IOS 8 Beta 3 – A Train Wreck of a Different Color

I’d like to say things are getting better.   I really would…

Those that know me know that I’m a long time mobile device maven. I’ve got years of experience in mobile computing, telecommunications and mobile broadband as well as mobile app testing. If it runs on a handheld device of just about any size and OS (or laptop, too), I feel confident that I can give you a solid set of test results after playing with it for a while.

While extended testing is always the best way to go, I’ve also learned to trust my instincts.   As a product reviewer, extended testing helps you identify issues, trends and perhaps issue root causes. This is the best way for someone like me, in a beta testing role to test, as the results you get from this activity are more focused, more accurate and very reliable.   Quick looks as what was released are great for press hounds and getting article views, but don’t always provide the best details on the ins-and-outs of encountered issues.

screen-shot-2014-07-07-at-9-58-00-am

IOS 8 Beta 3 was released to the Apple Developer Community on 2014-07-07.   This one was just a few days longer than I initially anticipated, as I had heard that Beta 3 would be made available on or around 2014-07-03.   Honestly, it could have come sooner for me. iOS 8 Beta 2 was nearly unusable. I have no idea how someone would be able to test any of their app mods or new apps on it.   I had a hard time getting many apps to run with any level of consistency.

So I’ve spent a bit of time with iOS 8 Beta 3, and here are my first impressions. It’s still a train wreck; and not ready for even developers to really use to create apps with yet.   Testing existing apps for compatibility will also be very difficult.  I say this as an experienced software QA professional.   In not so technical terms – train wreck is a kindness.

Here are the issues as I see them at this point. I may update this column with additional information, or expound upon it in an additional column as things become clearer over the next couple of weeks (Apple’s traditional time period between beta updates).

Please note that when installing any new beta release, I never, EVER restore a backup. I always set the new release up as a new iPhone. It’s more work to do this, but insures that all settings and plist files on the device are created from scratch, without any legacy issues or problems from previous builds being brought over.

App Crashes and Other Issues

·    Facebook – often force quits when initially started.   Doesn’t update as expected.   Newsfeed contains items that are totally fresh (minutes old) next to items that are completely stale (10-18+ hours/ days old).
·    Gmail – mail items don’t update as expected. App force quits or freezes unexpectedly during updates
·    Mail – Stability is greatly improved, but comes at the expense of occasional app force quits.  The app also freezes unexpectedly during an update; but at least I can delete 4-5 messages at a time without the app crashing or force quitting on me.
·    Pebble App – No consistent BT LE connectivity (see the Bluetooth section, below)
·    Angry Birds Friends – The app won’t connect to Facebook and therefore, you can’t play the game with your power-ups or other in-app purchases. The app hasn’t worked right in all 3 iOS 8 Betas.
·    Health – this app is about as intuitive and easy to use as an operations manual for a nuclear power plan is to read and understand. IOS 8 Beta 3 is supposed to incorporate a way to count steps in Health.  I have no idea how to do this, and the app doesn’t yet have any info in it that explains that this requires the iPhone 5s or later (as it has the M7 chip and accelerometer which enables this).  It’s also NOT communicating with any other apps as of yet that I can see. I can’t get it and Run Keeper or Nike’s Fuel Band app to show up as sources.
·    Phone – the actual call screen and the phone app seem somewhat disconnected or discombobulated.   The app often doesn’t show the in-call screen or displays a combination/overlay of the two after attempting to end a call.   Dialing from Favorites is a problem. I’ve had occasions where the device has frozen without connecting a call when trying to dial from a saved Favorite, yet the devices top speaker seems engaged as you can hear dead air from it at that point (but the call likely will NOT connect).

Adding a Favorite from the Recent Calls list doesn’t always present you with the correct number or options you want for actually adding the Favorite (FaceTime, Voice Call, etc.)  Again, Apple is playing with the core code it uses to communicate with all of its radios in the iPhone.  I would have thought this would have been worked out in Alpha Builds and not in Beta releases…apparently, that’s just me.  However, from what I’m seeing, the app’s behavior suggests that there’s some heavy logging going on in the background, and this may be the cause for its sluggishness, crashes, graphic artifacts, etc… or it could be that the code is still in flux, too. It’s difficult to say…

My confidence level is set to – Low

I’m not happy with the way app compatibility is working out, and I’m certain that many 3rd party developers won’t be either.  With the way things are shaping up, they’re going to have to do some serious reworking of their products to get them to work correctly with iOS 8.  This means that after reworking, testing and getting everything set, they will need to rev the app and have it resubmitted to the Apple App Store.  Given what I am seeing, I think a huge backup of apps needing review will be experienced and Apple will bump into a problem with backlog.

