Previous “Apple” posts

Return of the Apple Dumbwatch

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Back in November, I posted about the frustratingly buggy behavior of my Apple dumbwatch. The watch seemed to sort itself out shortly after I publicly shamed it, but a scant three months later, it’s up to its old tricks again. Just after midnight today, February 7th, I received this alert on the watch:

Apple Watch alert titled 'January Challege' and saying I have 15927 calories to go
Note the title

Scrolling down, I saw this:

Apple Watch alert showing 2/2018
As yes, the second month of the year, January

I immediately hopped over to my phone to check the Activity app there. It was similarly confused:

Activity app reading 'January Challege' showing a total of 19874 calores I need to burn, and 3939 burned so far.
All in one handy/ridiculous screen

You might charitably assume there’s an off-by-one error here causing Activity to think the second month of 2018 is January. However, if you look closer and do some simple math, you can spot another issue.

19,874 calories needed to burn – 3,939 calories burned so far = 15,935 calories left to burn. Yet if you scroll back up to look at what the watch told me, you’ll see it suggested I needed to burn 15,927 more calories. If I stop there, I’ll actually wind up 8 calories short.

In other words? Go home, Apple Watch, you are drunk.

O-H-A�-O 

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

iOS 11.1 had a bizarre bug where typing “I” (a capital letter eye) got replaced with a mangled character, “A�”. The popularity of the iPhone meant that this odd text spread around the internet rapidly. Apple has since fixed the issue, but thanks to Ohio State football fans, it managed to make an appearance in the real world.

My Watch Reads This Site

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Yesterday, I posted about the buggy behavior of my Apple Watch as it related to a challenge for the month of October. Totals were inexplicably revised down, and as a result I wasn’t awarded the promised badge. Let me clearly acknowledge that I’m dumb for caring about such a thing. However, Apple created this device and wants me to care, so it seems to me that their device should not be so dumb and/or broken.

As I was writing yesterday’s piece, I tried a few things to get the badge to fill in. I force-quit and relaunched Activity on both the phone and watch to no avail. I then tried rebooted both devices, but the result was the same. The phone was hung up on its bad math, so I decided to try and move on with my life.

It seems all I really needed to do was write about the problem here on One Foot Tsunami. Yesterday afternoon, I checked in to see what my watch was demanding of me for November, and I saw this:

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
Note the double badge for October 2017

That second orange “10/2017” badge, with silver accents, is the badge for the October Challenge. It had finally been awarded to me. Better still, tapping it showed that my math was correct, and Numbers.app was vindicated. I really did tally 3369 Exercise minutes in October.

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
It sounds much worse as 2 and 1/3 days of exercise.

Getting the badge now feels a bit anti-climactic, but I still appreciate it. However, all this prompts me to ask why this happened, why the watch was so slow to properly calculate my total, and why it revised my total downward before later fixing it. That buggy behavior is certainly worth fixing. Addition is extremely fundamental, and it’s worrisome if a device can’t get that right. I was able to manually enter data into a spreadsheet and then sum it, many hours before the watch corrected itself. That’s not how things should work with modern computing devices.

After yesterday’s post, I received a handful of emails from readers who shared their own similar experiences. They too saw various totals for the month suddenly dip in frustrating fashion, only to eventually correct themselves. Some hadn’t even updated their devices, and still ran into trouble. There was general agreement that the Watch’s gamification of activity was nice, but failures like these were disheartening at best.

Ultimately, I can’t be sure what caused these temporarily incorrect recalculations, but I do have a theory. This is the notification I received on my watch for the next monthly Challenge:

For November, my watch wants me to go 247.1 miles.
Oh come on!

I’m no longer certain that the Apple Watch is dumb. Instead, I think it may just be a jerk.

My Apple Dumbwatch

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Back in 2015, I purchased an Apple Watch to replace both my previous analog watch and the latest in a string of fitness trackers. The watch’s activity tracking functionality has worked well for me.1 While I’ve always tried to keep fit, closing the rings for calories burned (“Move”), active minutes (“Exercise”), and standing (“Stand”) has provided added motivation each day. Earning badges for streaks and other achievements has provided a fun, if rather inane, incentive to be more active.

