Another Apple Update Failure

March 30th, 2016

A while back, an Apple executive, in response to a question about declining software quality, asserted that quality had actually improved in recent years. But since there were more people using Apple gear, each problem received more coverage.

I suppose that’s quite possible, except that there’s no way for anyone outside of Apple to know whether that response is accurate or just corporate spin. Certainly the common perception is that software quality has declined. Even after four maintenance updates, OS X El Capitan rates no better than three-and-a-half stars. All right, that’s up from three stars, so it’s progress. And maybe it is true that people with problems are more apt to write reviews than those for whom the OS works just fine.

But it’s still true Apple has had its problems, and being on the front lines of worldwide publicity doesn’t help. So don’t forget the iOS 8.0.1 update, which bricked iPhone 6-family devices. It was withdrawn within an hour or so, and a Restore via iTunes could fix the affected handsets, which amounted to a fairly small number. Indeed, Apple released a fixed version, iOS 8.0.2, the very next day.

Apple never heard the end of it. The mainstream media painted it as a major catastrophe, even though the damage wasn’t permanent. However, perceptions, even if they are a little off from the truth, are difficult to correct once they become embedded in the media’s reality. More to the point, why did it even happen?

One Apple executive attributed it to a bad “wrapper,” whatever that is supposed to mean. Maybe the installer, but I would have expected Apple to test the update a little more carefully before it was released. This sort of thing is inexcusable.

All right, Microsoft has had more than its share of flawed releases, but still.

That takes is to iOS 9.3. Next to the reference release, 9.0, this got extra promotion by Apple for adding a few important new features, such as Night Shift, which changes the color temperature to a warmer setting at night to relax your eyes. Maybe it’ll make it easier for you to go to sleep, I gather, and I suppose it’s a far better option, if it helps, than sleeping pills. I, for one, tend to be jittery at night after a long day dealing with all sorts of stuff, and I find it difficult to fall asleep. Maybe it’s better, slightly, or at least that’s my perception since I configured Night Shift.

iOS 9.3 also has enhancements for education that will put the iPad in a better place against Chromebooks, at least if school systems are willing to pay more for the privilege.

All right, you get the picture.

iOS 9.3 received extensive testing by developers and regular people, since it was posted for public beta testers. You’d think that after weeks of seeds, the most serious problems would have been massaged out of the release, that there were no serious bugs.

Or at least that’s a theory, but theories don’t always pan out in the real world.

So we have a problem with iOS 9.3 that impacted older iPhones and iPads, and another problem that might affect lots of users. The first problem resulted in activation glitches for older gear.

Here’s the first problem, as explained in an Apple support document:

“Updating some iOS devices (iPhone 5s and earlier and iPad Air and earlier) to iOS 9.3 can require entering the Apple ID and password used to set up the device in order to complete the software update.”

For some users, however, this process doesn’t work, so there’s yet another support document that attempts to sort it all out:

After you update to iOS 9.3, you might see this message on your iPad 2 (GSM model): ‘Your iPad could not be activated because the activation service is temporarily unavailable.’

It goes on to explain how to Restore the device via iTunes on a Mac or a PC. Evidently other vintage iPhones and iPads are susceptible to this bug.

Apple has since released a fixed version of iOS 9.3 that should cure this problem. That’s fine as far as it goes. But there appears to be yet another bug, one that results in a crash or freeze when you try to open a hyperlink in such apps as Safari, Mail, Messages and third-party browsers, such as Google Chrome, all of which use the same rendering engine in their iOS versions. That’s an issue Apple is investigating, apparently.

All right, in a matter of weeks, these problems should be sad memories. But that’s not the point. Apple fed iOS 9.3 builds to tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of customers and developers. Surely at least a few of them encountered these bugs and took the time to report them. If Apple didn’t listen, the beta test process is seriously flawed. If they knew about it, they should have held off the release to fix it, even if that meant that iOS 9.3 wouldn’t ship with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the iPhone SE.

Well maybe that was it: Marketing set a deadline, and the heck with bugs. Or maybe the bugs were somehow overlooked or not given the proper level of significance. But when Apple asserts that there are fewer software bugs nowadays, forgive me if I don’t believe them.

| Print This Article Print This Article

11 Responses to “Another Apple Update Failure”

  1. DaveD says:

    Don’t understand how these software bugs got through. I would categorize them as showstoppers. It is time for Apple to look within for answers to how and why it happened. Sorry… releasing a fixed update is a poor way of saying “Oops!” to angry users.

  2. Alex says:

    Beta testing for Apple.

