I’ve had problems with iOS, Apple’s operating system for iPhones and iPads, for ages. In particular, it has seemed as if every new update would break Wi-Fi networking in a new and interesting way. But iOS 11 — well, iOS 11 is special.
Ever since iOS 11 rolled out in September 2017, it’s been one thing after another. Let us count the ways.
Within the first week of iOS arriving, Apple had to release its first patch, 11.0.1. Why? Because users complained that their battery life had fallen through the floor. They were right. Mobile security company Wandera documented that iOS 11 was a battery killer. Examining a “subset of 50,000 moderate to heavy iPhone and iPad users” on its networks running iOS 11 and iOS 10, the company found that the batteries of iOS 11 users were draining over twice as fast as iOS 10 users’ batteries.
Don’t ask me how, but with iOS 11.0, when you typed in the letter i, it autocorrected to the letter A, plus a symbol. I mean, how do you mess up something like this? This isn’t UI 101, it’s UI 1: When you press a key, you should get the letter or symbol that corresponds to that key.
Of course, the first version of iOS 11 had other problems — performance slowdowns, freeze-ups and phone failures. These persisted, along with the battery trouble, through three minor point updates. So Apple finally released a major patch: iOS 11.1. That problem with the letter i had to wait for 11.1.1 to get fixed, and even then, it didn’t work for all users. For the record, 11.1.1 was the sixth update in as many weeks to iOS 11. It proved to be not much better than the updates that had preceded it, and it came with a novel foul-up of its very own.
That foul-up? With iOS 11.1.1, iPhone X keyboards didn't work when the phone was cold. Why? How? Who knows!
In December, Apple released iOS 11.2. The headlines were all about how it enabled 7.5W “fast charging” for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. What I noticed, though, were the almost two dozen killer security problems it fixed.
There were bugs that enabled people to read your mail, bugs that opened memory up to hackers and the always popular “application may be able to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges.” In other words, all along iOS 11 had been just one giant muck of a security mess. But, hey, Apple did fix those bugs. The ones I mentoned, that is. It didn’t fix everything. (You already suspected as much, right?)
Not quite a week later, iOS 11.2.1 came out to fix yet another security hole. Then 11.2.2 was released to address Spectre problems — OK, Apple gets a pass on that one, since everyone had trouble with Spectre.
A few weeks later, Apple, skipping 11.2.3 and 11.2.4, released 11.2.5, which came with new features and both old and new bugs. With the showstopping bug this time around, a phone running iOS 11.2.5 that received an instant message or email that contained symbols from the south Indian language Telugu would crash and lock up the Messages application to the point that you had to reset the phone.
That wasn’t the first time that iOS choked on bad data. The ChaiOS bug could take down iGadgets running earlier versions of iOS.
Even though data sanitizing and validation really is baby programming, Apple can’t seem to get it right.
Math is hard
So that brings us to the latest update, iOS 11.2.6, which fixes the character freeze-up problems — but brings new and interesting problems. This time around, you can no longer trust your iPhone to do basic math. Weirdly, Siri gets some basic math questions wrong while the iOS calculator gets them right. I guess those developer teams aren’t talking to each other.
There are also heaps of other iOS problems. Apple doesn’t seem to keep up.
Apple is now working on iOS 11.3. Some hope it will fix everything. I’m not so optimistic. There have been too many problems popping up for me to have any faith.
I guess we’re supposed to be distracted by “exciting” new emojis. No thanks, Apple; I just want a mobile operating system that works without breaking. Is it too much to ask that you get the basics right?
Not that Apple is exploring new territories of terrible coding. Microsoft has had its share of disasters, the biggest being Vista. Windows survived that because it had no real rivals and Microsoft finally got its act together.
But iOS does have serious competition: Android. If Apple can’t get its software up to snuff, eventually even the most addicted iFans may look elsewhere for their smartphone fix.