Early last month, the Apple Watch issued an “October Challenge”. This was an individually tailored goal, one which seemed to be based on recent activity. I screwed myself by spending the summer ramping up for a marathon, which led my watch to require that I hit 3,347 minutes of exercise in October to complete this challenge. An average of nearly 108 minutes of activity every single day for a month struck me as a bit much, even if it would earn me the electronic equivalent of a “A+ Patient” sticker from the pediatrician.

Despite the fact that my marathon training was nearly complete and I was tapering down my runs, I wasn’t smart enough to dismiss the challenge outright. I figured I’d see how things went throughout the month, knowing that my race was in mid-October, and that I had a half-marathon before that as well. Every few days I checked in on my progress with the Activity app on my phone, and each time I found that I wasn’t too far off the necessary pace. With some extra effort each day, it was actually possible I could meet the objective.

Even so, it wasn’t until the last few days of the month that it became clear that this ridiculous goal was attainable. It required me to get moving even more than I already was, but the weather looked nice, it was good for my health, and THE ANGRY WATCH GOD MUST BE APPEASED.

So it was that just before 6 PM on October 30th, I checked my phone and saw that I was only 155 minutes shy of the target. With a busy day planned for the 31st, I felt good enough to grab a screenshot to mark my progress.

A first screenshot showing 3192 minutes earned.
1804 minutes left in the month, but only 155 of them needed to be active.

The next day, I tracked the exercise counter on the watch itself as it climbed throughout my day of activity. I was going to make it, and I was foolishly pleased by this asinine little achievement. The device’s expectations for me had been stupidly aggressive, but I was going to enjoy showing an inanimate electronic device what was what. I knew that this would likely raise its expectations still higher for the next month, but that was November Paul’s problem.

However, in the late afternoon of the 31st, I made what seems to have been a key error in judgement. Specifically, I updated my phone to iOS 11.1 and my watch to WatchOS 4.1. I didn’t really think anything of this as I did it, though not for the first time I found myself annoyed by how long the watch took to update. Once it finally finished, I strapped the watch back on and went about my day.

By Halloween night, I had completed almost three hours of activity for the day, and I knew I was set. Just before 11 PM, I opened the Activity app on the phone to gaze upon my newly won badge for the first time. This is what I saw instead:

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
29 hours later, I’d somehow lost time.

Well that’s…not right. That’s not even possible! How exactly did I manage to do negative 128 minutes of activity since the previous day? I quickly found myself in the first two stages of grief, denial (“What the hell?”) and anger (“What the hell!”).

With just 77 minutes left in the month, the watch now claimed I was almost 300 minutes short of the prescribed goal. Even if I literally ran out the rest of the month it wouldn’t change anything. As such, I quickly jumped to the last stage of grief, acceptance (“What the hell.”). I figured that if nothing else, this ought to lower the watch’s demands for the future.

I spent the dwindling minutes of October pondering what in the world had happened. The OS updates had likely affected things somehow, but had they changed the way past activity was calculated? I scanned through each day’s readings and punched the daily recorded activity into a quick spreadsheet. This was the result:

Spreadsheet showing a total of 3369 minutes
That just raises further questions!2

Ultimately, the problem here seems to be with the Apple Watch’s addition skills. That’s pretty bad, as proper math is rather essential for a usable computing device. Alternately, I suppose the problem could be that Apple’s Numbers spreadsheet application can’t do simple calculations. That would certainly be even more shocking. Perhaps the two products are even in some sort of cahoots, the exact nature of which I’ve yet to ascertain.

Either way, I’m trying to maintain a Zen attitude about this. The only thing stupider than spending an entire month overexerting myself to earn a meaningless digital badge would be getting upset when said badge is denied due to some sort of bug. All we are is dust in the wind, and all this is is pixels in the ether. Still, I do think it would be nice if my watch could count.

Update (November 2nd, 2017): It seems that yesterday afternoon, my watch finally got done performing a recount, and awarded me my badge. Read more here.


Footnotes:

  1. One particularly nice thing is that the Apple Watch tracks calories burned directly, rather than the rather imperfect stand-in “steps” used by earlier trackers I’d tried. It was always clear that something was off when running five miles earned the same number of steps as walking about half as far. ↩︎

  2. The relevant video clip is archived here. ↩︎

They’re Bad Prompts, Tom

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

I recently discovered the Good Dogs! game, from the same mind that brought the world the fabulous @dog_rates Twitter account. Despite being yet another entry to the seemingly endless ranks of endless runner games, the game is enjoyable, and I wanted to share it. I figured I’d just grab a link to it from the App Store and message it along.

