Did you think Microsoft’s updates were the only ones you had to worry might make things worse instead of better? Think again. Apple’s self-described “biggest iOS release ever”, iOS 8, is turning into the company’s biggest headache ever.
The new version of the OS is both a security update that fixes a whopping 50+ vulnerabilities, many of them critical, and a features update that adds a new photos app, new functionality for messages and mail management, an improved on-screen keyboard and more. Apple generally doesn’t issue fixes for all the security flaws in their old versions of iOS when they release a new version, encouraging and expecting everyone to upgrade to the new version instead in order to fix security vulnerabilities.
This time, doing so brought with it a plethora of problems. Soon after the release came a barrage of complaints from users, on Twitter and in other forums, reporting a wide variety of troubles. Their Wi-Fi slowed down to a crawl and/or dropped the connection when it hadn’t done so before and when other devices connected to the same access points were performing normally. Overall performance got more sluggish. Battery life took a dismal turn for the worse, with some losing a full charge within a few hours.
Some folks found that their sound no longer worked, although rebooting fixed this one for many users. But speaking of rebooting, probably the most serious of the reported problems was the frequent random system crashes and reboots that many users reported. There were other, more minor problems, as well, with negative effects on music sync, iMessages, uploading of photos in Safari, and the Personal Hotspot feature – at least ten significant problems in all.
Not all iOS users experienced all of these problems, and some escaped them entirely, but the bugs were widespread enough that Apple came out with another update, iOS 8.0.1, just one week after releasing iOS 8. Unfortunately for those who installed it, the cure turned out to be worse than the disease. Instead of making things better, the new update introduced a whole new slew of disastrous effects. After installing iOS 8.0.1, many users of Apple’s brand new shiny iPhone 6 and 6 plus models found that their iPhones no longer functioned as phones; they were unable to get any cellular signal – just a “no service” message displayed.
Other consequences of installing the fix included breaking the TouchID fingerprint sensor. At this point, the blowback was so bad that Apple, for the first time in recent memory, actually went so far as to recall the patch and remove it from availability after only an hour or so, and issued a workaround for those who had already downloaded it which consisted of reinstalling iOS 8.0 through iTunes. That presumably will leave you with “only” the original ten problems but at least you’ll be able to make a phone call again. The company also put out a statement that they are “working around the clock to prepare iOS 8.0.2 with a fix for the issue”. I would imagine some iOS users can’t help wondering what that update will break.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Apple has released a half-baked product. Those who have followed the company’s rise to dominance (and then somewhat decline) in the mobile market remember the iPhone 4 “antennagate” issue, when Steve Jobs (in)famously blamed the phone’s reception problems on users who were “holding it wrong”. That one resulted in a class action suit that was eventually settled with affected users receiving $15 each (and mass torts attorneys undoubtedly profiting handsomely, but that’s a different topic for a different time and place).
More recently, Apple patched iOS 7 just a few days after it was released (7.0.1) and then a few days after that they did it again (7.0.2) but the bugs fixed in those were relatively minor compared to iOS 8’s problems.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s probably that writing software code is a very imperfect science and no matter what the fanboys (and girls) might say or think, no software vendor and no operating system is immune when it comes to getting faulty updates. By their very nature, updates and patches are often put together quickly and even when tested thoroughly in-house, there is no way to completely emulate the “real world” environment in a lab.
Apple and its proponents have long propagated the belief that their devices are more secure and more problem-free than those of other vendors, and as the manufacturer with total control over both the hardware and software, the company does have an undeniable advantage. That also means when things go wrong, they bear all of the responsibility. Maybe it’s time for all vendors to stop spending their time pointing out the problems with their competitors’ products and start focusing on fixing their own – without breaking them in the process.