IOS 8 Beta 4 – Still not Soup Yet

Let’s take a quick look…

The other day, Apple released the latest beta version of iOS 8 to developers. I’ve got it installed on my iPhone 5; and I’ve been playing with it for a bit. Let’s take a look at how things are progressing and see if it’s nearly ready for 3rd party and hobby developers to install yet.

Previous versions of iOS 8 have been a real challenge. If you recall, I’ve had coverage about iOS 8 Beta 1, Beta 2, and Beta 3.  Beta 4 is here, and there are still a great many known (Apple documented) issues as well as those that they don’t know about yet (undocumented issues).   The issues and points that I’ve outlined below combine these two lists.  In other words, some of these Apple already knows about.  Other’s they don’t or didn’t list.  It seems I have some defects to file later…  There are over 50 known issues spread over 37 different areas of the system.

Again, I always setup my iPhone as a new iDevice when installing any beta release.  This prevents any issues with previous settings and plist files. I nearly always have to restore/ wipe and setup the device more than once, as something almost always goes wrong during the first attempt or two.  I think this has something to do with the fact that I would rather play music from my device than stream it via iTunes Match (which iPhone turns on by default).  The synching of large iTunes libraries nearly always causes problems.

ios6beta4

The following are issues I’ve noticed while using iOS 8 Beta 4 since its release.

Installation
Installation in and of itself went ok. I did have to restore my iPhone 5 more than once because of sync issues. The sync just spaced out and stopped doing anything at Stage 5 of 5 (Copying Items) and sat there for well over 90 minutes.

I gave up, hard reset the device put it back in its cradle, turned off Find my iPhone, and restored Beta 4 for a second time. Again, there always seems to be a problem when it comes to wanting to play content locally instead of streaming via iTunes Match.  Turning it off tends to cause sync issues until you get a good, first sync, and then everything is ok.  However, I often have to set the options I want, start the sync and then leave the iPhone to sync for a number of hours – in some cases over night – before it completes correctly.

So far this second installation seems to be ok.  Previous betas lasted between 2-4 days on my iPhone 5 before I blew the device and started over.  This is only day one, however. I may know more about overall stability in the next couple of days.

Bluetooth
Uncle already…

Boy, I sure wouldn’t want to be a communications developer over at Apple right now.  They must be having one heck of a time getting things right. Bluetooth is still a train wreck. My iPhone 5 continually drops audio from any headset it pairs with as well as loses connectivity with my Kenwood BT955HD CD/R-6P1 car stereo. This was never a real solid pairing, even in iOS 6.x and 7.x; however, it seems to be worse with iOS 8, at least so far.  I am trying to see if I can get in touch with someone at JVC Kenwood in order to see if there’s an updated firmware I can apply to the radio.  Actually getting ANY accessory to pair – a headset, speaker, my radio, smartwatch, etc. is a crap shoot at best.  More often than not, the accessory won’t pair on the first three or so tries.  You have to repeat this a LOT right now in order for your iPhone to “realize” that it needs to pair and communicate with the accessory.

BT-LE (Bluetooth Low Energy) is still having issues holding idle connections, or those that don’t send constant data across the paired link.  Accessories like a <a href=”https://www.soft32.com/blog/platforms/mobile/pebble-steel-is-timeless/”>smartwatch</a> won’t work correctly over a long period of time. The BT-LE connection drops.  Getting the BT-LE connection to re-pair, at best, is a crap shoot.

This is a HUGE issue for me as having my phone connected to my car radio is a must have while I am driving. I have an hour long drive to and from work every day, and travel to see my family at least twice a month between Omaha, NE and Chicago, IL (a 6.5 hour drive, one way); and having a hands free device for your cellphone is required in IL, IA and NE.

In short, the Bluetooth experience is really painful right now.  There’s a LOT of work that needs to be done here; and it’s an area where I hope Apple truly concentrates before releasing iOS 8 to the public. In this case, good is not good enough… this really needs to be solid, especially if they want to make any kind of headway in the wearables market where idle BT-LE connections will be common place.

FaceTime, Phone and Contacts
There are still some serious issues with the Phone app.   The most serious – where you can’t answer an incoming call because the device is ringing but won’t wake from sleep – don’t happen too often, but it’s severe enough and unpredictable enough that receiving an important phone call is risky.  The phone dialing app and the active, in-call phone app – if they are in fact supposed separated in anyway – still appear disconnected in iOS 8’s task manager.

