As far as I’m concerned, there are two different strategies for deciding what services to use. You can either choose to use services from a single vendor, or you can shop around for the best service in each category. There are definitely pros and cons to both, and I’ve found that I’m in a constant battle between the two strategies. As a primarily Apple user, I’ve been trending towards using their services over the past year as they’ve improved. Apple’s services used to be fairly laughable, but for the large part they have been almost as stable as anything I’ve used in the past.
Around a month ago, around 7/8 of my bookmarks just disappeared from Safari. I tried to think of every option/setting that I could have accidentally toggled that would cause this to happen. But in the end, it was just a bug with iCloud. I was frustrated at loosing around 70 bookmarks, but I just put it off as a very rare bug (I have never heard of anyone having problems with bookmarks). A few weeks later, as I had rebuilt most of my bookmarks, they all disappeared again but the original ones were back. This left me with duplicates of basically all of my bookmarks.Now I felt like I fell into the camp of people who had legitimate problems with iCloud. I’m not saying that iCloud has major underlying architectural problems. It might, but for the most part it seems to work just fine. But far too often do I find developers on Twitter complaining that iCloud and CloudKit are not what they need to be and are more trouble than they are worth. For me Ulysses is the only app that I have found handles iCloud sync perfectly. All other programs have either had minor hiccups or have flat out not worked. But at this point, even minor hiccups are not acceptable for cloud services. They must be rock solid 100% of the time. Apple is definitely not this reliable, so why have I stuck around on their services? I’m mainly trading reliability for features. Obviously Apple’s first party services work really well on their own platforms. Using anything else seems to feel like a hack. Sure I can use Google Services, but they won’t feel the same. I can use Google Photos, but when I go to pick a photo in an app that uses UIImagePickerController or any other sort of image picker, its going to show me iCloud photos and not whats in my photos app.
Here are what I would consider the major services categories and the pros and cons of going with Apple vs. the best on the market
I have actually had the least amount of issues with iCloud Drive. I cannot recall any syncing issues or lost files that I’ve had. If I were to switch to another cloud storage provider, it would probably be Google Drive. I’ve heard too many complaints about the Dropbox Mac app lately to want to use it, and I don’t think I’d be comfortable with any other company. I really don’t give a crap about Google having my data, as they haven’t fucked up thus far. If I were to move to Google Photos, then I would definitely move to Google Drive to save money. The main benefits now of using iCloud drive are that I can sync my Documents folder and Desktop directly to there. It’s worked fine for me so far, but some people are justifiably terrified of this(it probably helps that I keep both of these directories fairly lean). In addition, many apps sync directly to iCloud Drive, which is super handy and makes Handoff work much better.
I actually just recently switched from Apple Music to Spotify, which is probably an entire blog post in and of itself, but I’ll sum it up here. I started using streaming services way back when Spotify was in beta in the United States and no one had heard of it. I then moved to Google Play Music because I wanted to upload my own music that wasn’t in the streaming catalogue. This was back when I was on Android and I stuck with it until Apple Music came out. I tried Apple Music for the three month trial, but went back to GPM because I found that I really didn’t want to deal with iTunes, and the service as a whole just wasn’t there yet. However, I switched back to Apple Music in June after the iOS beta came out with a drastically updated UI. I have been fairly satisfied for the past few months, but recently they have started to mismatch my remixes, which if you know me, is the number one way to piss me off. It has been somewhat of a struggle moving my library over to Spotify, but I’m sure this will be ironed out with time. Spotify has many more features than Apple Music, including a great API, a Mac App that isn’t iTunes, a web client, and integration with some great DJing apps. The only downsides of leaving Apple Music are that I loose a native Apple TV app and Siri integration. Siri never works for anything, so that doesn’t matter, and I can just airplay Spotify to the Apple TV.
Calendar services really don’t matter. I am currently on iCloud calendar to be consistent, but I could switch to Google Calendar with almost no effect on my usage. I only access my calendars in Fantastical, and it has equal support for Google and Apple.
Mail & Contacts
My mail service history has been all over the place. I first started out with a normal gmail address. When I wanted to get an email tied to my own domain, then I moved over to Google Apps. This worked alright, but it really showed how Google Apps accounts were different than personal google accounts. I wasn’t able to access certain Google features like Google Now and Inbox, so I had to manage two Google Accounts. After that, I decided that I wanted to have a super secure email. This led me to using Protonmail for my email, along with having my existing gmail account and school email forward to this account. I stayed with this for quite a while and was pretty happy. The only problem was they did not support IMAP and I was getting tired of their subpar mobile apps and web interface (but mainly I just wanted to use Nylas N1 on the desktop). So now I’ve moved to Fastmail. However if Protonmail adds IMAP support, I’ll probably move back.
The two main options for cloud photo storage are iCloud Photos and Google Photos. Independently, one could argue that Google Photos is the better service. However, the problem is that on iOS whenever I go to share or use a photo in an app, it pops up the photo selector that includes iCloud photos. In order to upload a photo to instagram or something using Google photos, I would have to download the photo from Google Photos and then go and find it when I upload it in the app. iCloud photos is also nice because it has a native desktop app. So for now, I’m sticking with iCloud Photos
Apple has taken a lot of flak for how they treat AI and machine learning. They argue that there is a way to do it privately, while Google thinks that the more data they have, the more useful they can be to you. The problem is that I think Google is right. And if I want to be able to benefit from what Google is doing in the future, I am going to need to put my data there. I don’t really have too much problem with Google knowing everything about me as they probably already do. The next year or two will really decide where my data will be.