The world’s most valuable company released an update that added a handful of new features and, to the fury of fans, took away one.
Ordinarily, you would expect a software update to add new features and make improvements, but evidently Apple is no ordinary company. Apple is the world’s most valuable, recently passing a $US2 trillion valuation, and it makes some of the most used smartphones (and their associated accessories) in the world.
It also retains a level of exclusivity over its software: The only official way to use iOS or MacOS is with an iPhone or Mac computer (although hackers have demonstrated you can run Google’s Android on an Apple phone and you can trick MacOS into running on some non-Apple computers if you know what you’re doing).
This gives the company a certain level of power and control over how its customers use the devices, which the company can use for good, like to protect users from malicious software.
Critics have argued it can also be used for ill by locking consumers into its “ecosystem” of devices and software (a strategy many other manufacturers have now sought to imitate).
WatchOS 7 has removed the ability to use Force Touch, which had been particularly useful on the device’s small screen. Force Touch was first introduced in the original Apple Watch, and uses pressure sensors to detect different levels of force.
Pushing hard on an app icon could bring up different options for what you could do with it. One of the best ways Force Touch was used on Apple Watch was simply to clear notifications that had built up in the notification centre.
Apple fans are not taking the news all that well. The first sign Apple would remove the feature appeared in the watchOS 7 beta in June, at which point some hoped it was merely a bug.
Apple’s own developer guidelines seemed to confirm it however. “In versions of watchOS before watchOS 7, people could press firmly on the display to do things like change the watch face or reveal a hidden menu called a Force Touch menu,” Apple advised app developers.
“In watchOS 7 and later, system apps make previously hidden menu items accessible in a related screen or a settings screen. “If you formerly supported a long-press gesture to open a hidden menu, consider relocating the menu items elsewhere,” the company said.
Not all developers got the message. Some fans sought to have their voice heard and hoped others would join them, theorising that if enough people complained then Apple would change it back.
The likelihood that Apple will go back on the change is fairly low, and it looks like the shelving of Force Touch will join the introduction of the Lightning cable and the removal of the headphone jack as one of those things Apple customers will just have to live with.
The last time Apple was forced to backtrack on a change was when the truly awful butterfly keyboard it cursed its laptops with were unable to withstand specks of dust that rendered them useless.
The company used the keyboard on 16 different models over four years, but since abandoning the flawed design last year, it’s still having to fix and replace the ones it already sold when they go bad.