwards and introduce as much customization as possible, so much that it becomes scary or frustrating to use their products. I’ve seen people, in product management mainly, struggle to create the best Jira board because its so customizable - its paralyzing. And jumping between two different Jira boards on the same organization - is like learning a whole new profession because no two Jira boards are alike.

People tend to think they want customization. The more - the better. But in reality, too much customization can paralyze. Adopt minimalist lifestyle in your digital world as well. You don’t have to move to Apple if you don’t want to or can’t. I’m not saying it is the holy grail for everyone. But at least try to remember that those are tools there were created to help you become better in life - more organized, more calm, more fulfilled, more productive. Stop wasting time serving your gadgets and instead let them serve you.