Listen. I like, admire, and use Apple products as much as anyone outside the hallowed halls of One Infinite Place in Cupertino, California. There isn’t much that Apple makes that I don’t own and use plenty.
The past couple of years I’ve had this strange notion every now and again that Apple might be pulling some digital wool over my eyes. Apple has never been known to ship new products that were ‘just right’ out of the box, but I fear the company has turned the beta testing period into an art form.
It Just Works (beta)
The nature of software is this. Software on Mac, iPhone, iPad or any other computing device, is a dynamic. It’s always changing, evolving, and often improving (but not always). Bugs are inherent to the nature of of software.
A few years ago Apple launched iOS 7 onto an unsuspecting world, a mobile OS which screamed beta, which means that if you bought a new iPhone or iPad with iOS 7, or upgraded an older device to iOS 7, you became a beta tester for Apple.
The beta tester program at Apple has gone more formal and about all you need to try out updated beta versions of iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan is an Apple ID. That makes you an official beta tester; one among perhaps a few hundred thousand. Simply buying a new Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, or now, Apple TV, makes you an unofficial beta tester.
What does an official beta tester get for the trouble of testing unreleased software? An early look at bugs, some simple, a few dastardly, but we’re talking pre-release, unreleased software. It’s called beta tester for a reason.
What does an unofficial beta test get for the trouble of testing newly released software? Pretty much the same thing? An early look at bugs, some simple, a few dastardly, but much the same as every other Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, and Apple TV user gets (those who do not think of themselves as beta testers, but who still wade through new problems).
In addition to the known problems which inflicted iPhone and iPad users with iOS 7, then iOS 8, and even iOS 9, Apple Watch customers were treated to what could only be described as a beta product. The pre-release to watchOS, which arrived this spring, worked… sometimes… but had a sufficient number of glitches, missing functions and features, and performance problems that I felt I should check with my postman to see where my Apple beta tester check was.
It took months for Apple to release a more stable watchOS, the 2.0 version, which should have been labeled as 1.0, but I understand it was more of a testing period for Watch app developers who needed to get their hands on a Watch (literally) so they could get their hands on the Watch developer kit to start writing real Watch apps.
Apple TV 4 is a beta product and if you bought one then you’re a beta tester, too. And why not? It’s Apple’s modus operandi these days. Release a new and long anticipated product with a few gee whiz features, get it into the early adopter crowd’s hands, and let them find the bugs that need to be nailed down.
There’s much to like about Apple TV 4. It’s powerful and has plenty of storage. Siri is great but can’t seem to find music. What’s with that? And Siri can’t spell for crap, and Apple seems to think Apple TV users do not know how to type, hence no third party Bluetooth keyboard support. What’s with that? Why can’t Siri be used to dictate into forms the way we can dictate notes or use search queries on the iPhone?
It’s because tvOS .87 is a beta operating system, and the real one, the one you’ll fall in love with, won’t arrive until tvOS 2.1, sometime next year. In the meantime, enjoy your life as an unpaid, unofficial Apple beta tester. He won’t say it, but chief design honcho, Sir Jony Ive, thanks you. But I’m not happy being one of the company’s unpaid, unofficial, non-voluntary beta testers.
If that’s not enough to catch your hair on fire, check out 3 Headlines Designed To Scare, all from the same source.