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Ongoing Problems that need to be fixed within Apple’s Ecosystem

A still image of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space stating 'we have a problem'

There are two parts to just about any piece of technology, the hardware and the software. Software is much easier to update than hardware. If a piece of hardware has a flaw, it may be possible to work around it, but often it is not. However, with software you can easily update it as time goes on.

I have been thinking about a variety of different issues within Apple's ecosystem. This is the first of two articles. This article will focus on the issues that need fixing within Apple’s operating systems. The second article will consist of feature requests that would be good to see from Apple’s Ecosystem.


Control Center

The Control Center on iOS and iPadOS is used to provide quick access to various aspects of iOS. This includes things Wi-Fi, Headphones, Volume, Flashlight, Wallet, Alarms, and AirPlay, just to name a few options. One of the things that you can have in Control Center is your Smart Home items. When you do this, they will be added.

The problem that I have is that the order is just random. It seems like the items that are shown are active or at least the most recently used. However, the order is just random. Sometimes the active items will be shown next to each other, while at other times there may be a couple active items, an inactive item, and then another active item. This makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever. Having the active items shown together would make sense, but the current setup does not.


Siri

Siri has been around since 2010 and was integrated into iOS 5 in 2011. Over its lifetime Siri has seen some significant improvement. However, it seems to be a situation of “two steps forward, one step back” at times.

Request for the status of a Home Item

As an example, With iOS 15 you could ask Siri “What is the status of the Living Room light” and it would respond with either “the light is on” or something similar. But now, it says “There is one light in the living room”. How the heck is this even helpful? It is not. I asked for the status of a particular item, it should be able to tell me its current status. It is possible that this is related to upgrading to the latest architecture in iOS 16.2, but I do not think so.

Device Detection

There has to be a better way of handling Siri requests on multiple devices, in particular which device takes priority. The issue that I have experienced, more often than I care to indicate, is when I will be listening to something, say the “Hey Siri” phrase, and have my phone respond, as expected. I can then immediately make another request and say “Hey Siri” again, and have an entirely different item respond. Why? This is absolutely ridiculous. I was just making a request on my iPhone, it should be using that since it is right there in my hand and I’m using it.


Maps

When Maps was introduced in 2012, with iOS 6, it was not the best launch. In the intervening years, it has vastly improved and in some ways surpasses other mapping software that people use. However, there his one big issue and that is the direction volume.

Right now, the volume for directions is the exact same as any media that you are listening to. This should not be the case. It should be possible to set the direction volume separately from the audio volume for other items. It is not often that I need to use directions, but when I do, I should not have to constantly turn up the volume to hear the directions just to immediately turn it back down so I do not blow out my ear drums.

It admit that this one may just be something I have to deal with because my car is old enough to the point where I do not have bluetooth, nor do I even have an Auxiliary jack, so I cannot plug in my iPhone and I have to use an FM transmitter to listen to music. Even so, this is not something anybody should have to deal with.


General Issue

Error Messages

Many of the error messages that Apple provides are, to put it bluntly, less than helpful. For instance “A generic error occurred”, or something just as unhelpful is not that uncommon. What is needed is more details. These do not need to be shown by default, but having a mechanism for being able to see additional details, without having to dig into some obscure log file, and then filtering for the error, would go a long way to being able to pinpoint the source of the error.

An animated GIF of a scene in Office Space where Amir is at the printer with a paper jam.

macOS

There are a couple of items directly related to macOS that I find quite annoying, problematic, and annoying.

iCloud Private Relay

iCloud Private Relay is a paid service that will allow you to protect your information while browsing the web. According to Apple:

iCloud Private Relay keeps your internet activity private. It hides your IP address and browsing activity in Safari and protects your unencrypted internet traffic so that no one - including Apple - can see both who you are and what sites you’re visiting.

This sounds great, and it is, when it works. I have had very few issues with iCloud Private Relay on my iPhone and iPad. However, on macOS it is an entirely different story. On my Macs it says “Some of your system settings prevent Private Relay from working.” It continues “Your system has extensions or settings installed that are incompatible with Private Relay.” There is a “learn more” button, which will bring you this page (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT212614#settings)

This page indicates:

In System Settings on your Mac, you might see an alert that says "Some of your system settings prevent Private Relay from working." If you do, a third-party app - such as a VPN or internet filtering software - might have installed settings or extensions that are incompatible with Private Relay. For example, the third-party app might have installed a kernel extension or applied custom packet filter rules.

On one of my Macs, this makes sense, I do have some VPN software installed for work, and not having it work while the VPN is in use makes completely sense. But if the VPN software is not active, then it should not be doing anything and therefore should have no effect on the , on another one of my Macs, I do not, so why would it not work on that one?

I understand that iCloud Private Relay is in beta, and it is not perfect. There are times that I need to turn it off on my iPhone because something will not load, however, this is not that.

System Settings

With macOS Ventura Apple redid the old “System Preferences” app and renamed it to “System Settings”. This brought it more in line with iOS and iPadOS. Overall, this idea makes sense. The name was not the only change, the entire app was re-written. There were many who thought this was a bad idea, some because they do not like change, but many of them because it did not work well.

