On Wednesday, Apple shipped the first software update to iOS 8, and when users immediately experienced show stopping issues, the firm took the rare step of actually pulling the update so it could be fixed. For those of us in Microsoftville, this story sounds awfully familiar, given the Windows Update issues of this past summer. But here's the dark underbelly to the Apple phenomenon: The firm's iOS releases are always so buggy that the firm needs to issue fixes immediately. This is just the first time they've needed to fix a fix.
To be clear, I note this event not to throw cold water on Apple's eager fans, but rather to remind people that Microsoft isn't the only tech firm that doesn't always get it right. This is just about putting things in perspective.
The real problem is that this always happens. As a reviewer, the thing that sort of rankles me about the issues that accompany every single iOS release is that this situation is routinely swept under the rug. That is, none of those first, pre-release reviews—the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and so on—will ever mention that the software on a new iPhone is horribly buggy because they're worried more about their relationship with Apple than they are with their relationship with readers. You gotta keep your inner circle membership current.
And yet, with every iOS release, the inevitable .01 update appears right on the heels of the initial release, often within days, and the silliness of that need is never discussed nor debated. But in this regard, iOS 8 may have set a record (probably not): The iOS 8.01 update fixes issues specific to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which had been released on Friday. So the delta between the initial release and the .01 update was only 5 days.
If you're interested in making lemonade—and Apple's most strident fans are eagerly doing so right now, not just for this issue but for the incredible problem in which you can actually physically bend an iPhone 6 Plus by putting it in your pocket ("it's simple physics, people!" they squeal) even though this issue doesn't impact a single other modern smart phone or phablet—it's not hard to do so. All you have to do is claim, accurately, that Apple's cozy relationship with the wireless carriers ensures that they are able to quickly ship fixes. So the fix for 8.01, or maybe they call it 8.02, can happen immediately, whenever Apple figures out the issues.
And, sure. Fair enough. But as Windows Phone Central's Daniel Rubino first pointed out, on Twitter, this 8.01 fiasco would never have happened if wireless carriers hadn't given away the keys to the kingdom to Apple. That is, had these companies—hated and reviled in the Android and Windows Phone parts of town—been allowed to test this update, as they do with non-Apple software updates, this episode would have never happened.
(Don't get me wrong. I don't suddenly "appreciate" the carriers or whatever they do to certify updates. But still.)
Point being, living in Appleville is a double-edge sword, just like everything else in life. In this case, yes, you can get your updates immediately and brag about how quickly the uptake to iOS 8 is, or how Android is so fragmented (even though you don't even understand how little impact that has had on ay users or on the success of Android). But you also have to take every Apple update untested. Because Apple—shhhhh! We're not supposed to criticize this company—doesn't properly test anything before giving it out to actual users.
None of this impacts the quality of the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, not really. This isn't an endemic set of hardware issues that will never be truly fixed, as was the case with the terrible iPhone 4. (Though I am starting to wonder about the escalation of the bending issue—"Bendgate"—into a major complaint. You can kind of picture Steve Jobs claiming that people are "sitting on it wrong," for example.) Apple will fix this update, and it will improve the already-excellent iOS 8. And it will sell millions and millions and millions of iPhones. Maybe it will even open up more to public testing, given Tim Cook's wonderful transformation this past year. Hey, Microsoft is doing it!
It doesn't matter. All I'm really saying is, open your eyes. Apple isn't perfect. No company is.