Bluetooth
Front, back – cha, cha, cha.

This particular area seems to have taken one step forward and two steps back. I have had trouble pairing my iPhone 5 with EVERY Bluetooth device I have, including my Kenwood BT CD/R-6P1 car radio, Pebble Steel smartwatch and LG and Beats wireless headphones. I haven’t had an opportunity to try connecting my Nike+ Fuel Band.   The one thing that did connect without a problem is the Tile I have attached to my key ring. It connects without issue and STAYS connected, which flies right in the face of a known issue.   Currently, CoreBluetooth services are totally borked:

The CoreBluetooth State Preservation and Restoration feature does not work. If your application is jetsammed while in the background performing long-term action(s), with CoreBluetooth, those applications will cease and the application will not be restored.

Honestly, I’m really surprised that Bluetooth is working at ALL in iOS 8. As I stated before, they seem to be rewriting the Bluetooth stack from the ground up, and as such, I’d expect problems with Bluetooth connectivity with any and all device types. I don’t care how long this takes to resolve; but in the end, this really needs to be totally rock solid.

My confidence level is set to – Medium

Unless Apple does a much better job at pulling this together (and it still IS a bit early in the beta cycle…) in the next couple beta releases, I think this is an area that will need to see updates AFTER the initial release of iOS 8.0 in order to make things work correctly.   I do want to qualify this a bit though.   Apple can extend the beta period as long as it needs to.   This can still come together. I’m basing my statement on three beta releases.

Settings
This is a huge mess. It’s clear to me that Apple is still working on (tweaking is too delicate of a word…) much of the core code rewrite of the mobile OS, and as such, it’s no surprise that Settings is in a worse state than it was in previous beta releases.  Unfortunately, because Settings now behaves like a child throwing a tantrum (on occasion), using the device in any way has become challenging.  If you can’t set anything up, it’s difficult to use the device at all…

In no particular order, here are items of concern that I’ve noticed about Settings since installing iOS 8 Beta 3.
·    The app often force quits unexpectedly, sending you back to the home screen without notice.
·    PIM (mail, contacts, and calendar) data doesn’t always sync consistently for non-Apple accounts.  Fetch doesn’t fetch data. You may have to change “Fetch” to “Manual” and then run the associated app in order to get data to come down to your device.  I’ve noticed this with Google Accounts/ Google Apps Accounts more than any other.
·    Bluetooth settings are difficult to change.  Discovery works just fine, but actually pairing a new device can be challenging. It took me over 10 times to get my car radio to pair with my iPhone 5 running iOS 8 Beta 3, and that process involved initiating the pair from either the radio OR the iPhone, completely turning off both devices at different times, putting the radios in airplane mode, etc.  I actually thought at one point that I wasn’t going to be able to get the two devices to pair…
·    Settings often force quits when trying to modify Bluetooth settings.  The app crashes here more than in any other area, though it does force quit when trying to work with Wi-Fi settings, too.  Apple is obviously changing the way it communicates with your iPhone’s radios, and as such, Settings is very flakey.  This is problematic when the Bluetooth stack itself is in bad shape.  When the Settings for it often force close the Settings app, you really have to wonder just HOW you’re going to get any testing or other work done in this area.
·    There are issues with Notification Center.  I’ve noticed that Notifications often don’t register (new mail coming in, for example) when they are configured to do so. Running Notification Center itself doesn’t always resolve the issue. Opening Settings—Notifications doesn’t always resolve the issue.  This however, is to be expected, as this is an area that Apple is known to be making some big changes in with iOS 8.

