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Roundtable: How’s the iOS 11 Update Going?

We’ve finally given in to that iPhone software update prompt, and we’re here to discuss

Ringer illustration

The new iPhone is here. Animoji have infiltrated our timelines, EarPods are appearing in public at an alarming rate, and Apple has debuted its latest operating system update, iOS 11. But along with this bundle of new features is a running list of errors. The latest version of that system, iOS 11.1, has been automatically replacing the letter “I” with a symbol and the letter “A”—a pattern that has wreaked havoc and confusion in Twitter timelines and iMessages throughout the nation. Rather than immediately push an update to get rid of it, the company instead suggested we follow a very silly multistep autocorrect process to right the problem. (Reminder: This is a company known for the slogan “It just works.”)

The annual iOS rollout has become a time for hand-wringing and speculation in which we debate the pros and cons of updating, and bitterly mutter our way through the bumpy parts. Here to discuss this miserable ritual are resident Ringer iPhone users Justin Charity, Victor Luckerson, Molly McHugh, Kate Knibbs, and myself. —Alyssa Bereznak

How’s the iOS 11 rollout going so far? Everyone enjoying those symbols?

Kate Knibbs: Full disclosure: I haven’t updated my phone yet, out of fear. But I am enjoying seeing the the letter “I” glitch. I like to think of it as a subtle reminder from Apple that we all talk about ourselves too much.

Molly McHugh: Well, the “I” glitch was awful. I’m here to tell you that. At first I thought it was just me. I just got a new iPhone—the 8, not the X (pronounced “ex”)—and I thought I’d screwed something up. I was prepared to just live with it. But I got a very long text from a friend freaking out about the “I” to “A” problem, and I was then immediately annoyed.

Bereznak: It’s truly wild that if, like, Jony Ive did a bunch of ayahuasca and decided the letter “I” would be permanently replaced by a weird question mark symbol in a box, we would probably have to just go along with it for a long time until there was an internal rebellion at Apple.

McHugh: It’s such a strange glitch! But it’s also telling how my eyes were OK reading right over it at first. “Oh, this is what I’s are now, OK.”

Victor Luckerson: I definitely saw this on Twitter first and assumed it was another thing Twitter had screwed up. I’m sorry for doubting you, Twitter (this time).

McHugh: Apple’s fix for it is a joke. I cannot believe that its best answer was to change autocorrect so that it is ESSENTIALLY WRONG. How can that be a fix?! I truly hate the Apple support site.

Bereznak: Yeah, they don’t seem to see it as much of an emergency. An update is apparently coming out later this week. But I guess everyone just communicates in selfie form now anyway.

Is this the worst thing people have noticed thus far? Are there other notable iOS 11 glitches?

Luckerson: There’s apparently a weird quirk with the calculator where it won’t recognize operator signs sometimes due to the flourishes in the animations. A calculator that can’t perform basic arithmetic is … pretty bad.

Knibbs: Maybe Jony Ive also decided that people need to do more mental math on his ayahuasca trip.

McHugh: The thing that I always get nervous about is battery life, but I just got the iPhone 8 a couple of weeks ago, so I thankfully haven’t had that issue.

Bereznak: Other people have though! It’s such a common trope with iOS updates that I don’t know what to believe anymore.

Justin Charity: I’m strangely at peace with these iOS malfunctions because I own a humble iPhone SE, a.k.a. the iPhone of Minimalist Expectations. The Survivalist iPhone, if you will.

McHugh: It will be here longer than we will, probably.

Knibbs: SE actually stands for “Satisfactory Enough.”

McHugh: From what I’ve heard, iOS 11 is optimized for the iPhone X, and there are just going to be glitches here and there. I will say that before I updated, there were some weird but not annoying glitches I would get in Messages and opening apps—they’d be sideways and wouldn’t reorient themselves unless I hard closed them and reopened. That seems like it’s fixed now. It wasn’t anything near “I” level obnoxious, but happy it’s gone.

