A college student’s holy trinity — iPhone, iPad, and Macbook. These three devices are the foundation of what we call the Apple Ecosystem. There are more branches to the figurative Great Apple Tree: $120 Apple Pens, $200 AirPods, $400 Apple Watches and now a $3,500 Augmented Reality headset so creatively named the Vision Pro. And despite exorbitant prices, the tech giant has made its product line so ubiquitously appealing in educational settings that it’s practically the industry standard. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single classroom at a prestigious university like Yale that doesn’t have at least one Apple device or accessory. 

Personally, I’m a Windows guy. I grew up playing lots of video games, and as it pertains to PC gaming, the most versatile and powerful operating system is Windows by far. Because of the symbiotic relationship Microsoft established with the video game industry since its inception, it was practically prophesied that I would use a Windows device. Mac offers little in the way of hardware customization and graphics processing, limiting the scope of what can comfortably run. In the world of GPU-intensive Triple-A games, Macs just can’t compete. You want to play PC video games at peak performance levels? You use Windows. Plain and simple. 

So when the time came to part ways with my refurbished public high school-funded Chromebook and purchase a new laptop for college, I didn’t consider buying a Mac for a single second. Of course, I’m not using it for video games, but using a Windows device is as natural as reading a book. Why would I bother with a Macbook? 

This thought process is but one example of commercial complacency, something that we, as avid participants in America’s capitalist economy, are all guilty of. Buying a Mac was never in the equation for me, and like most other complacent consumers, I was well aware of that. And there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with being commercially complacent now and then; some decisions are just for convenience’s sake. This phenomenon is primarily the source of Apple’s success in higher education. 

But the question remains: What about the Apple ecosystem qualifies it as the standard for maximizing productivity? 

There’s no singular answer. The Apple ecosystem boasts a seemingly endless array of capabilities and interconnected benefits. AirDrop allows people to transfer files and photos across any Apple device with ease; robust software packages, like iCloud, allow for efficient data backup and storage; streamlined communication platforms like iMessage and FaceTime give phone messaging a modernist flare competitors envy. Still, it would be folly to drone on and on about the perceived and often real benefits the fruit of the Great Apple Tree has to offer.

You might be thinking: There’s no denying that the Apple ecosystem is ultra-convenient and efficient, so what’s the big idea? Are you going to suggest that there’s some reason not to use it? Why shouldn’t I use what I think is best? Who cares if an Apple device is purchased complacently? 

The tech community has coined the term “walled garden” to describe the Apple ecosystem. Apple devices work incredibly well with each other but terribly with everything else. The Great Apple Tree lies in the garden’s center, its fruit dangling from its branches for paying users to harvest. 

But there is something sinister over the garden walls. 

These walls are thick. Apple’s security measures are supposedly so impeccable and fortified that cross-compatibility is essentially a cardinal sin. The cost of going into Apple’s walled garden is one’s commercial freedom. If you buy even one Apple product, the Tree’s vines grab hold of you and your wallet, begging for more money. Consumer complacence for convenience becomes consumer complacence for necessity. 

Apple’s marketing weaponizes consumer culture’s innate desire for “The Future.” Look at the sleek, interactive website and the sterile, modernist stores. By releasing newer iOS updates and newer products at breakneck speeds, the tech giant forces consumers to stay with the times. It’s a predatory framework designed to force consumers to spend thousands of dollars on Apple products exclusively. 

Planned obsolescence, the practice of intentionally designing products to last for the short term, is a sickeningly successful business model Apple has used for years. Give it some time, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max or Macbook Air will be obsolete. This design tactic was once more overt than it is now, as detailed in the multistate class-action suit Bilic et al. v. Apple Incorporated (2018), which found Apple in violation of Common Law Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, and various redundant state commerce statutes. Actually, I was affected by the iPhone 6s battery defect the suit centered on, but I regrettably did not get a piece of the $500 million payout.

The walled garden funnels so much money into Apple’s pockets that the Bilic settlement didn’t even put a chip in their coffers. Apple’s business model generated a hefty $383 billion in revenue in 2023 alone. And you might be okay with that; perhaps the Great Apple Tree is worth the price. Nonetheless, every consumer has the right to know what they are getting into when purchasing a product. Corporations have far more resources than a single consumer, so it’s no wonder Apple is dominating the psychological advertising war. As businesses become more and more socially aware, being a smart consumer means being one step ahead of the advertising meta. So don’t let Apple trick you. Once you take a bite of the forbidden fruit, there’s no going back.

ZANE GLICK is a sophomore majoring in the humanities in Ezra Stiles College. You can contact him at zane.glick@yale.edu.