Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Homescreens in 2014

John Borthwick:

The degree that users are switching core Apple apps — calendar, email, tasks, notes etc. — with alternatives is something that interests me a lot. I discussed this in last years’ shareholder letter. Startups and companies other than Apple made significant inroads here in 2013. Fifty percent of people who have a mail app on their homescreens in the sample have a non-Apple mail app. For task-related apps the number is 57 percent, calendaring 46 percent, weather 44 percent, maps is 54 percent and for podcasting the number is 65 percent. The discovery process in mobile is still nascent, yet Apple has a huge advantage over other app developers by installing their default experiences and not letting carriers change them pre-sale. The large percentage of people going through the hassle of switching suggests that even in an iOS7 post-skeuomorphic world Apple’s apps are often not best in class.

On the contrary, I’m a little surprised that 50% of a sample skewed in favour of a technologically-literate user base continues to use Apple’s Mail app,1 and 54% use the default Calendar app. The users who are not using Apple’s default apps are likely splitting their vote across a wide variety of third-party apps, with the exception of Maps, which is probably almost universally Google Maps.

What that suggests is that Apple’s default apps are good enough for most people, most of the time. Tech-savvy users are using more specialized apps, but not nearly as much I had anticipated.

I see this in my personal circle of friends as well. The vast majority are primarily using Apple’s apps and other “default” apps, like the official Twitter client and the standard Facebook app. My more tech-savvy friends are using a mix of first- and third-party apps, or other alternatives — Facebook Paper over standard Facebook, for instance.


  1. I do, for what it’s worth. ↩︎