Yesterday Apple announced Ping, a network which many have suggested will replace MySpace and present a new competitor to Facebook. However Apple’s first shot at building a social network has many flaws. As such, there are many areas that the company needs to improve before it can be considered a legitimate competitor to Facebook. With a physical platform of distribution however, if Apple can fix the product’s flaws, there’s no doubt they could rise to become the most legitimate Facebook competitor.
You Can’t Import Friends
Right now, while there is ongoing debate about whether or not Ping was previously enabling the ability to import friend from Facebook, the reality is that at this point, you can’t import friends from anywhere. There isn’t even an email import functionality, which was the key tool that made most social networks go viral in the first place.
Ping Isn’t Global
Right now it isn’t possible to connect to Ping in the majority of countries. Instead, the service is currently limite to 23 countries. Given that most of my friends are in the U.S., it’s not a deal breaker for me personally, however it’s definitely going to be an issue if Apple wants global domination. Additionally, Ping only functions on Apple products! If Apple doesn’t open up their product to other companies, there’s no chance they’ll be able to kill Facebook.
Yes, iTunes doesn’t just run on Apple computers, however there are no other mobile devices that have iTunes or Ping available to them. Apple will need a more open strategy if they were to compete with Facebook in the long-term.
Uploading Photos Has Issues
I couldn’t get my profile photo uploading, and more significant is that photos must go through an approval process! That’s like an online dating site or something. Facebook thankfully has automated filtering systems. With all the software engineers over at Apple, you’d imagine the company would be able to come up with a more efficient system which doesn’t require the manual approval of all images.
Certain Areas Freeze
After trying to watch one of Lady Gaga’s videos within the service, I couldn’t figure out how to exit out of watching the video. This wasn’t the only area where I ran into minor user experience bugs that should have been resolved before pushing out the product. Then again, perhaps Apple has accepted the model in which products that don’t work are rolled out first and then the bugs are fixed afterwards.
Did I Mention No Friend Import?
This is seriously a deal breaker for any social network. It blows my mind that Apple would release a product that is missing some of the core features that are necessary for any successful social network. Then again, they released a phone that doesn’t work as a phone, so that’s not too surprising I guess.
Managing Another Social Network Is Annoying
I think Facebook may have been the social network which survived to the point where people aren’t willing to switch to another social network. Additionally, there is a large number of people who don’t use iTunes and they won’t install the software just to find out what music their family and friends are listening to. While many of us grew up on music, there are plenty of people for who music and computers don’t go together (GASP! Yes, those people exist).
I Need To Live In Apple’s World
Do you want to live under the control of Steve Jobs? Many have chosen to let Steve Jobs make their technology consumer decisions on behalf of them, however many people hate this. Just read yesterday’s comments on our Ping blog post if you had any question about whether or not people would make the shift. Even more significant was the numerous comments from our Page fans who said they had no interest in making the jump.
Remember when Apple claimed that the iPad was a magical and revolutionary device? Try to find 100 people who own the device and say they love it. I own it but the only thing I use it for is reading books, and if that’s all I wanted to do on it in the first place, I should have just used my Amazon Kindle. While there are new forms of applications like Flipboard and Pulse, I’m not quite sure what’s magical about the device. Similarly, Apple claims that “Everyone who loves music is on Ping.” That’s a flat out lie. How are they able to make a statement like that?
The fact that Apple makes statements like this frustrates the hell out of me.
Nobody Is On Ping
Most of my friends aren’t on Ping as of right now. While I’ve found about 10 people to follow, every name I search for shows up with nobody, or some random person who I don’t know. Apple has a huge market potential, but just one day after the product launched, a very small percentage of that market has used the service.
Apple Manipulates Consumers
The last thing I hate about Apple has nothing to do with their social network. It’s that they don’t roll out features in certain products for fear of cannibalizing other product lines. For example, right now I have a Mac Mini running my home entertainment center. Yesterday’s Apple TV launched without the ability to browse the internet, simply because they don’t want to stop people from buying Mac Minis.
They clearly have the ability to add a DVD player and internet browsing functionality but they just chose not to. It’s a model that values exploiting the consumer over accelerating the pace of technology.
In Apple’s Favor
While there are plenty of reasons that Apple Ping won’t be as successful as Facebook, there are a few things that Apple has to its advantage. The first is that Apple has access to the largest set of digital savvy consumers. These individuals are likely to make online purchases, and more importantly, they make many of those purchases directly within iTunes. While a large percentage of the world is cut off from Apple, the company has access to the most influential consumers (those who spend the most on digital goods).
There are plenty of factors working against Apple’s social network right now, however the company has a lot of things that make it a competitive threat to Facebook: their payments platform, their large device-based distribution network, and a number of other things. Additionally, the battle to be the leading mobile social network has not been won yet. Facebook is clearly in the lead, however Apple just made their service compatible with the more than 150 million iOS compatible devices worldwide.
The bottom line is this: the battle to become the reigning social network is not over yet.