My confidence level is set to – Low

iOS 8 is still in heavy active development. I would have – and actually did – expect things to be much more mature by now than they were in Beta 1 and Beta 2. Apple Beta’s are often very mature releases and seeing things in this state is a bit surprising to me when you look back at 6-7 previous beta releases of Apple’s mobile operating system.  Honestly, I didn’t expect iOS 8 to be the major reworking that its turning out to be. Apple tends to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary and as such, development has historically been a progression and not a tear down and rebuild.  iOS 8 seems to be, and very much has, that kind of feel to it. Apple is rebuilding a lot more of their core services than I thought they would.  This isn’t a bad thing. I am just surprised by these developments.

Some people wouldn’t be surprised given all of the rumors out there for the iWatch.  I’m surprised because we haven’t gotten any official word or anything really substantial from the rumor mill that would suggest that a newer, completely different type of iDevice is going to be presented to the public.

However, if Apple IS going to surprise us with some sort of watch or fitness band with a boat load of new sensors and functionality, then doing this type of tear down and rebuild to allow for new and different kinds and types of communication and device interaction wouldn’t be very surprising.  So, I’m interested and intrigued; but not much more than that because I have nothing substantial to hang that raised eyebrow on.

Conclusion
iOS 8 Beta 3 is an evolutionary beta release. I can see progress in it over Beta 2, but it’s clear that Apple has taken a step or two back in some areas in order to move things forward in the end. Communications – which is the heart of any mobile device OS – is a huge focus for iOS 8; and Apple is doing a lot of work with the iPhone at a grass roots level. If you were hoping to jump on to iOS 8 Beta 3 and have a mostly usable device, you’re not going to be happy yet. A lot of the device is still unusable. Apple is clearly still on the bottom end of the development curve with iOS 8 Beta 3.  There’s clearly a long way ahead of us before we can consider this feature complete and all Apple is doing is refining code and squashing bugs.

Are you looking forward to iOS 8?  What are you most interested in as far as its feature set and capabilities are concerned?  Do you have a specific area of interest that you’d like me to comment on, test or research?  Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to get something written up and posted on it in the coming days before Beta 4 hits, in an expected two week time frame (which would be somewhere around 2014-07-21).

Related Posts:

Hands on with iOS 8 Beta 2

Oy…

I’ve been in software a LONG time. I’ve been in mobile devices and mobile computing even longer… What I’m about to say may draw a great deal of criticism and some harsh debate (and at least a great deal of, “well what did you expect, Chris..?   iOS 8 IS in beta after all…).   But to tell you the truth, I’ve been a registered Apple developer for a while now, (since just before iOS 6 was in Beta) and as a QA Guy, I’m very good at identifying patterns and trends… it’s what I do. So, here goes…

screen-shot-2014-06-17-at-10-03-05-am

While iOS 8 Beta 2 improves some things over Beta 1, Beta 2 seems a worse train wreck than Beta 1.

In other words, the latest development milestone release (beta) is worse than the last.

In past releases of iOS 6 and iOS 7, by the time Beta 2 was released, the OS was usable.   While the official stance is always to put beta software on non-mission critical devices, as a software tester, if I don’t have it on a primary computer or device, I’m not going to give it a real good burn in test.   There’s a difference between working with a device and living in one; and in my opinion, you’re going to find more bugs, buried deeper in the code by living in a device than by simply using it and running test cases.   Don’t get me wrong.   I know that formal structured testing is a MUST.   However, living with a device and using it outside of a structured test can provide more information on the overall performance, look, feel, etc. of a system than can be found in a formal test setting (though, in all honesty, this ad-hoc information is USELESS without the formal feedback provided by structured testing, so you can’t cut corners…)

This is the major reason why I run new iOS betas when they become available.   Yes, yes… I have the beta software itch. I gotta have the new stuff; but I file bug reports as I find issues.   This week, I think I’ll be filing a boat load of them.   I’ve bumped into the following and have a great deal of feedback to provide Apple on iOS 8 Beta 2.   The following issues are listed in no particular order of severity or priority:

