It is certain that Apple seems to be beset with lots of problems these days. While everything appeared to be coming up roses when the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were launched on September 9th at a media event, things sort of went downhill from there. Even the live stream of that event had a shaky start, with fits and drops and, for a time, a Mandarin Chinese translation almost overwhelming the English language feed.
All right flooded servers no doubt revealed more interest in the goings on than Apple might have anticipated. That was a good thing.
No so good was the lurid tale that some celebrities had their iCloud accounts compromised, thus resulting in the leak of explicit photos. Now it turns it this wasn’t an iCloud problem, but a problem involving famous people not securing their online accounts with strong passwords, and I won’t get into the wisdom of storing revealing photos in the cloud.
The next story was all about a rock and roll album from U2 that Apple distributed free. It doesn’t matter that Apple paid an estimated $100 million for a marketing campaign that included a healthy paycheck for the Bono and his colleagues. That the download suddenly appeared in 500 million iTunes accounts was allegedly a huge imposition on one’s privacy. I suppose it was an issue if the accounts were compromised, but they weren’t. I suppose you have to be concerned about folks who set their iTunes accounts to automatically download new material, thus resulting in filling their Macs, iPhones and iPads with unwanted musical tracks.
In fact, Apple had to release a tool to allow you to remove the album, “Songs of Innocence,” from your account. But it was just as easy to ignore it, or delete the download if you didn’t want it. No harm done. So Apple continues to run the TV campaign.
Segue to the release if iOS 8, which flooded Apple’s servers. It took me hours to upgrade two iPhones and an iPad on a 50 megabit Internet hookup. Not pleasant, but not a critical problem. Unfortunately, even when download speeds returned to normal, the upgrade was difficult for those who had gear without a lot of free space. The download was roughly 1.1GB, but if you did an in-device upgrade, it needed several more gigabytes with which to process the installer file. Things would return to normal after the installation and housecleaning, but if you didn’t have enough space, you had to do the update with iTunes on your Mac or PC.
As I write this article, about half the iOS user base has upgraded to iOS 8, and the actual figures depend on which analytical tool you use. But it will probably never hit the estimated 91% level of iOS 7, because support for the iPhone 4 was dropped. If you have an iPhone 4s, you may find that the performance tradeoffs aren’t worth the bother, but nothing forces you to upgrade.
However, the 8.0.1 update caught Apple flatfooted. It worked well enough, except on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, where caused a heap of trouble. Suddenly the carrier connection was lost and Touch ID was deactivated. Apple took the hint and withdrew the update a little over an hour after release, although an estimated 40,000 iPhones were impacted. Apple apologized and posted instructions on how to revert to iOS 8. The next day, iOS 8.0.2 was released, and it appears most problems have been resolved, though there are still various and sundry iOS 8 bugs left to be addressed. Did I mention the occasional crashes in Apple Mail?
Until the 8.0.2 update appeared, HealthKit didn’t work, and now health-related apps have begun to appear. The highly-touted Continuity feature, which integrates iOS and OS X devices, is only partly functional. We have to await the release of OS X Yosemite, which is expected later this month. Still, Handoff, which lets you start or pick up, say, an email and move to another device to continue, won’t support all Macs. You need a 2011 or later model that includes hardware for Bluetooth LE.
Sure, developers and regular beta testers are already downloading a GM Candidate of OS X Yosemite, with the hint more fixes are necessary before the final release is out. Some suggest it’ll go live the third week of October, but we’ll see.
Just for the record, I think the BendGate issue, that an iPhone 6 Plus was extremely vulnerable to bending when placed in your pocket, was bogus. So while it may have made a certain YouTube channel richer by attracting millions of downloads, it was otherwise a non-issue. An iPhone 6 Plus is acceptably durable based on all the bend and drop tests I’ve seen.
Still columnist Kirk McElhearn is now suggesting, in his Kirksville blog, that maybe Apple is trying to do too much too fast. Annual OS upgrades for Macs and iOS gear, not to mention new hardware and new services, is just overwhelming the company.
There’s a lot of merit to what Kirk says, and we’ll be talking more about it on this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE. My feeling is that Apple is, in part, responding to the endless media and analyst complaints that there isn’t much real innovation since Steve Jobs died. The stock price has been pressured, and the attacks are endless and sometimes furious. So maybe Tim Cook wanted to show ’em all and thus overcompensated. There are always defects in new Apple software and hardware that require quick fixes. But maybe Apple needs to enhance quality control, or just slow down.
The critics will just have to wait!