I'm sure by now everyone has seen the great huzzah about Apple's on-device CSAM image scanning that they're pushing through despite the concerns about privacy and slippery-slope implications. While I disagree with Apple's move, this post isn't going to be about explaining the shitstorm nor will I even try to convince anyone to "join my side". Instead, I want to document my journey away from Apple in light of this situation. After all, the best time to self-host and take privacy into your own hands was yesterday, but the 2nd best time is today.
I want to start off by admitting that I am deep in Apple's "walled garden", and crawling my way out isn't going to be easy. I like Apple's products (hardware, at least - even though their software quality has been on a general downward trend over the past decade) and have used their products ever since high school. I have a macbook that I've been using for 6 years, I daily drive an iPad Air 4 with a Magic Keyboard (the "case" with the built-in touchpad), I recently upgraded to an iPhone 12 (from an iPhone 8, which I upgraded to from an iPhone 4), I bought AirPods multiple times for myself and my family, I use Apple Wallet regularly, I use Apple-only apps heavily, and perhaps worst of all, I use iCloud.
Why is the iCloud the worst part? That's because it's the "stickiest" part of Apple's walled garden/Hotel California - you can check out at any time, but you can never leave! In particular, it's the stickiest as it's the part that "ties together" all of the devices I'm using (iPhone, iPad, Macbook, etc). As for what I use it for and how it ties all my devices together:
- iCloud Drive - I generally dislike 3rd-party file-sync solutions, such as Dropbox, and iCloud Drive just "automagically" syncs my existing folders that I regularly use, such as Documents and the Desktop folder.
- App Sync - all of the app data is "automagically" synced across all of your devices, so you can quite literally do something, get distracted because you have ADHD and gets easily distracted and start doing something else, and then get back to what you were doing on a completely different device, just as if you've never left it!
- Contacts - this is probably one of the ones that most people don't even think about. Back in my days, your contacts were stored on your SIM card, but nowadays, you rely on external services (such as iCloud) to sync that for you across your devices (shakes fist at cloud)!
- Safari (tabs, bookmarks, history) - self-explanatory, but I can just "save" any tabs into bookmarks and it shows up on all of my devices. Same with tabs and history - I can literally see from my device what I was browsing in my other devices (even though the syncing doesn't work half the time cough)!
- Messages (syncing across devices) - again, one of those "features" that you don't even think about as being a "feature". When I text someone on my phone, I can see the conversation history on my Macbook.
- Automatic backups - while there are multitudes of ways to automatically backup your computer, unfortunately it's not as easy with mobile devices without hacky workarounds such as plugging in your phone/tablet to your computer (because the WiFi sync never f***ing works)!
- And last but definitely not least, iCloud Photos - not only is it the reason this whole fiasco even began in the first place, but it also is the feature I use the most often. Across all of my devices, I generate a lot of images - whether it is photos that I've taken via the device's camera, photos I've downloaded from Twitter, or screenshots. And iCloud Photos "automagically" makes every single photo/video to show up on all of my devices, no matter where I generated the photo.
There are other features of the Apple ecosystem (but not iCloud) that are also hard to get out of:
- Continuity - especially, the ability to copy text from one device and paste it in another (especially helpful for 2FA authentication codes).
- Wallet - not only do I keep around cards in the Apple Wallet, but I also use them to pay for basically everything I do with my iDevice, whether it be ordering food or buying an app.
- iTunes Match - iTunes (or the Music app as it is now known) is a b****, and it never syncs correctly, and there's really no easy way to get music from my computer to my phone other than forking over $25/yr for iTunes Match.
- And of course, all of the Apple-only apps that I oh so do enjoy and have purchased over the years.
So, what will I actually do about this?
Obviously, moving off of all of this cold turkey is going to be basically impossible - after all, the reason these features are "sticky" in the first place is because the UX is so much better than the alternative. However, while I admit I can't "quit" Apple cold turkey, I am happy with moving to alternatives, one piece at a time, that allow all of my services and devices to be platform-agnostic, so that I can keep the same level of UX without having to buy Apple (or pay Apple for on-going bullshit "subscription" costs) moving forward.
With that, my first move out of the Apple ecosystem will be to simply get off iCloud and all Apple's "subscription" features so that I'm at least not feeding them money from this point on. Obviously, it is easier said than done, and a lot of these "cloud" services are deceivingly complex (and thus hard to stop using). In the next blog post, I will plan out exactly how I plan on getting off iCloud and look at its alternatives.