iOS 8.0.2 Released to Resolve Cellular Issues

The QA Manager at Apple is having a really bad week…

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ve got 25 years in QA management. I know that Apple hires only the cream of the crop; but you have to wonder if after not one but two huge software bug blunders in the last two years if the guy running the QA ship at Apple is the right guy. It’s a reasonable question. And I’m certain that its something that is likely crossing the mind of EVERY member of Apple’s senior leadership team’s minds.

Earlier today (as of this writing), Apple released iOS 8.0.2 to resolve the issues with cellular connectivity and TouchID functionality. Specifically, the release provides the following improvements and bug fixes:

ios801

Unfortunately, the big issues around cellular connectivity and TouchID were tested by the same QA organization responsible for the same testing type of misstep that occurred with Apple Maps. That particular issue was enough to get Scott Forestall fired. However, it didn’t go much lower than that.

Now, a couple releases later, there’s another huge testing bungle hot on the heels of the iPhone 6 release and iOS 8. Funny how the same QA manager that blew Apple Maps also blew the testing on this particular release.

This was a big one; and from what I’ve read on Bloomberg, this guy has had a really crappy week.

iOS 8.0.1 was aimed at fixing issues from the iOS 8 GM release, and also introduced Apple’s health and fitness-tracking application HealthKit. Unfortunately, the update also disabled some people’s – and the estimates around “some” is around 40,000 – access to their cellular network so they couldn’t make or receive phone calls.

While some may try to make the story about the QA guy and the fact that he blew the testing on three huge bugs (Maps, TouchID and cellular connectivity), the issue shouldn’t necessarily be about what was missed, but how it was missed.

Apple does most of the right things the right way. Its clear from their sales, stock prices and consumer loyalty. I’m not entirely certain what went south with iOS 8.0.1, but I have a few ideas; and I’m going to offer them briefly with the hope that they will be taken constructively and not as deconstructive criticism.

While Apple ranks their bugs with an industry standard process, its said that their bug review meetings can get ugly. Engineers often argue for more time to fix a problem while product managers push to move the release forward. In the case of Apple Maps and iOS 8.0.1, too much risk was assumed by the product manager(s) in question. Its obvious that more time should have been given to issues in iOS 8.0.1 or the issues weren’t discovered until after the software was released.

The biggest issue that I’ve seen – IF it in fact proves to be accurate – is that software testers and engineers don’t get their hands on the latest iPhones until the actual release date. This is the biggest reason why there is normally a software update to iOS a week or two after the release of the device. Testing and Development get the latest hardware, install the OS, and then start poking around. Prior to that, QA and Dev team members either use existing hardware to test the new mobile OS, or run the new software in an emulator.

While this seems like a no brainer to resolve, the problem exists because of one word, really – Gizmodo. The leaked iPhone 4 hardware that got passed around is still giving Apple heartburn, nearly 5 years later, and as such, Tim Cook has limited use of unreleased hardware to only senior managers, unless special permission is granted. This makes testing difficult.

Internal turf wars also create issues as teams responsible for testing cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity will sometimes sign-off on a release too early, and then – as in the case of iOS 8.0.1 – connectivity or other compatibility issues are discovered. There tends to be a lot of finger pointing when things like this happen, and that’s never productive.

No matter how you slice it, there’s something very wrong with the way Apple’s SDLC (software development life cycle) is working. The in-fighting going on between development, testing and product management is leaking out of Apple’s nigh impenetrable walled garden and into the streets. It happened with Maps a couple years ago, and its happened again with iOS 8.0.1. While the fallout from the latest SNAFU won’t be nearly as big as it was with Maps, its toxic none the less, and needs to either be buried, or stop completely (the preferable outcome).

I’ve been in situations like this. Its hugely problematic, and hugely indicative of individuals that put themselves before the company…. and it never ends well, especially for individuals that are involved. The activity breaks down relationships, productivity and creates problems that kill opportunities to get future work done. It also breads additional problems, so the issues are circular.

This may go underground again; but then again, it may not. No matter how things are looked at, however, Apple has to make it stop.

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Apple to Acquire Waze..? NOT!

waze-iconThe rumor that Apple is going to acquire social GPS developer Waze has largely been put to rest; but was it a good or bad idea?

There have been multiple rumors reported by multiple sites over the past few weeks (Apple Insider, Mac Rumors, TUAW) speculating that Apple was taking a long hard look at Waze, a crowd sourced, GPS app developer for both iOS and Android.

It was later determined that TechCrunch, the source for all of the speculation had it wrong. However, the idea still has merit.

Pros

  • Crowd sourced (read: user validated) Maps
    The biggest problem Apple Maps has is that it’s a 1.0 version app.  Google Maps has been on Apple devices for quite some time, and Apple basically knew what it wanted to do with the app. However, they haven’t had to worry about rolling their own mapping solution…EVER, until now.  Apple Maps was, in all fairness, a decent shot at a new app for Apple, but it does have some very serious issues.  The bulk of those issues are with the map data provided by TomTom (and powered via their relatively recent purchase of TeleNav).  It may also stem from the way the Apple Maps makes use of the data. Unfortunately for Apple, they are still taking the lion’s share of the blame for the sometimes glaring navigation and satellite image errors within the app.Waze provides a way for users to validate the data. Users can report problems or provide updates to map data that can then be incorporated back into the app. While the method is reminiscent of a real life version of Pac Man, it works and works well. Users validate or update map data and the data gets assimilated and provided back to users in a “reasonable amount of time.”Incorporating this method of data validation into Apple Maps would provide Apple real time, corrected or updated map data from around the world. It would also give users the feeling that they are correcting the reported, egregious errors.  This is a clear win-win for users as well as Apple. Both sides get what they want – more accurate map data, ASAP.
  • Local search
    There’s BIG money in local search. Waze’s focus is validating that what it thinks is around you, actually is around you, which directly supports local search. As such, Waze can get you there from here, but its strength isn’t really navigation.It does local search VERY well. It has hundreds of thousands of users validating its map data on a daily basis.  It knows exactly what’s near you or how far away you are from where you want to be.  This is an area of competency that Google feels confident it does well, too. If Apple wanted to challenge Google in the local search arena, an acquisition of Waze could have gone a long way to making that challenge credible.

In acquiring Waze, Apple could have resolved two of its biggest map based criticisms. It wants to vindicate Tim Cook’s public apology for Apple Maps and it wants to be a serious player in Mobile Search. Waze does the latter well and would likely have been an acquisition that would have increased its competitive edge with Google.

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