On iOS devices, Do Not Disturb is a handy feature that enables you to stop your device getting all noisy during a user-defined schedule, for example stopping gleeful text messages from O2 at three in the morning, saying your mobile balance has just been topped up. On January 1, this feature ‘helpfully’ didn’t work, enabling all iOS users to have a much-needed lie-in after having probably had far too much to drink the night before. According to Apple, the feature won’t start working again until January 7, requiring it to be manually turned on or off—not much cop for regularly silencing a device overnight.
In his latest piece for Macgasm, Harry Marks lays into the tech press for its “imaginary outrage” about what’s been dubbed Do-Not-Disturb-Gate, because, as we know, if something goes wrong with iOS, there’s literally nothing better for a tech hack than whacking ‘gate’ on the end of the specific thing that’s gone wrong.
It’s the talk of the town all over the blogosphere… mainly because there’s nothing else to talk about. A bug in iOS 6 appeared at the start of the new year that affects users of the system’s Do Not Disturb feature. Normally, Do Not Disturb automatically deactivates at a set time each day, but this bug prevents that from happening, which means the user must painstakingly go into Settings, then flick the Do Not Disturb switch to the “Off” position. How dreadful.
I agree entirely with Marks’s subsequent rantage that the press has, as usual, gone nuts about this issue, in typically overblown fashion. He’s also right that the press seems to think Apple exists in a perpetual state of scandal. To keep hits flooding in, Apple always has to be doing the tech equivalent of shoving babies on to spikes or pissing in someone’s soup. However, I don’t agree with wholeheartedly dismissing outrage from users, because this is a key problem with iOS and, crucially, this isn’t the first time Apple’s had problems with time-related features.
As people move towards being more reliant on their smartphones, basic and important functionality such as alarms and silence scheduling must work properly. Previously, Apple alarms have failed during switches to daylight savings time and as the calendar year has changed. That Do Not Disturb suddenly stopped working on New Year’s Day should have been a shock, but instead all I could think was “not again”.
Anyone arguing “this would never have happened if Steve Jobs, etc.” is of course deluded. Plenty went wrong with OS X, iOS and other aspects of Apple when he was alive. However, I have since the iPhone’s arrival felt a gradual but very real slide in Apple’s QA process. Bugs have become more frequent, and software has been less considered. Updates are rarer—and from a company that was never terribly interested in regular software patches in the first place. But there’s a big difference between something new going wrong (hello, Game Center for Mac) and a problem Apple has time and time again. Do Not Disturb failing to work is something that shouldn’t have happened, because someone should have remembered Apple’s previous failings with time-related features and rigorously tested it. That the feature did fail points to either a lack of engineers/testers at Apple, or a lack of giving a shit, and neither of those things is really acceptable.