Previous “Apple” posts

Lousy Emoji Suggestions

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Since 2016’s release iOS 10, the Messages app on the iPhone has been able to make suggestions to replace text with emoji.


Emoji suggestions for “Happy”, “Sad”, and “Dog”

These are all perfectly cromulent suggestions, and this is a vaguely useful feature, or at least a vaguely enjoyable one. However, I recently noticed that iOS was giving some very flawed suggestions. It started, as these things so often do, with the word “squirrel”.

When typing the word “squirrel”, iOS suggests this:

Upon spotting this, I initially thought “that’s not a squirrel, it’s a chipmunk”. And indeed, a bit of research showed me that the official Unicode 7.0 spec lists the character in question (U+1F43F) as “CHIPMUNK”. Despite that fact, iOS is treating it as interchangeable with the word “squirrel”, which seems flat-out wrong.

Now you can call me old-fashioned, but before leaning in to my outrage, I wanted to be sure of my facts. While the tremendously common Eastern gray squirrel is monochromatic, I had to consider the possibility that some squirrels may indeed have stripes. It turns out that’s the case, and there are indeed ground squirrels that have stripes. Here’s a comparison provided by NatureMapping:

At a glance, it seems obvious that the chipmunk emoji could also substitute for the golden-mantled ground squirrel. However! The aforelinked page informs us that while chipmunks and ground squirrels are both striped, ground squirrels “look similar to chipmunks, but do not have stripes on the head”. Let’s take a closer look at the 🐿️ emoji in question. Enhance:

Enhance…

Enhance!

Oo, that’s a bingo! We’ve got head stripes, which means that’s a chipmunk, not a squirrel. Come on, Apple. Until we get a proper squirrel emoji, you simply need to not suggest any replacement for that word.

When I first spotted this, I thought it was just an amusing one-off. However, it wasn’t long before I saw another problem. While typing the word “sluggish”, I got this suggestion:

OK, come on! Even at the tiniest size, it’s clear that that is a snail, with a massive shell. That’s the biggest difference between a slug and a snail! Here’s the very first paragraph from the Wikipedia entry for slug:

Slug, or land slug, is a common name for any apparently shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusc. The word slug is also often used as part of the common name of any gastropod mollusc that has no shell, a very reduced shell, or only a small internal shell, particularly sea slugs and semislugs (this is in contrast to the common name snail, which applies to gastropods that have a coiled shell large enough that the animal can fully retract its soft parts into the shell).

That makes at least two cases where Apple’s emoji suggest feature is missing the mark. The emoji set is of course incomplete, and always will be. But as it gets larger and more specific, it becomes ever more ridiculous to suggest we substitute in entirely different animals. We all look like idiots here, Apple.

Still, at least we don’t look as ridiculous as this emoji snail. Snails are weird, man.

I’d Love to Read the Internal Bug Report for This One 

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Good news, everyone! In the latest iOS 12.1 betas, Apple has updated the bagel emoji. Last week’s version was monstrously bad. It has now been upgraded to merely “very bad”.

Californians Don’t Know From Bagels 

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Yesterday’s post featured a quality real-world baked reproduction of a logo. Today, we have a terrible digital representation of a baked good. Shield the eyes of your children from the worst image I’ve posted since Gritty.

Apple's awful bagel emoji

Grubstreet has dissected this image, and they’re correct that it looks like a lousy machine-cut monstrosity. But like a duck/rabbit optical illusion, when I look at this, I can also see one whole bagel on top of half of a much larger bagel. No matter what, it’s all awful.

Siri Finally Understands “Gazpacho”

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Over six years ago, I wrote about the iPhone’s hilarious inability to replicate Apple’s commercial touting Siri’s functionality. Ever since, I’ve occasionally tested against the Samuel L. Jackson-inspired phrase, “Remind me to put the gazpacho on ice in an hour”. As far as I can recall, it’s never worked.

That all changed yesterday, when I ran the test again:

Finally.

An Apple Watch Makes a Great Gift for the Nerdy Cokehead in Your Life 

Monday, July 16th, 2018

I suppose using a smartwatch or other gadget to monitor the results of your drug usage does meet the literal definition of “activity tracking”.

Stop Being Sexist, Siri

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Before the 2015-2016 season, women’s NCAA basketball games switched from two 20 minute halves to four 10 minute quarters. For two entire seasons, Siri was utterly oblivious to this fact. In 2018, the digital assistant finally seems to have been updated, no longer thinking every single game consists of two halves and two overtimes. That’s a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, there are still many improvements to be made. While attempting to check in on yesterday’s women’s NCAA championship game between Notre Dame and Mississippi State, I was confronted with this:

Screenshot showing a Notre Dame vs. Penn State game played on March 17th

I was initially flummoxed by this result, but with a bit of research I realized this was the men’s team’s last game of the season.1 It was played back in March, in the National Invitation Tournament, and it was also most decidedly not what I was looking for.

Look, men’s sports are undeniably more popular than women’s sports. Given that, if both the men’s and women’s teams were playing at the same time, it might be reasonable to default to the men’s game.2 This, however, is simply ridiculous. Rather than showing what is likely the single most popular women’s college event (the championship game of the women’s basketball tournament), Siri is instead showing a fifteen day old men’s game from the second-rate NIT.

It wasn’t a matter of ignorance, either, as Siri certainly was aware of the game. Once I asked specifically about the women’s contest, Siri had no trouble providing a detailed look, including a handy link to watch live:

Screenshot showing the correct game, after a more specific request

The obvious problem lies in the assumption that asking about a school means asking about the men’s sports teams, even if that team hasn’t played in over two weeks. The Notre Dame women’s team eventually overcame a double-digit deficit to win the game in thrilling fashion. They’re now national champions, yet Siri barely acknowledges they exist. Even now, asking for the “Notre Dame score” will lead Siri to tell you about a fairly meaningless loss, rather than the women’s dramatic comeback to win it all.

Be better than this, Apple.

Update (April 3rd, 2018): In a follow-up to this post, I tested other virtual assistants as well. For the most part, they did not fare well.


Footnotes:

  1. Amusingly, this was not a double overtime game. After scratching my head at the box score, I realized they must have been playing quarters. Sure enough, the NCAA is experimenting with having the men play quarters as well. As a result, some men’s games are now affected by the same issue that plagued women’s games for two years. Testing of quarters began in the NIT last year, so by 2019, Apple might be aware of it. ↩︎

  2. Even then, a better option would be to clarify which game was desired. ↩︎

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 and 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 dipped 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. ↩︎