Hey, Apple! What happened to ‘It just works’?

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The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s plus are coming on September 18th, according to German carriers.
A buggy iOS 8 update that killed cellular connections for iPhone 6 users is far more troubling than Apple's other recent missteps. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

“It just works.”

Those three words are synonymous with Apple. It’s the slogan Apple fanboys use when trying to convince their Android-loving friends that iOS is a better option. And it was used over and over by Steve Jobs as he unveiled new products at Apple keynotes.

That makes it even more embarrassing for the Cupertino company when things don’t “just work.” Especially when it royally screws things up — as it did with the hideously half-baked iOS 8.0.1 update that rolled out to millions of users Wednesday morning.

Apple enjoyed a stellar week when it announced its new iPhones, and rightfully so — they’re its biggest and best smartphones to date, and two of the best you can buy right now. We’ve reviewed both of them, and we absolutely love both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple enjoyed a stellar week when it announced its new iPhones.

And so do millions of other consumers. Apple took a record number of pre-orders for these handsets, and during launch weekend alone, sold a whopping 10 million units. Many smartphone manufacturers won’t see that many sales over a whole year, let alone a few days.

But now things have turned sour.

I’m going to dismiss the whole U2 thing, because although Apple probably shouldn’t have forced the album upon its users, it was simply trying to do something generous — and it didn’t cost us a penny. I think most people recognize that.

I’d like to dismiss “Bendgate” as well. It’s hard to do that given the amount of negative press the slightly bendy iPhone 6 has been generating, but I’m on Apple’s side. I firmly believe that if you buy an expensive smartphone made of metal — especially one as thin as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus — you should take care of it.

I cannot ignore iOS 8.0.1.

That means sticking it in a case if you’re clumsy, and not putting it in your back pocket before you sit down. A lot of smartphones will bend or even break if you sit on them, so you’re being a bit unrealistic if you expect the iPhone to be any different.

What I cannot ignore as an iPhone 6 Plus owner is iOS 8.0.1.

The initial iOS 8 release was littered with teething problems, and while the vast majority of them were only minor hiccups, others were more significant.

We could live with having to download app updates a dozen times because, for whatever reason, they just wouldn’t install properly. We could live with having to select our favorite third-party keyboard every time we wanted to type something because iOS 8 wouldn’t remember which one we used most recently. And we could live with suddenly not being able to upload photos and videos in Safari.

The HealthKit fiasco was a big problem for many app developers.

As users, we could also live with the temporary HealthKit problem that Apple somehow didn’t discover until the day before iOS 8 was placed into public hands. But this was a significant issue for a large number of app developers who were told at the very last minute that their latest updates would not be rolled out, and as a result their apps wouldn’t be iOS 8-ready on Day 1.

Teething troubles are to be expected with major updates like this. When you add so many features into an operating system in one go, there are bound to be minor problems that need ironing out, and Apple does a relatively good job of doing that quickly.

This has been the case for every major iOS update we’ve seen to date, and it’ll be the case for every one we see going forward. It’s the reason the more sensible among us wait until major upgrades are more mature before updating their devices.

But there’s absolutely no excuse for this week’s iOS 8.0.1 update, which Apple pulled shortly after its doomed release Wednesday.

For lots of users, iOS 8.0.1 actually addressed many of the issues I’ve mentioned above. But for those with an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, it also introduced some much more significant problems. Not only did it break Touch ID completely, but it prevented these “updated” devices from making a cellular connection.

Those shiny new iPhones are little more than big iPod touches at this point.

As a result, those shiny new iPhones are little more than big iPod touches at this point, and they haven’t even been in users’ hands for a week.

It’s a major embarrassment for Apple, and it came at the worst possible time — right after Bendgate. A company this big — with hundreds of millions of users worldwide — should not be rolling out software updates with such spectacular bugs. I find it incredible that these issues were never picked up by anybody in Cupertino.

Moreover, Apple hasn’t exactly acted quickly to fix the problem. It has provided a guide that explains how users can downgrade to the initial iOS 8 release, but it’s no help to those who lack access to a computer.

I presumed Apple had accidentally pushed out an earlier iOS 8.0.1 build that was never meant for the public, which would be bad enough. But the fact that another, more stable build wasn’t rolled out within a few hours of the problem arising suggests that the company didn’t actually have a more stable build.

I don’t remember an Apple cock-up this amateurish.

I don’t remember an Apple cock-up quite this amateurish in recent history. The Maps problem in iOS 6, which eventually led to the departure of Scott Forstall, lasted longer — a lot longer. But at least it didn’t render devices almost unusable like iOS 8.0.1 has.

Apple says it will release an iOS 8.0.2 update to fix the problem, but we’ll have to wait a “few days” for that.

If you’re one of the unfortunate people who blindly trusted Apple, updated your phone and can’t roll back to the previous version, I hope you won’t need to make a phone call or send a text during that time. And whatever you do, don’t tell your Android-toting friends that your new iPhone 6 “just works.”