The device’s integration between the Phone and Contact apps is also demonstrating issues.  You can’t currently specify a phone number used in Favorites from the Favorites screen.  The only way to do this is to open up Contacts, search for the person in question, open their contact record and tap the “Add to Favorites” link.  From there, you can choose the phone number you wish to make a Favorite.  Trying to add a Favorite from the Favorites screen just adds the first phone number as either a voice call, FaceTime Audio or FaceTime call.

Speaking of FaceTime, the app does not work properly in landscape orientation.  If you want to use the app, you have to FaceTime in portrait orientation.  This is a known issue and Apple is working to resolve it.

Music
There are a number of issues with Music and Podcasts (they function in much the same way…Podcasts is really nothing more than a specialized music app, specifically intended to play audio files marked as a podcast) that raise a lot of concern for me.  For example, the Music app may stop responding when downloading an album.  I’m not certain if this is because Music really wants you to use iTunes Match to stream music from iCloud, or some other reason.

I’ve also noticed that if you do want to sync music to your iDevice, you may have to wait a VERY long time.  ITunes has a problem synching large audio libraries to iPhone.  I’ve noticed that the sync can take HOURS – as in 5-10 hours or more – on the initial sync; and then the entire library that is supposed to copy to the iDevice may not sync on the first or second try. You may have to initiate multiple synchronization attempts – that can take hours to complete – before all of the content is copied to your iDevice. I have also noticed that you may need to disconnect and reconnect your iDevice – both with and without a hard reset in between – to your Mac or PC before all of the content that is supposed to be copied to your device actually gets there.

Notifications
This is another area where Apple is doing a great deal of work.  Apple is completely rewriting the Notification Center, and as such, things are still not working right.  Many notification settings have to be configured more than once before they take.  In some cases, the default switch for showing notifications on the Lock Screen is turned off.  For example, instead of defaulting to displaying on the Lock Screen, Notifications for Mail won’t show at all until you go in and flip the switch to on.

I’ve also noticed that notifications and other system events, like alarms and reminders don’t always fire consistently.  With the changes to Notification Center being such a big deal in iOS 8, I really thought that they would have been in a better state with Beta 4.  This is also a huge hole and something that must be working and working consistently before iOS 8 is released to manufacturing.

System Issues
Overall, there’s a better sense of stability in iOS 8 Beta 4 than in previous betas; but before you start celebrating, this is really to be expected. I still don’t think iOS 8 Beta 4 is the Beta that 3rd party developers relying on Bluetooth, BT-LE or any kind of sync or streaming services should start to play with yet.  There are still a large number of issues for Apple to resolve before it’s ready for any kind of limelight or attention by anyone other than testing the OS.

The system still goes through a number of spontaneous resets. I’ve had at least six since I installed the newest iOS beta on my iPhone 5 on Tuesday night 2014-07-22.  Many apps – Apple Core apps not withstanding – force quit, yet still leave a stub of a program running as evidenced in the Task Manager.  As I said before, the device also won’t necessarily wake from sleep consistently. It can easily get stuck, without the ability to take a call if that OS craps out while asleep and a call comes in. that’s happened at least three times since I installed Beta 4 (and as of this writing, that’s only two days…)

The app also has a backup and restore issue.  As noted by Apple, a restoration of an iCloud backup onto the same device the backup was taken from may not work properly. It may result in crashes of some apps.  Apple is suggesting that for right now, you don’t use iCloud to back up or restore your iDevice, but that you use iTunes to do that. However, I’ve noticed that even one of those backups can get corrupted, requiring you to delete the effected or all backups from your Mac or PC before the device may be backed up or restored at all.

I’ve also noticed that storage usage is still incorrectly reported by iTunes.  The amount of available storage nearly always increases after synchronization completes; and both numbers reported by iTunes don’t match what the iDevice indicates is available.

Conclusion
To say that I’m not happy with the state of Beta 4 is an understatement. Apple usually has it crap together by this point in the beta cycle and Beta 4 is stable enough to be used by nearly anyone and stable enough for daily use.  That’s not the case here.  Apple still has a LONG way to go before the OS can be considered stable or even usable.

Do you have any specific questions about iOS 8 Beta 4 that I can answer?  If I can, I will.  Why don’t you hit me up in the Comments section below and I’ll do my best go give you an answer straight away.

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