To do so, I tapped the Share button in the upper right corner of the app’s listing in the App Store:


Step 1: Tapping the Share button

This gave me a fairly standard Share sheet, showing different ways I could share this content. Even though the app itself is free, it seemed neat to be able to gift it to someone, rather than just sending a link.


Step 2: Tapping the Gift button

I tapped the “Gift” button, and got a “Send Gift” form:


Step 3: Filling out the Gift form

As you can see, I filled it out with an appropriate message. I then hit “Next”, and was given the option to select what sort of theme my gift would have:


Step 4: Selecting a theme

After settling on a theme, I hit “Next” again, and I was taken to a Review screen, as seen here:


Step 5: Reviewing the gift

Everything looked in order, so I hit “Buy”. When I did, very little seemed to happen. The only difference was that now the upper right said “BUY NOW”, instead of “Buy”:


Step 6: BUY NOW

This seemed odd, but I again tapped in the upper right. When I did, the control reverted back to reading “Buy”. I was confused, but eventually noticed that the network activity spinner was whirling away in the status bar:


Step 7: Spinning

After more than a few seconds, I finally got the iTunes Store password prompt with which iPhone users are far too familiar:


Step 8: Password entry

I filled out my password and tapped “OK”, certain I was finished. My thoughtful (though admittedly free) gift was headed across the internet! Except that it wasn’t:


Step 9: Oh. OK.

After all that, the system rejected me because this item was free. Even more annoying, it took four additional taps to bail out of the whole gifting UI, then another two to just message a damned link like I’d intended to in the first place.

A modest proposal for Apple: If gifting isn’t available, don’t offer gifting.

Well This Is Helpful

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Back in March, I used my company’s blog to discuss some of the user hostile experiences Apple’s iWork suite was offering up. Apple recently unveiled an update to the software, and it fixed some of these issues. That’s very nice. Of course, there’s clearly still some work to be done.

A dialog which reads: This document can't be opened for some reason.

Maybe it’s the phase of the moon, or perhaps my computer is infested with nanobots. Who knows? Not Numbers.app, and not me either!

Apple’s Upped Their Emoji Game 

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Now, up yours.

If you’ve joined us in the future, please enjoy: 🖕. It’s been a long 16 month wait, but finally we can flip the emoji bird to our heart’s content.

(With apologies to Pat Paulsen.)

How Steve Jobs Fleeced Carly Fiorina 

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Carly Fiorina is running for president, and one of the only things which vaguely qualifies her for the job is her time as CEO of HP. Unfortunately, her record there was incredibly poor, and this story from Steven Levy details just how badly she got bamboozled by Steve Jobs and Apple.

Yeah, Reporting on the Drone Strikes Is the Problem 

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Josh Begley created an iOS app which tracks American drone strikes. Now Apple has removed it from their App Store (the sole legitimate means of distributing software to iOS devices), claiming it contains “excessively crude or objectionable content”.

Finally

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

It appears that when Apple ships iOS 9.1, iPhone users will have access to a key symbol of human communication. In a beta posted yesterday, Apple greatly expanded the number of supported emoji, including multiple new hand gestures. Of course, there’s one gesture that all have been waiting for, and it looks like we’ll be getting it at long last.

Apple's Middle Finger Emoji
Finally, it will be possible to flip someone off via emoji.

This new middle finger emoji was approved almost 15 months ago, as part of Unicode 7. However, Apple was slow to add it to their devices. After many impatient months, I went so far as to file a bug report with Apple on the matter. A few weeks later, however, that bug report was closed with a disappointed statement of “no plans to address this”. Worse, it soon became clear that Microsoft was taking the lead when it came to expressing one’s self via emoji. When this summer’s iOS 9 betas failed to include this important new glyph, I stewed for hours on end.

Today, however, I can breathe a sigh of relief.1 The bird is coming to our emoji. What a time to be alive! Have a look at a full gallery of the new emoji coming in iOS 9.1, which also include a taco, a burrito, an adorable little chipmunk, and much more. Then, sit through a few more weeks of anticipation until we finally get what we deserve!


Footnotes:

  1. As well as rejoice in the fact that I actually got a Radar (bug report) fixed, something fellow developers will know is all too rare. ↩︎