The Apple Walled Garden

I recently posted about my new Apple Watch on Fosstodon. I assumed I’d get some feedback about the Apple walled garden, so I wanted to take some time to elaborate on my thoughts about the walled garden.

As expected, I received a few responses exclaiming that I’m getting sucked into Apple’s wall garden. To be honest, I can kinda see where they’re coming from.

When I was an Android user, I loved nothing more than telling Apple users that they’re stuck in a wall garden, using a device they can do nothing with.

Wallpapers…WALLPAPERS?! Pfft…we’ve had those for years!

Me, circa 2010

But the fact of the matter was, I had never used iOS, so I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. I eventually got sick of Android and I decided to give Apple a try in 2018.

What walled garden?

After getting my first iPhone, it quickly became apparent to me that there was no walled garden, only tight integration into the Apple ecosystem. You know…just like Android and its Google services.

Before switching I honestly had the impression that I would have to use Apple’s official apps and nothing else – I would be stuck in their lovely walled garden forever.

That’s complete bullshit.

I was surprised to learn that I can actually remove more apps from my iPhone than I ever could on Android.

I now have an iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Not because I’m some kind of Apple shill, but because I like their hardware and their software. Plus, you know, they send a lot less data home.

I don’t actually use many of their apps and I’m not stuck on their platform. For music I use Spotify, for email and calendar I use Zoho Mail and their app, for note taking I use my Synology and their DS Notes app. I use Firefox as my browser, Bitwarden to manage my passwords and goodness knows how many other apps that allow me to be vendor agnostic.

But the Apple Watch…

Yeah, I have an Apple Watch now. It integrates really well with my other iDevices and I get a lot of use from it. But I’m not forced to use an Apple Watch – In fact, I used a Garmin smartwatch prior to getting the Apple Watch.

The walls of the Apple walled garden are collapsing all around me and I don’t get why people are of this opinion still. What am I missing here?

But they’re so expensive!

Apple hardware is super expensive, I totally agree. But I think it’s well made, and I’d much rather have my devices come from a company that makes money from expensive hardware, than harvesting user data.

Also, the price of iDevices is inline with the cost of flagship devices from competitors like Samsung. For example, the iPhone XS is around £1,100 here in the UK. The Samsung Galaxy S20 is also around £1,100.


Overall, I’m very happy with Apple and iOS. I really can’t see myself moving off their platform anytime soon.

If you’re a happy Android user, great! More power to you. I’m really glad that Android works for you – it’s good that we have these choices.

But if you’re one of those people who loves nothing more than to quote how bad Apple is because of their walled garden, please do some fact checking as, to me at least, it doesn’t exist.

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    1. How interesting. I notice that was a few years ago. Have you tried again since?

  1. @kev iPhone 3G was my first smartphone and I used ios for about 6 years before changing to Android. I avoided Apple apps, as at the time they seemed to have stronger lock-in and difficulty exporting data. This made it very easy to change to Android and even back to iOS if I wanted. Most iOS users I know who thought about switching claim they cant because they now rely on the Apple apps which are not on Android. Its like Windows users say they cant use Linux because all their sw are on Windows.

  2. @mllepogany that’s a good way of doing it – you’re not too reliant on your mobile then either.I don’t have the time or inclination to install and manage custom roms on my phone. I just want to switch it on and have it work. Which, as you said, is why I went with iOS. 🙂

  3. @kev good for you man, whatever works.Personally I try to use my computer instead of my phone whenever possible. I just buy a second hand Android device with LineageOS-support, flash it, use F-Droid for the apps I need and call it a day. As a backup just in case I have Aurora Store if I would ever need a proprietary app, but at the moment I do not. If I had to use stock Android with Play Services I would choose iPhone any day.

  4. @epical @kev to me I consider this a good idea but also an inherently flawed one.. Your security has to be multilayered. It’s good if your device doesn’t phone home by itself.But if you don’t take steps to avoid browser fingerprinting and letting your ISP see everything you send, unencrypted, the basic principle of owning your data is rendered a lame duck.Not to mention that even if you do the above, you have to be confident with letting whatever you post online take a lifespan of its own.

  5. @kev nice reading as always.”The walls of the Apple walled garden are collapsing all around me and I don’t get why people are of this opinion still. What am I missing here?”that’s maybe because they can, for example, install third party app stores or maybe because they can install a cleaner version of the OS so that it doesn’t only *send less data home* but send zero data home.but obviously everyone should use what works for them.

  6. @kev I’ve come to very similar conclusions myself. Last year I purchased an iPad Pro over a new MacBook Pro and love it (I use a Linux desktop for personal coding, company owned MacBook Pro for work).I wish the watch could be standalone instead of paired with the phone. iPad + Watch would be awesome.

  7. @kev, I agree. The wall garden exists only for iMessage. We can always use 3rd party apps for everything else and those often work better than their counterparts on Android. If anything, Android pushes us much further to keep in the Google garden. Samsung won’t even let me uninstall the Facebook app in their flagship device, the S9.

  8. The ‘Walled Garden’ doesn’t refer to the notion that you can only use Apple apps, but that Apple controls the apps you have access to, via the Apple Store. Google does this with Android as well, though not quite as tightly. Essentially most ‘mobile’ devices, phones, tablets, etc., are centrally controlled environments to a much greater degree than ‘desktop’ ones.

    1. Agreed, but why the Apple walled garden and not the “mobile walled garden”? To your point, Android is just as bad for this. I’d argue worse, when many Android vendors (like Samsung) bundle their devices with apps like Facebook, Dropbox etc. that you can’t remove.

  9. @vandys I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make about Firefox? Is this the default browser thing?On tech moving forward – you’re missing the point. It’s about a person’s needs, not having the latest an “greatest”. If Android does x and iOS can’t do it, so what? As long as it meets my needs, I couldn’t care less.

  10. @kev Agreed, also as someone who has been there. My only criteria these days is if it works for me and to do my best to dogfood all I preach at privacy talks. I’ve had assholes tell me plenty of times that I use [x] wrong or “don’t believe in privacy because I had to use Google for something”, etc. People are nuts.

  11. @chris agree completely. I look back at myself a few years ago and I’m sad to say that I was one of those narrow minded people.Android, iOS, does it really matter? Not at all. It’s a personal choice at the end of the day.

  12. @kev I haven’t used apple in many years, but, when I did I could only interact with my phone through the apple software. It was super annoying and limited me to using windows only at that time. But like I said that was many years ago. I will say their garden is def nice at times. And things just work, especially another apple product. Best thing is use the software as inyented if we start using apple like and android we will have a hard time.

  13. @blueberry @kev Point 1: Unless you spend lots of $ on doing a ad campaign to drive users to your personal site where they can download the APK, you also have to pay the Play Store to distribute it. Most prefer Play Store.Point 2: Yes, MacOS users prefer security. And no, if you play by the rules, they won’t revoke anything. If you don’t, well, you got it coming.

  14. @kev I definitely agree with a lot of your points, BUT:- it is virtually impossible to get an app to users except by paying Apple $100/year to get on their App Store- for MacOS, users simply won’t use your app unless it’s signed by Apple (which you also have to pay them for). Users don’t want to do the command+right click and bypass security restrictions. Apple can also revoke at any point like with EpicI am also a heavy Apple user, but there are aspects of their walled garden visible to me

  15. @kev Good post. I’ve been deep into both Android and Apple’s ecosystems. Fanboys hate the “enemy” on both sides but they really are two sides to a same coin and, let’s face it, few have the knowledge or $ to really escape both. These days I’m just thankful we all have tools that work for us.


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