Apple’s walled garden approach and control freakery are the price users pay for the fact that iOS powered kit always offers a peerless user experience. Or at least that’s the received wisdom. Our top ten iPhone and iOS fails tell a very different story…
iPhones, eh? They ‘just work’, don’t they? Except when they don’t. And in the case of antennagate they really, really didn’t. The iPhone 4 didn’t really fulfil its primary function as a phone, with calls dropped left, right and centre. But worse than that was Apple’s high-handed approach in the immediate aftermath.
After denying the problem even existed, it then sought to obfuscate matters by claiming that antenna issues like this were prevalent in all modern smarties and named the likes of HTC, Samsung and Moto as equally affected. Worse was to come a bit later, when they told us that by ‘holding it the wrong way’, it was us who were at fault.
Of course, in the end Apple announced a bumper giveaway that resolved the problem for good. But not before its reputation took a monumental battering in spoofs and snide remarks from its rivals.
What’s more, while Apple’s confidence in its products seems outwardly unaffected by the obloquy, you can bet your bottom dollar that one of the prime reasons for the iPhone 5 delay is to ensure that something like this never happens again.
Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker says a lot of cruelly funny, extreme things that you can be sure he doesn’t really mean. But we’d venture that his description of iTunes as a “steaming, binary turd” isn’t one of them.
If, like us, you’re out of sync with the none-more-arcane mysteries of synchronising and fed up with looking at a supposedly sexy music app that actually resembles a sawdust-dry productivity tool, there’s a Spotify premium with your name on it. Trust us, £9.99 per month is a small price to pay for never having to get involved with iTunes ever again.
3 White iPhone
The problems blamed for the delayed launch of the white iPhone 4 were legion. It was because the white paint allows in too much light and rendered the camera useless, or so we were told. More laughable – but only too plausible – was that Apple couldn’t find the ‘right’ shade of white to meet Jonny Ive’s exacting design criteria.
Whatever the real cause was, the white iPhone was originally scheduled to launch in June 2010. But it wasn’t until ten months after that it actually showed up, at which point a gushing Phil Schiller pronounced it “beautiful”. Considering it had been in the making for the best part of two years, it damn well ought to have been.
4 Alarm gate
Ah, New Year’s Day: the time when our resolve to change for the better is at its strongest. This year, it’s going to be different, you know? You really are going to give up those lovely, lovely fags.
As far as 2010 went, Apple had a lot it will have wanted to put behind it, too. But just as antennagate was receding from view, a problem with the handset’s alarm clock gave Cupertino a real rude awakening.
All over the globe, owners reported that the early morning reverie just hadn’t happened on January 1st and 2nd, leaving many late for work. And worse still, late for costly flights to far-flung climes.
The problem lay with a software glitch that cancelled one-off alarms. One that’d first reared its head in November when the clocks had gone back. But by failing to nix it back then, Apple guaranteed itself a huge spread of negative coverage in the slow news days at the start of a new year.
Did it deserve that? We think on balance they probably did. Sure, some people might not have been affected at all. But even so an alarm function is a pretty basic phone feature and one that’s been with us since the late ‘90s mobile boom. For a cutting-edge handset – arguably THE cutting-edge handset - of the moment to let folk down for wake-up calls was pretty unforgivable. Tsk, you never got these problems with a Nokia 3210.
5 Ping pongs
You don’t hear much about Ping these days. Perhaps that’s because Apple has made so many other attention-grabbing announcements since. Or perhaps it’s because it’s been a Google Buzz-style unmitigated disaster that Apple wants to brush under the carpet and forget ever happened.
The music focussed social network sounded okay on paper. But it was fraught with glitches, oversights and honking omissions. Not least of which was that it’s just too hard to find out who among your chums is using the service. Then there was the fact that in control freakery to shame Madonna at her fame-hungry peak, every profile photo had to be approved by Apple.
Other black marks against it were a lack of major artist support at launch and the fact that you couldn’t post status updates – surely the most rudimentary social networking function there is?
At the end of 2010, CNN named Ping among the year’s biggest tech fails. We’re not about to disagree with them.
6 Four gens in and still no removable battery
Apple really doesn’t want you messing with the innards of its phone. We get that. But surely there’s a way to design the rear so you can pop in a new battery without giving us minions access to the CPU?
Having a replacable battery wouldn’t matter so much, if it hadn’t been the iPhone 3G’s Achilles' heel. It positively tears through juice when using 3G. And for a phone that was sold on all the great things that 3G support offers, that just wasn’t good enough.
7 Where was MMS?
iPhones didn’t get MMS messaging until the arrival of the 3.0 edition of Apple's firmware. Perhaps it was explicable given that the service isn’t quite the draw in the US that it is in Blighty and across Europe. But for such a basic feature, that many people would’ve assumed was a given when they bought it, that was shocking - something that pages and pages of vitriol on messageboards across the web still attests to.
Steve Jobs’s steadfast assurance that ‘Apple knows the end-user better than they know themselves’ has resulted in some incredible experiences and innovations. But his bloody-minded refusal to listen to his public in this case was an example of just the kind of arrogance that gets Apple a bad name.
8 Baffling App Store approvals
We can understand aspects of Apple’s censorious, hands-on approval policy for iPhone apps. Banning porn might've upset the libertarians, but it was seen as a pretty sound move by the moral majority and women's rights groups. What's more is that deciding what gets sold at the App Store is entirely Jobs' prerogative. It is his platform, after all.
But it’s the inconsistencies in the approach that rankle. Apps have frequently been cleared for sale that weren’t just a sexy-time affront to family values. They were offensive to anyone with an iota of common decency.
Just how did something like iMussolini – a comp of the fascist demagogue’s most famous speeches - slip through the net, for instance? Equally baffling was how the Baby Shaker cot app got the seal of approval. Ostensibly aimed at raising awareness of cot deaths, this let users kill newborns by shaking their phones. It just came across as crass and extraordinarily insensitive.
And the black spots in Apple’s policy didn’t end there, either. The South Park app was sent packing for its off-colour language. Yet Jobs was quite happy to rake in his ten per cent from sales of the TV show through iTunes.
9 What, no Flash support?
Whatever gaudy glam hitmakers Queen may tell you, Flash won’t save every one of us. But it’s still pretty crucial to your wellbeing as you do need it to watch the majority of videos on the web. And play most browser-based games too.
That wasn’t good enough for Jobs, though. Not nearly good enough. He banned it on the grounds that it was too buggy and too much of a drain on smartphones’ limited resources. And besides, Flash would soon be a distant memory in a world where HTML5 had taken over, he assured us.
Best not to worry our pretty little heads with it, then? Erm not really. HTML5 is years away from full implementation. And until that changes, this leaves millions of iPhone and iPad users unable to enjoy the likes of Farmville, mass-market news sites like ESPN and on-demand video streaming service Hulu.
10 ‘If you haven’t got an iPhone, you haven’t got an iPhone’ slogan
Apple recently followed up the lachrymose sentimentality of its FaceTime spots with an ad of staggering fatuousness. You can’t argue with the man’s logic. After all, if you haven’t got an iPhone, you haven’t actually got an iPhone. But the implication that not having one means you’re somehow a lesser species makes us less inclined to join that smug coterie than ever before.