iOS 6.x Woes – What Apple Needs to Do

Apple needs to do a LOT to fix the problems it has with every public bugs.

iOS-6.1Apple is definitely in a period of transition both from a stock price perspective and from a leadership perspective.  They also seem to be wobbling a bit when it comes to strategic direction for its mobile OS.  When you move from a high quality to rapid release methodology and then do an about face, you can count on a number of different problems cropping up.  Apple definitely has its work cut out for itself as it tries to refocus its release philosophy back towards the, “it just works” point of view.

With the exit of Scott Forstall, Apple is moving away from what appears to be the industry popular rapid release oriented Agile/Scrum development methodology that focuses more on the introduction of features and functionality rather than quality of code and delivery.  With Leopard, Apple had 11 point releases. With Snow Leopard, Apple delivered 8 updates. With Lion, there were 5 releases.  It’s clear.  Apple is ratcheting down the number of releases and is focusing more on quality rather than quantity.

Given its direction with its desktop OS, I have to wonder what the heck is going on with its mobile OS. Things don’t seem to be righting themselves there. There have been six (6), seven counting the iPhone 4S only 6.1.1 release, releases of iOS 6 since its release in mid-September of 2012. That’s an average of just over 1 release per month.

If you ask me, that’s excessive; and it CLEARLY indicates that Apple’s methodology changes haven’t trickled down to the mobile OS team yet. Development methodologies like Agile/Scrum concentrate more on the release of new features rather than quality of delivery. When problems are encountered or identified, you release a new version and roll the code base forward. There’s little to no time to do any regression testing (testing to insure previously squashed bugs stay squashed). This is the major reason why the lock screen bug that was “resolved” in iOS 6.1.3 reappeared.  It’s also the major reason why it was recently discovered that 6.1.3 didn’t completely resolve the issue.

According to Apple Insider additional methods of bypassing the iOS lock screen have been discovered in iOS 6.1.3, even though this release was designed and engineered to specifically lock the lock screen down.

The lock screen bugs, both this new one and the previous one are not easy to reproduce. You really have to be one demented and dedicated tester, and understand the device, its OS and applet behavior in order to successfully reproduce the exploits.  However, it speaks to a much larger problem – one of development methodology.

This isn’t so much a coding issue as it is a leadership issue.  Apple coders and testers must be allowed to spend the time necessary to come up with these kinds of use cases and scenarios so that proper test requirements can be documented and then tests created and executed.  The key word there is “time.”  Unfortunately, it’s the one thing that Apple doesn’t have an abundance of.

Apple needs to squash bugs, and squash them quickly.  Most importantly, it needs to make sure that the bugs they say they’ve squashed, stay squashed. Finding a way around the released fix one day after its release doesn’t lend confidence that Apple is doing the due diligence to resolve and robustly test the code they’re releasing.  It’s even worse when it seems as though everybody else but “you” knows what to do to get around your code.  Apple needs to change how it develops, tests and more importantly, plans its releases.  If I were Apple’s QA director, I’d be worried for my job at this point.  I’d also march myself into Eddie Cue’s office by the end of the week with a solid plan on how testing is going to insure buggy software doesn’t get released.  This is getting ridiculous, and isn’t going to help Apple’s stock (AAPL) price, either. It’s down 35.5% since its 52 week high six months ago.

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iOS 6 Wish List

iOS5 is out and available to all supported iOS devices. With the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 rumored to be coming in 2012, let’s take a quick moment to speak to a couple desired features.

The release of the iPhone 4S also gave us iOS5. Battery life issues and improvements not-withstanding, any additional additions or life altering improvements will need to wait until iOS 6 is released. In light of that, I’d like to speak to a quick wish list for iOS6. The list is below, in no particular order.


Improved Battery Life

Let’s face it, the battery life issues in iOS 5 are real and legitimate. The iPhone’s battery needs to last at least 12 hours between charges. I don’t know if that’s a software fix, a hardware adjustment, or a better, bigger battery. I don’t care. At the end of the day, however, 12 legitimate, realistic hours is the magic number in my opinion.


Browsable File System (a File Manager)

We have about as good a chance at getting a real, browsable file system as we do of Samsung and Apple amicably settling their patent disputes. A browsable file system goes against the tenants that Apple laid down regarding iOS – the user doesn’t need to worry about such things. However, at times, I would like to be able to add, subtract and move files on my own without having to use a sync conduit (iTunes).


Widgets

This is the one Android thing I am really going to miss when I move back to iOS. Widgets on my home screen are an awesome way for me to check the time, the weather, etc. However, Apple hasn’t embraced the concept and really hasn’t changed their application launcher at all. The only thing they did to it, really since its introduction in the original iPhone in 2007, was to add folder support, and implement Spotlight searching. But I would really like to see a clock and weather widget on my main home screen. My eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be, and I’d like to do this without jail breaking the device.


Google (or other provider) Maps with Turn by Turn Navigation

I’ve said it many times, I am SEVERELY directionally challenged. I need turn-by-turn navigation on my phone. Without it, I’m going to get turned around and get lost when going to new places. Android and Windows Phone have this via either Google or other carrier sanctioned application. I’d rather not go the carrier sanctioned route. It would be nice to either have something Apple branded or from an Apple partner on the device when I buy it. The current version of Google Maps really just isn’t enough.


Customizable Shortcuts (to settings and other default applets)

I would really like to be able to place a shortcut on my device to Airplane mode, Sound/Vibrate toggle, Bluetooth on/off, Wi-Fi on/off, 3G/4G on/off, etc. or to at least have this built into some sort of Settings bar that could be enabled on one or more home screens. Constantly sifting through menus to get to this stuff is a pain, and is very inefficient.


Siri Improvements

I like the idea of AI on my smartphone. I like the idea of being able to have an intelligent conversation with my device and then it taking action based on that. Part of that is there now – Siri, what’s my day like? Siri, schedule a meeting on “xxx” with “xxx.” Siri, send an email to, “xxx…” I know I’m a getting a little ahead of the game, but something like I want isn’t too far away based on the building blocks that are already put in place. I think some of this is going to happen, but it’s going to take a lot of time, and won’t all come together in iOS6. It will take a number of years and a number of OS revisions. It’s also going to take time, working with Siri on YOUR iPhone, as it will need to learn your habits and then anticipate them. What I would like to see for iOS 6.x is a way for that learned behavior to be passed on from OS rev to OS rev, old iPhone to new iPhone.

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