  1. Personal Hotspot  – Personal hotspot fails to provide internet service to devices connected to it for over 15 minutes.   Even though the iPhone indicates that a guest device is connected, and the device itself has internet connectivity, the guest won’t have access to the internet through the host after a 15 or so minute period has elapsed.   I’m not certain why yet.   It’s not a matter of the iPhone going to sleep and cutting internet access off. I’ve got my iPhone set to sleep after a few minutes.   I’m good for the first 15 minutes or so, and then internet access just disappears.   This issue needs more exploration. I will report more on it as I find out more.
  2. Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE  – This is the biggest train wreck of them all, I think.   The BT stack is a hot mess, failing to communicate with any number and types of devices.   BT-LE service is nearly unusable at the moment. My iPhone 5 won’t (officially) pair with any LE device I’ve got, no matter how hard I try, though LE notifications can travel across the link at times. My Pebble Steel is little more than a hockey puck on my wrist right now. I have Casio calculator watches that are smarter than my Pebble right now as a result…Bluetooth connectivity, especially BT audio, is spotty at best and doesn’t always work.   There are times when I try to listen to music while at the office, or watch videos after work. Audio comes across the link inconsistently with both audio and video media. Sometimes it doesn’t come at all.   Sometimes, it drops during brief periods of silence in the audio track and may or may not pick back up after the silence ends.   During music playback, this happens in between songs, and can happen during podcast playback when there’s a brief silence among the show hosts.   The only reason I can attribute to this, is that the signal activity in the audio track (of either media type) drops and the BT device and stack on the iPhone are trying to conserve power by cutting off use of the radio and the device when it senses inactivity.   The problem is, it’s WAY too sensitive.ALL of my Bluetooth devices – from different headsets, keyboards, Pebble, etc. – also drop connections on a random basis.   I have not been able to put any kind of a pattern to the losses of connectivity; and it doesn’t seem to be limited to any one kind of device or during or after any specific kind of activity or with any specific media.   Connectivity just drops, and reestablishing it is VERY difficult. Currently, it may require turning either device on or off, tuning the Bluetooth radio on either device on or off, or forgetting devices on either end of the pairing chain, and then repairing. This often has to be repeated, as it doesn’t always work.   Part of this was a problem with BT-LE in iOS 7.x and it seems to be amplified in iOS 8 Betas 1 and 2. Which brings me to the next big issue…
  3. Battery Life  – Oh, it sucks.   Anything processor or radio intensive – like playing a game or long data downloads – really sucks the life out of my iPhone 5’s battery. I wouldn’t make a point of this if it were the same thing in iOS 7; but it’s not. It is clearly more noticeable in iOS 8. When things are (seemingly) working right, the same battery that may last the entire day with moderate game play in iOS  7 may  only last 1/2 that time in iOS 8.   A fix is needed here for certain.
  4. Performance  – The train derails and comes off the tracks, here too.   There are still a number of issues with core apps.   Most, if not all of them – Mail, Calendar, Podcasts, Music, Clock, Siri, Maps, etc. – just plain don’t work right.   Previously working functionality just doesn’t work (deleting messages is still broken, calendar info doesn’t sync or display right, audio doesn’t play correctly, tracks are often skipped and don’t play, even if they are local to the device, Siri is being belligerent and won’t listen, etc…); and the device clearly seems to try to compensate for it.For example, there are performance stutters throughout the ENTIRE system. Any and ALL apps appear to freeze but then release and catch up to where they need to be based on physical or data input.   Scrolling through posts on Facebook or messages in Mail seems to be a big hic-cough right now.   My phone can freeze at any particular moment and may or may not come back, requiring a hard reset (home button-power button until the screen blacks out and the Apple logo appears, then release both buttons) before it will come back; and then it takes about twice as long for that process to complete as it did in iOS 7.x… I’ve also found that my phone will just spontaneously reboot, usually at an inconvenient time. It’s happened three or four times since I installed Beta 2, just the other day.I’ve also had the screen go completely black out of nowhere with only a white spinner appearing on the screen.   This usually happens during navigation (with Apple Maps, but has also happened with Google Maps). The last time it was right near the end of a route (and of course, I didn’t know where the destination was located at, so I nearly missed it…).   The OS, just simply isn’t reliable by any stretch at this time.
  5. Storage and Logging –  I have a 16GB iPhone 5.   I know exactly what it will hold and what it won’t. I know which apps I can plug and chug off the device when something interesting is released, how much music I can have on the device, etc.   With iOS 8, I’m at a total loss.   The device is CLEARLY in debug mode by default at this point, as it seems to be going through a large amount of event logging.Storage on the device gets eaten up very, very quickly. I’ve had Beta 2 installed for less than a week, and I’ve already had to blow it and restore it twice because I’ve strangely run out of storage space.   When this happens, the battery life tanks, the device gets VERY warm and the device becomes very unreliable.

