Apple's iOS 9.3 Has More Bugs, And You Better Get Used To It

Another iOS update, another spate of issues. Apple's iOS 9.3 rollout was first marred by a glitch that locked people with older iPhones out of their devices entirely, and now a new bug has emerged which appears to be crashing apps on newer phones whenever some users try to click on links.

iOS 9.2 introduced a bug that stopped the battery percentage updating if you changed time zones, among others.

​iOS 9.1 was primarily designed to fix the large number of issues in 9.0 (which was itself billed as a return to stability after the rocky iOS), but it also killed Touch ID functionality for many users.

As long as we keep increasing the functionality we expect from our phones, there will be problems. Photo: Bloomberg

It's enough to make you nostalgic for a time before ubiquitous Wi-Fi when the product that shipped was the one you got forever. It's enough to make you wonder how long it will be before you can download a mandatory "upgrade" without expecting that it's going to break at least one thing on your phone. The truth is, it's probably not going to happen again. Ever.

It's become clear these issues aren't solely reflective of any carelessness or hubris on Apple's part, but rather of the reality that the company literally can't test its software rigorously enough to weed out all the bugs anymore.

This is the new world, where the sheer amount of functionality you demand from your iPhone far outstrips its creators' ability to make sure it's up for every task. It's not a problem specific to Apple, and users of virtually any consumer electronics will be familiar with the feeling that comes with inexplicable loss of functionality after an update.

But Apple's place in the popular zeitgeist — as well as its insistence that its products become both increasingly complex behind the scenes and more elegantly simple for users — makes it a prime example.

Imagine all the billions of different combinations of apps and use cases on iPhones all over the world, all of which will need to work well with any new software Apple pushes out.

Accounting for each app's compatibility would be hard enough, but accounting for how each might react in conjunction with a random assortment of others is impossible. Even if Apple invites all users to test the software early to weed out issues (as it's been doing since iOS 9.0), and even if it pushes seven separate beta versions of its new software before release (which it did with 9.3). If it tested for much longer the software would be out of date before it arrived.

And while some of the issues do appear to be serious and widespread — an effect doubtless magnified by hunger for "Apple fails" in the press and on social media — they're often the result of bugs that would have been wildly difficult to isolate in a testing phase

For example, the broken links issue appears to have been caused by a specific class of apps which need to be present on the iOS 9.3 device to prompt the bug. Apple news site 9to5Mac has isolated as one such app, but suspects there are more.

Such apps make use of iOS development tools like Universal Links and Shared Web Credentials, which make communication between browsers and apps easier. Since the programming of each app is done by its developer and not by Apple, and apps number in the millions, it's not really surprising that some of them will cause unexpected issues when the operating system they operate in is tweaked.

It's time to accept the fact that on a system as variable and complex as a smartphone, there will always be a certain number of software issues, and the fixes to those issues will cause other issues. It's the price of the complicated simplicity we demand.

Update: As far as the Universal Links issue specifically, Apple has acknowledged the problem, issuing the following statement: "We are aware of this issue, and we will release a fix in a software update soon."

This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.



    This is why I went Android after iOS 7. Apple has completely trashed a good thing they had going.

    Now I use ColorOS on an Oppo. It's the closest one can get to what iOS was and should have been.

    Honestly the idea that any software, let alone something from Apple, still has bugs in 2016 is preposterous. I can't believe Apple still charge users for their handsets. Apple should be giving them away for free until they can deliver a big free product!

      Find me something with the functionality of a modern smartphone which is totally bug free. You can't. They all end up with bugs at some point.

      I remember the earlier days of software when bugs weren't patched if they weren't critical and workarounds were the official 'fix'. And that was when software wasn't as complicated as it is today!

      The demand for a perfect product without errors is ironic considering the spelling error in your own post.

        My grammatical error pales in comparison to some people's grasp of sarcasm ;)

        Edit: out of curiosity, what was my spelling error? I've looked and for the life of me I can't see any :P

        Last edited 31/03/16 12:58 am

    Anyone remember the old days, when Apple constantly gloated about their bug free stuff, versus BSOD's and viruses on PC's?