    Come on. They use to badger me to beta test but I declined since most of the software they say they release from beta testing is still in beta regardless of what bull they give you and any piece of software is always going to have bugs since they don’t have enough beta testers to beta test it.

    Apple has a huge work force and they are the one’s that should be beta testing their software, not the public and if Apple was really serious about having people beta test their software then they should supply the Mac to do it on.

    • gene says:

      You’re missing the point. Software was ALREADY being tested by Apple and its developers. The public beta was merely an extension of that process. The real argument is that it doesn’t seem to be helping to enhance software quality.


  3. Hozo1 says:

    AppleSoft is not what it used to be. El Capitan is a pile of rubbish with tons of issues, especially mail. I used to love Apple, but Tim has screwed it up. How about no more software updates or incremental functionality that no one wants for the next three years .. so we can get back to ‘it just works’. Which is the reason we all left Microsoft crap 10 years ago. If any one knows what the next Apple is so I can leave AppleSoft, please reply.

    A former fanboy who is now been left out in the cold.

    • Apple operating systems have had serious bugs for years. It’s not unique for El Capitan. But aside from an ongoing email glitch that I’ve described in my columns, it’s not doing anything wrong for me. What are you seeing that’s so bad?


      • Hozo1 says:

        Mail unresponsive 5+ times per day on my new MacBook.
        Mail disconnects from servers continuously throughout the day and have to turn wifi off and on to refresh
        Have talked to Apple about both of these at the store and need to call support … frankly I use Apple so I don’t have to do this … I have no time for AppleSoft to be their beta

        Bluetooth issues on both iMac and Macbook with EC
        Wifi issues on Macbook .. again it’s only 3 months old
        Photo issues on both iPad’s with iCloud

        Various other issues that I have waded through and fixed in the last three months. The software is awful and they all know it. As several have said to me, Cupertino software engineers cannot keep up this demanding pace of new updates and new features. Frankly, most of the features are not even valuable to me.

        I’m not going into my iPhone 6 bluetooth issues with my cars … needless to say I am on my 3rd ip6 in one year. And don’t start me on iCloud dysfunction with Apple Music.

        Look I love Apple, but none of the stuff works anymore. And the two heads of software defending it a few months ago sounded like Donald Trump … so deep in denial that they can’t discern truth from reality.

        Apple used to ‘just work’. It was simple and uncluttered. I left Microsoft in 2005 because I didn’t have time to fix stuff that should work. Now I am back into the same thing. What a mess.

        • gene says:

          I’m sorry to hear of your problems. The only issues I see are with Mail, where it has a tendency to freeze up for 30 seconds or so every few days. That problem has existed with the first public beta of El Capitan. But otherwise, I cannot complain.

          My iPhone 6 is well behaved with iOS 9.3.

          Well, except for an occasional iCloud glitch.

          So the key here is that you cannot assume the problem you have is the same as anyone else. There may be individual circumstances or configuration choices that may cause trouble. The best thing to do is visit an Apple Store, if one is nearby, and insist they sort it all out for you. Or contact support if there’s no other choice. With a relatively new MacBook, it’s free, so use the warranty.


  4. Grant-Man says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the comment from Hozo 1: “How about no more software updates or incremental functionality that no one wants for the next three years .. so we can get back to ‘it just works’.”

    I fell in love with Apple 30 years ago because their hardware and software were intuitive and easy to use. Now, I find myself in a perpetual state of relearning things that weren’t broken in the first place. I’m all for progress but, at the end of the day, I use my computer to accomplish things. Apple of late is not enhancing my productivity. They’re undermining it with buggy software and change-for-change-sake. Enough already.

    • gene says:

      Apple OS updates have always been more frequent than every three years, and I ran into some in the 1990s that were positively toxic, worse than anything you will see now.


  5. Goku-Jim says:

    Apple really dropped the ball on iOS 9 on older devices such as the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. The WebKit engine used in Safari, Mail, Google Chrome and AdBlock Plus browser on iOS crashes repeatedly. Doesn’t happen on newer devices. Also El Capitan upgrade really messed up my MacBook Pro 2010 17″ when I attempted to upgrade it, resulting in an immediately slow restart, and all applications reporting being “damaged”. I’m sorry, but Apple needs to improve their testing to include older versions of their devices otherwise why allow them to be upgraded? If they are NOT going to test the older stuff with the newer OS, then don’t include them in the upgrade!

  6. Mark says:

    How could iOS 9.3 have been released with such a major flaw ? Unable to open any links on my iPhone 5s and unable to speak to anyone at local apple despite 20 minute wait .

Leave Your Comment