The Apple Glitches Report

October 24th, 2014

So there’s a lurid story this week about some Bank of America customers encountering duplicate charges when using Apple Pay to cover a bill. The critics are yowling. Is Apple’s new digital wallet system fatally flawed? Should customers even bother with such silliness as NFC and Touch ID to replace simple if not-terribly-secure credit card swiping.

Now first and foremost, regardless of the teething problems, there’s nothing here that indicates a potential security problem. It’s just a processing error of some sort. Bank of America says it’s an Apple Pay issue, and Apple promises to fix it. Meantime, it’s reported that only about 1,000 customers were impacted and, of course, they will get refunds for the double charges. Nobody is ripping off anybody here.

But I’m not surprised that goofy things happen when one is trying to do something complicated, and it’s clear Apple Pay is an extremely sophisticated payment scheme. Remember that the retailer doesn’t see your credit card number, and transactions are made with a digital token to ensure security. The transaction is made using your Touch ID. So it’s not a matter of someone being able to steal your money by stealing your iPhone. Besides, if your iPhone is stolen, you can use the Find My iPhone feature to locate its whereabouts and wipe it clean.

Understand that new technologies will have glitches here and there. But it seems that when the glitch involves Apple, it gets much more play in the media. Isn’t Apple supposed to be perfect?

Of course, when you look at the history of Apple, you’ll see there are always problems of one sort or another, starting with power supply failures on the very first 1984 all-in-one Mac. If you look at other tech hardware and software, you’ll find even more severe defects.

Back to the present day, Apple has had to confront glitches — 0r presumed glitches — for over a month now. Just before iOS 8 came out, there was the sensational story about the leak of nude photos from a number of entertainers. Forgetting for the moment the wisdom of putting explicit photos of anyone in the cloud, it wasn’t about iCloud vulnerabilities but being able to easily crack someone’s username and password. With a celebrity, the username is most always obvious, so it means the password must be chosen with due care.

When iOS 8 arrived, there was a spate of bugs, including the inability to pair your iPhone via Bluetooth with some cars. There were also problems with Wi-Fi connectivity with some routers, among other things. The infamous 8.0.1 updater essentially bricked any iPhone 6, and it was pulled quickly. But not before the media went after Apple; the fixed version arrived a day later.

The iOS 8.1 update appears to be pretty solid, however, and the adoption rate of the new mobile OS is hovering around 53% (source: Mixpanel) as I write this. It appears the momentum increased this week, perhaps because the update d version made some skeptical people more inclined to upgrade. So I expect the rate will continue to catch up, but it’s impossible to ever hit the 91% level because less hardware is supported.

There was also that alleged iPhone 6 Plus bending issue that lasted long enough for Consumer Reports magazine to test the hardware and find it perfectly solid. Without a rash of complaints of similar problems — Apple said only nine complaints were received when they responded to the reports — it ended up as just another one of those silly issues that arise with new Apple gear that soon fades away.

OS X Yosemite seems pretty solid so far. Most issues so far are about Apple’s design choices rather than actual bugs, although there are reports of problems with Bluetooth connectivity and a possible performance lag. The translucency effects may seem a bit much, though they are easily dialed back. But you have to use Accessibility preferences to make the changes, which appears to be a curious design choice, although a similar logic was used in providing ways to scale back the excesses in iOS 7 and iOS 8.

It’s also true that some of the highly-promoted features of Yosemite mostly don’t work on Macs older than two or three years. But Apple isn’t going to put the brakes on developing new capabilities because older hardware won’t provide support. People will just learn to live with it or buy new Macs. There has to be a selling point beyond a slight increase in performance.

In saying that, though, I’ve read scattered reports of “unofficial” ways to engage Handoff on these other Macs. Some of them require opening your Mac and replacing the wireless card, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you know your stuff, and are willing to take a chance installing unapproved hardware with the potential downsides. Maybe that’s enough to make Apple think about an official solution.

The arrival of new iPads was greeted with the complaints, from some, that they weren’t sufficiently changed over last year’s. But people who bought an iPad last year are highly unlikely to buy another t his year, unless it’s to add to the collection. Too bad logic isn’t allowed to prevail over fear-mongering.

Besides I’m still waiting for a pie-shaped or circular iPad.

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4 Responses to “The Apple Glitches Report”

  1. Peter says:

    Understand that new technologies will have glitches here and there. But it seems that when the glitch involves Apple, it gets much more play in the media. Isn’t Apple supposed to be perfect?

    Yes. Yes, they are.

    See, this is how Apple markets itself–or how it’s fanbois do. It’s products and services “Just work.” They do things in the background so that you don’t even have to think about these things. Apple is supposed to be the company that sweats the little things and makes sure you have an amazing experience. That’s what makes them different from Microsoft and Google and hardware makers who throw everything at the wall to see what sticks.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t talk about how awesome Apple is and how their stuff is so much better than everything else out there and, when there’s a problem, say, “Well, everybody has these problems!” If everybody has these problems, why am I paying a premium for the Apple experience?

    The other reason is that Apple controls that experience. Apple’s big thing is that they will take care of their users. You don’t get caught in that back-and-forth where, for example, Dell blames Microsoft and Microsoft blames Dell and the user is stuck in the middle. Apple owns the whole experience.

    Again, you can’t have it both ways–Apple can’t preach about how wonderful it is to to have Apple in charge of everything and then say, “Well, it’s not our fault! Blame the other guy!” Apple owns the successes and failures of their partnerships.

  2. Kaleberg says:

    I have to give credit to Apple for doing what it can to remove any stigma from having to use the accessibility features. For a long time certain types of macro package have required having accessibility features enabled for scripting. Now, accessibility is just a way to adjust appearance. There might be a few people who like translucent menus, but the rest of us are aesthetically impaired.

  3. dfs says:

    The MacWorld site is running a story about serious problems with wi- fi connectivity running Yosemite:

    Funny thing that no other Mac news or rumor site I’ve seen mentions this issue. I also don’t quite see how such a major problem could have survived the long beta-testing period involving so many testers to which Yosemite was subjeted.

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