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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Google Snatches up Waze in a Strategic Acquisition

The rumors were true. Google has acquired Waze.

screen-shot-2013-06-09-at-2-06-31-pmGoogle announced on Tuesday 11-Jun-2013 that it had acquired Israeli crowd-sourced GPS app provider Waze in what is rumored to be a $1.0B buy-out.  Rumors of an acquisition of Waze have been circulating since the beginning of 2013 with suitors including both Apple and Facebook, as well as Google rumored to be in the running.

Waze has over 40 million users as of April 2013 and is a free, cross platform application that uses crowd-sourced data to provide information on traffic, accidents, speed traps as well as validation of maps for voice-guided GPS directions.

Waze’s acquisition will strengthen Google Maps as well as provide additional ad-based revenue. Both Apple and Facebook were interested in the app in order to strengthen and provide a mapping solution for their users, respectively.  Apparently, the future location of the acquired resources – currently Israel – was a point of contention in the failed negotiations. With its acquisition, development staff currently in Israel can stay there, at least for now.

googleWaze

Personally, while this is likely to strengthen Google Maps, its already a strong, mature product. While the rumors around an Apple acquisition of Waze turned out to be inaccurate, that result really is somewhat disappointing.  Apple Maps could use some help or at least could use a marketing shot in the arm that an acquisition like this could have given it.

In the end, this is probably the best result that could have happened for Waze.  An acquisition by Apple would have totally cannibalized the app, leaving little to nothing of its original form left. An acquisition by Facebook would have done absolutely nothing but ruined the app, service and community that Waze has worked so hard to build.

File this under “watch for further developments,” kids. I really think some interesting things are going to happen with Google Maps as a result; but as always, only time will tell…

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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.

Next page

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iPad 3 Rumors & Thoughts – Part 2: iOS 6

With Steve Jobs gone and his legacy not completely publically known or understood, the iPad 3 is almost a complete unknown as well. Let’s take a look at some of the rumors and see what’s what.

I’ve been reading the authorized Steve Jobs biography, and quite honestly, I’ve been learning a great deal. Apple very much *IS* Steve Jobs, and vice-versa. It’s been an interesting read. Much of the design and thoughts for the iPad itself came before the iPhone. It was put on hold to address and release the need for the iPhone. However, the magic that is the iPhone will forever be beholden to the iPad. This was probably one of the most interesting revelations I’ve encountered in the book so far. But the iPad… that was Steve’s baby. He really wanted to do a tablet to counter the netbook surge and push, which is pretty much OVER at this point.

Apple has the tablet market pretty much sewn up. At this point, Android can try all it wants, but without the walled garden that Apple has cultivated and nurtured, it’s going to be hard for Google, any of their hardware partners, or ANYONE really, to catch up to them any time soon.

So, with all that, let’s take a quick gander at what is likely to come to iPad and iPhone fans alike with the next major release of iOS.

Siri Matures
I’ve been using my iPhone 4S for a couple of months, and I really like Siri; though at times, I think she thinks I have a speech impediment. I keep on asking her, “what’s my day like;” and she keeps telling me that she doesn’t understand, “what’s my daylight.” Awesome. Love that. I’ve also noticed that Siri on EDGE isn’t as accurate as Siri on 3G/4G (HSPA+); but that’s another matter entirely.

With the next MAJOR release of iOS, meaning iOS 6, we’re going to see a major bump in Siri’s maturity level. You’re going to be able to ask her to do a lot more and she’s going to be more integrated in how the device works. While she won’t be a complete consumer AI, she’s going to be the closest thing that John Q. Public will likely see for a while

Siri’s biggest problem, however, is not what she can’t do, or even that she may not listen very well. It’s that people don’t really know all of what she can and cannot do. My biggest problem with Siri is that I really don’t know what she’s capable of; and depending on what kind of cellular coverage you may have, if your inside or outside the Wi-Fi zone or perhaps having a bad hair day, Siri’s success in understanding what you want/need/mean when you speak may vary.

Apple needs to improve her listening skills and needs to insure that the local device does as much of the heavy lifting as it can. Voice recognition shouldn’t depend on your network connection speed. For example, when I ask Siri to call so and so, Siri seems to do a lot of thinking on my end. I know I have 1600+ contacts, but the response back from her should be almost instantaneous if I have so and so in my Contact List.

Support for Siri over LTE is also pretty much a no-brainer, given the inclusion of the mobile technology at a hardware level.

Improved Google Maps and Navigation Integration
There are two issues here – an improved Google Maps (just called Maps in iOS, but it’s the same thing) and integration with a navigation app. Its separate for a couple of reasons.

  • Google Maps for iOS is a mapping only app. There have been improvements made to Maps over the past few full revisions of iOS, but it’s not done anything more than provide map information and directions from A to B since its introduction.
  • Google has kept turn-by-turn navigation in Google Maps for its own Android OS.

In the next major version of iOS, Apple needs to give you support for the following use case:

  • 1. User – Siri, where’s the nearest ?
  • 2. Siri – I have found the following near your location.
  • 3. Siri – Would you like to navigate/go to any of them.
  • 4. User – Yes
  • 5. Siri – Which ?
  • 6. User –
  • 7. Siri – Would you like to walk or drive there from your current location? (if walking is a reasonable option)
  • 8. User –
  • 9. Siri – Which navigation application would you like to use? You have the following navigation applications installed.

or,

  • You don’t have any navigation applications installed. Would you like to search for and purchase one from the App Store?

or,

  • You don’t have any navigation applications installed. Would you like to me to generate directions with Maps?
  • 10. User – Makes appropriate choice
  • 11. Siri – Provides directions or launches purchased navigation app, passing the appropriate origin and destination variables to the app.

This will require modification on the part of the navigation app so it can accept these variables from Siri, but that should be doable, especially if Apple provides the appropriate API’s. Apple also needs to grow Siri so that she can control hardware iPhone components (volume, screen brightness, Bluetooth radio (Siri, turn on Bluetooth and pair/connect with/to.)

At the end of the day, though, you can see that Apple needs to do something with the current version of Maps, because it’s just not cutting it. Maps is nice, but giving me directions and not turn by turn navigation is not what users want. Apple doesn’t control the version of Maps in iOS, and while they can augment it some with Siri, and perhaps provide an API so other navigation apps can fit in, there are rumors that a recent acquisition may be a more likely result than an API for other navigation apps or than expecting Google to bring its Navigation to the party.

Come back next time, and I’ll dive into when and how the iPad 3 will be released.

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Google Maps v5.7 for Android allows you to download map areas for offline use

One of the most important feature that the latest version of Google Maps (v5.7) for Android brings is the support for offline maps. This feature allows you to save map tiles in a 10-mile radius around regions of your choice without an active internet connection.

This is of course very useful for Android users with a limited data plan or those who’re planning a trip in a place without an active internet connection. Beauty lies in the fact that you can save as many locations as you want – you are limited only to the amount of date space on your smartphone.

Well, the feature has been included as part of the experimental features.

To enable this feature you’ll have to turn it on by hitting Android’s menu button, selecting “More” and then choosing “Labs”. Touch “Download map area”, then hit the Back button.

To save a map area, just long-press in the area you want, press the arrow on the sign that pops up and choose “Download map area”. That’s it, Google Maps will then download the map in a 10-mile radius around that point.

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