Why Apple rules UX, its native iOS apps suck, and that's OK

Apple enjoys a competitive advantage that has little to do with the apps it ships on its devices and everything to do with third-party developers

White Apple logo on storefront
Tommy Klumker

Every iPhone Apple sells today ships with 32 native applications but few, if any, are considered best in class. It may seem like Apple has lost its edge on mobile apps and software design, but the company's primary mission to sell hardware certainly hasn't suffered as a result. Indeed, the Apple experience — a polished user interface married with premium hardware — is as much about looks as functionality, and the technology ecosystem Apple has built continues to grow and mature.

 As of March, the company had sold 726.2 million iPhones, giving it an 18.3 percent share of the global smartphone market, according to IDC. Last November, Apple announced that it had sold more than 1 billion total iOS devices.

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Some iOS users supplant Apple's stock applications, such as Mail, Calendar and Messages, with more familiar and sometimes better-designed apps, including Gmail, Outlook, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. However, for every user who relegates Apple's native apps to less desirable real estate on their home screens, maybe even junk folders, many others get everything they need from the apps that Apple provides.

Third-party developers and Apple's software ecosystem

One of Apple's most significant decisions during the past decade was to open up its mobile OS to third-party app developers, including tech heavies Facebook and Google. That decisive shift fueled Apple's ascendency, but its own native applications have somewhat fallen victim to the otherwise successful strategy.

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