This latter group is understandable because it was buggy during the betas, and it is still buggy three months later. As a matter of fact, it has actually only gotten worse, at least for me. My issues in particular have to deal with the iCloud Settings.

Screenshot of the iCloud System Settings on macOS Ventura after a crash

The exact issue I am having is that it completely fails to load. It begins to load, but if I click on anything it will just sit there and not loading. There is no spinner and no indication of anything going on. Eventually, it just ends up with a blank screen and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. The iCloud System Settings just end up crashing and never loading. In order for me to be able to do anything with iCloud I have to use another device.

This is entirely unacceptable and I am sure I am not the only one having the issue.


Safari

Safari is likely the app that I use more than any other on the Mac. However, I have two issues.

Passwords and Two-Factor

With iOS 15 and macOS Monterey Apple introduced a new feature that allows you to store your two-factor codes in iCloud Keychain. This has been a great and a very welcome feature. However, I have a situation.

Let us say you have a site, called example.com and this site has two sub domains called site1.example.com and site2.example.com. Each of these has their own user name and passwords, along with this they also have their own separate, two-factor codes. Right now there is no way to be able to separate these sites because both of these share the same “example.com” domain. Therefore, Safari presumes that these are the same logins and therefore the same two-factor codes. Unfortunately, this is not the case and this is very problematic because now I have to manage two separate apps for verification codes. Beyond this, autofill does not work properly.

I was able to work around this specific issue, but only because the usernames for the two sub domains are different, therefore Safari will allow you to have multiple entries. However, if your login is the same, you cannot separate them.

Passwords and Domains

Beyond the issue listed above, I have another similar, but different issue. I have a fair number of sites that have domains that are managed by the same group and use the same credentials for sites. Because there are two different domains, Apple’s Passwords setting indicates that they are “re-used” credentials. This is not as much of a problem as the one above, but it is still an issue.

What would be nice would be to have a mechanism for indicating that these two domains are for the same entity and should not be considered “re-used” because they are the same overall entity.

Developer Tools

Developers tools are needed to help developers debug webpages. When I do an “inspect element” on Safari Technology Preview, it shows the source, as expected, but it also shows the “Console”. This is not desired behavior and there is no way for me to change this behavior. I have filed a feedback on this, FB11765219. More on this in a bit.


Developer Feedback

The Apple Feedback assistant app icon

This last item is not a new item, but it is one that affects many people. This issue is the lack of meaningful feedback. This takes two different forms. The first is for “Feedback” filed by a developer. Many developers have indicated that they feel as though there is a significant disparity between what Apple says, and what it does. What I mean by this is that when a developer experiences a problem, the common refrain from Apple is “file a feedback”. However, one of three results occur.

Scenario 1: Nothing

That right, nothing happens. The feedback just sits there with no response, no indication that anybody has even looked at it, no indication that this is a duplicate issue. There is literally no response, or at minimum no observable response. As an example, I have some Feedback reports going back to 2014 that are still open. Some of the items that I have can be closed because the product is no longer supported, but instead, they just sit there.

In the latter case, it is possible that Apple did actually reply to the developer and provide a workaround, or a fix, but that never makes it to the end developer. I dod not know how often this actually occurs, but it has happened, because those on the inside indicate that they did reply. So, either this may be failing of the software or some other issue. But if Apple responds, it may not make it to end developer, which is still a problem.

Scenario 2: Duplicate Work

The second result that occurs is that developers are told to “Include a System Diagnose” or “Provide an example app”. In some cases, this is the correct response. However, at other times these two items have already been provided. Therefore, it appears as though nobody actually read the report. If you point out that this has already been done, it might end up becoming a “Scenario 1”, where nothing else is every mentioned.

Scenario 3: Actual Results

This is the least common result, where you actually get feedback from Apple, they are able to replicate the problem, and they provide a workaround, or a fix. This does indeed happen, but is not nearly as common as you might expect.

There is the fallacy that you can just throw more people at a problem and it will get fixed sooner. In most cases this does not happen. However, I think in this case it might actually be the case that if more people are handling the initial reports, that more of them might be closed.

I should state that I have no inside information about how often any of the three scenario results actually occur. This is just observational data that I have seen as an outside observer.


Closing Thoughts

I am sure this just scratches the surface of the various issues that people experience with Apple’s ecosystem. Some of the items outlined above are just minor irritations, like the console appearing when inspecting an element in Safari. At the same time others are true problems, like iCloud System Settings not loaded.

As outlined above, reporting these issues may or may not do anything or have any actual results come out of reporting them. Therefore, I am not sure what I will do with these issues.

Every year Apple tends to add a bunch of features, and part of me hopes that Apple does add some new features, just to entice people to upgrade.. At the same time, I also hope that they decide fewer features is a better approach and instead they have another “Snow Leopard” year. For those unaware, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was released in 2009 and at the time it appeared to be a “minor” release with very few user features. However, there were a ton of under the hood changes that would be fundamental for years to come. Even though there were few user features, there were a ton of bug fixes and changes. It is this latter term that people are referring to.

Be sure to check out the second part, which is features that would be nice to have added to Apple's Ecosystem.

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