    Seems so long ago now...

      Anyone remember the old days, when Apple constantly gloated about their bug free stuff

      They still do. While Jobs has died, Apple's ignorance has not.

      Don't get me wrong, they used to make good hardware and software. Emphasis on used to.

      Last edited 30/03/16 1:08 pm

        Havent really heard them use it as a mantra though, not like the old days. Today, you risk bricking your device just by accepting an update.

        What makes it worse for me is that its created an environment where fairly common products force you to update, or just stop working alltogether. And with more and more new stuff only working on the most recent iOS versions (which is understandable), keeping up to date is starting to become a risky business.

          What makes it worse for me is that its created an environment where fairly common products force you to update, or just stop working alltogether.

          I know the feeling. There is no notion of quality control any more and it's not limited to Apple.

          My first iPhone was a 3GS and I only moved on because the contract ran out and the battery was sickly. But this is the thing, even if the battery didn't give out, Apple (in keeping to it's history) rigged the newer versions of iOS to be progressively slower on the same hardware.

          Till this day, I still think the hardware (besides the antenna) in my ol' 3GS is more than enough for me to make calls, use Maps and listen to music. But the newer versions are rigged and are pack with so much social media BS it's getting to point where the phone needs 48 cores just to boot up!

          I could go on, but I have enough problems that when documented would out-weight Wikipedia.

            Hehe, similar here. I have a 2nd gen ipod touch, that admittedly has had a good run, but as it still works, I keep using it. I think its still on iOS 4 point something... Whatever the iOS was where they asked for a fiver to upgrade was what stopped me. Not that I use it often, its there for when I'm traveling for a while, as it has some good playlists on it. And the battery still lasts forever if all I'm doing is playing music.

            But my more recent iPad is more of an issue. I lost a bunch of stuff with one update, and while I was able to get most of it back, I lost some very personal things that were irreplaceable. So havent upgraded since - its sitting on the last 7.x iOS or something like that.

            It normally isnt a problem, but go to use the app these days, it points you to updating, and then tells you that you need iOS 8 or later... So has become unusable.

            And its not the only one, just one I remember.

          And with more and more new stuff only working on the most recent iOS versions (which is understandable), keeping up to date is starting to become a risky business.

          And that makes the hard work MS has done to make software from the 16 bit / 32 era compatible with modern OS so amazing. I still use a cad version from the late 1990s due to its seamless integration with an old yet still important piece of software I need for my work. That is one of many older programs I still use.

          Microsoft could have done what Apple has done in the past and simply ended compatibility for earlier software with new OS releases. They chose not too and should be applauded for it.

          With modern OS and apps for phones forcing updates (or making option out of auto updating difficult) is just creating a never ending cycle of bugs, bug fixes and relearning not to mention a waste of bandwidth.

      Certainly hasn't been lost on me. I'll take an open eco system over a locked one any day. There will always be issues with software. OS like Android and Windows at least allow you flexibility to work around this issue instead of being at the mercy of Apple.

      Need to modify the registry of Windows to fix a bug and get some third party software working... sure. Open OS let me get my work done even when the inevitable glitch makes itself known.

    "And while some of the issues do appear to be serious and widespread — an effect doubtless magnified by hunger for “Apple fails” in the press and on social media"

    Yes see the first comments on the page

      Meh, I'll line up comments about Microsoft as well when they deserve it. Like Win 10 seriously screwing with my (less than a year old) PC, and ultimately forcing me to rewind back to Win 8.1

      I had more dramas in that 10 days than I've had with Windows for the past 20 years, so there hasnt been many reasons to bitch about them until now.

    I'm sure that when Jobs was in command, their OS updates ran smoothly. Now with Cook at the helm, their OS's have been a glitch fest and you're lucky if it doesn't brick your phone. Android has gone the other way. It use to be glitchy with an update but rarely now. I think Cook is favoring profit over quality.

    The sad part for Apple is their OS's only need to run smoothly on a small base of specific hardware THEY also make, bugs shouldn't exist.
    For Windows, Linux, Android etc it is fair to expect none of those would be 100% bug free given the plethora of hardware configurations they are running on.

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