To say that I am disappointed with the overall stability and performance of iOS 8 Beta 2 is an understatement. I was really looking forward to it after working with Beta 1 for about 15 days.   Historically, the reliability of Apple software goes up as the asset moves through its development lifecycle.   Unfortunately, that’s NOT the case here with iOS 8. Beta 2 clearly feels less finished than Beta 1.

At this point, I have no idea what to expect from Beta 3 and beyond. However, I would HOPE that Apple is aware of the issues with Beta 2 and will push to get a replacement for it – i.e. Beta 3 – out sooner rather than later.   While I will be filing these issues as bugs, I would hope that they all end up being duplicates of bugs found by other developers (meaning, they are already aware of the issues…).

I wish I could comment of some of iOS 8’s newer features at this point.   However, I’m loath to do so, not because of any NDA that comes with my developer’s account (Apple changed their NDA so I can speak freely about any and all items in either Yosemite or iOS 8.   I cannot, however, post screen shots…yet); but because I’m having trouble with regression issues and with legacy functionality, let alone the new and shiny stuff.

Suffice it to say that there are issues throughout the ENTIRE system at this point. Apple has a long row to hoe with iOS 8; and if they wish to make a July/ August iPhone announcement and a September/ October release, then they better get their butts in gear and start pumping out the testable code. With what I’m seeing, it could be quite a long time before iOS 8 is ready for GM or RTM status.   With iPhone 6 highly anticipated to ship with iOS 8 AND with new screen sized and form factors, this is gearing up to be one of – if not the MOST – highly anticipated iPhone releases yet. It could likely surpass that of the original iPhone or the iPhone 3G as well.

What questions do you have about iOS 8?   Is there anything in particular that you’re curious about?   I’d love to have your input and questions on the new iDevice mobile OS.   Do you find it compelling?   Are you an existing or potentially new iDevice user?   Are you someone who left the iPhone behind and went with either an Android device or Windows Phone when iOS 7 was released?   Does the look and feel of iOS 8 interest you?   Are you interested in switching back to iPhone with iPhone 6 when it’s released later this year?   Why don’t you meet with me in the discussion area below, and ask a question or two?   If possible, I will answer your question(s) and/ or address them in a separate column as soon as possible.

Related Posts:

Apple Releases iOS 7 Beta 5 to Developers

Apple just recently made the latest beta of iOS7 available to developers.

Since the Apple Dev Center went down a number of days ago, I’ve been doing my best to follow the story.  There has been a lot of developments reported as functionality comes back online, (but very little on what’s going on with the security engineer rumored to have caused the outage in the first place.)

As such, during a routine check of the iOS Dev Center, I was recently greeted with a wonderful surprise. iOS7 Beta 5 has been released to developers today (and as early as Noon Central Time).

iOS7 Beta 5

The beta still has a number of known issues with

  • Address Book
  • AirDrop
  • Exchange
  • iCloud
  • etc.

and a number of other areas as well. Beta 4 was a dramatic improvement over Beta 3, but it still has its issues. I’ve reported bugs that are still open at this time.  There are issues that have been resolved according to the release notes, but I’m certain that a number of different issues are still lurking about.

Its clear from the release notes that there will be at least TWO more beta releases before the software RTM’s.  Given the number of active issues, however, my QA manager experience is telling me that it’s unlikely that the currently expected beta 6 and then RTM/GM release will occur. There seems to be a bit more work needed in order to insure that all issues and developer notes are addressed, implemented and understood.

Related Posts:

Stay in touch with Soft32

Soft32.com is a software free download website that provides:

121.218 programs and games that were downloaded 237.780.356 times by 402.775 members in our Soft32.com Community!

Get the latest software updates directly to your inbox

Find us on Facebook