ALSO: Before I updated, Instagram was doing this weird thing where it would place a single, vertical line in my photos. It would just appear. I hate it!

Screenshot of an Instagram post of a mountain with a vertical black line running through the image near the right side

Has anyone else seen that?

Bereznak: Only in my nightmares.

Charity: But then, what was the point of rushing the 8 and X out simultaneously in the first place if software is optimized for the X?

Luckerson: Perhaps the growth of glitches is an inevitable result of Apple trying to support so many different form factors (“Ex,” 8, 8 Plus, SE). The core Apple advantage of creating a single integrated experience seems to be diminishing.

Charity: The iPhone identity crisis.

Is this the worst iOS rollout of all time?

McHugh: No. It didn’t stop cell service.

Bereznak: Ah yes, the Great Cell Service Disaster of iOS 8.0.1. I’m still working through those traumatic memories.

Luckerson: I don’t know about worst because I switch between Android and iPhone with reckless abandon, but it feels like the general excitement around iOS releases has certainly fallen over time.

Charity: As someone who is always two or three iPhone generations behind the latest, and who mostly just uses my phone to ignore text messages, I’d say it’s the only disastrous iOS that I’ve personally experienced and been annoyed by.

Bereznak: If I had to chart my excitement for iOS updates over time, I’m at an all-time low. The most notable thing about this update was probably the fact that, when I take a screenshot, the OS relegates it to a little box on the bottom left of the screen, and allows me to immediately mark it up and send it off to friends. (It’s ridiculous how much time it’s going to save me.)

Luckerson: Apple finally acknowledging receipts culture is a big move.

McHugh: Can we do a quick new fave emoji poll here? I love the gyoza.

Knibbs: My unpopular opinion: We already had enough emoji. Although I do appreciate that they added the ASL “I love you” hand.

Bereznak: I deeply appreciate the trench coat because every time I look at it, it reminds me of the way Vincent Adultman stands on BoJack Horseman.

Luckerson: I think they finally added the Colbert emoji, which I wrote about once. But I feel like hand-on-chin emoji has already usurped its relevance.

Do you have a game plan for approaching these yearly iOS rollouts? Do you comb the blogs before taking the plunge?

Bereznak: I am not one to typically cannonball into a cold pool, but I am wildly cavalier when it comes to updates. I go for them immediately.

Knibbs: I hate updates because I hate change.

Luckerson: I usually have to get pestered several times by my iPhone before I take the plunge. Except when they got rid of skeuomorphs (like, iOS 7 maybe?). I was weirdly fascinated by that and read tons of stories about UX design that year. But it’s worth noting that people upgrade iOS way, way faster than they do Android.

Charity: I hate receiving notifications about anything so I update immediately, if only to avoid further prompts.

Bereznak: Yeah, I feel like once you start reading about the update, it’s easy to find yourself on a Macworld message board nodding along to a random thread about how Apple is purposely making iOS shitty to force us to buy the latest version of the iPhone.

Knibbs: I believe in the Planned Obsolescence iPhone Conspiracy Theory.

Bereznak: Let’s hear it, Kate!

Knibbs: The iOS updates simply don’t work well with older phones, and that’s not an accident. I understand that it would be difficult if not impossible to create an update that works with all phone models, but the fact that they work well only with VERY new ones is deliberate. And the fact that they work SO poorly with old ones is, I suspect, also deliberate.

Bereznak: Incidentally, I wrote about this recurring theory last year and came to the same conclusion. Apple makes it just dysfunctional enough to be passive aggressive.

Charity: I read that piece before buying my latest phone, and it’s colored all of my interactions with my iPhone SE. So thanks for that, Alyssa.

Bereznak: You’re very welcome, Charity.

Charity: I don’t know that I’ve ever felt throughout so many different iPhone generations that the iPhone is getting **better**. Sleeker, perhaps, with a better camera. But otherwise, for me, it’s still the perpetual autocorrect nightmare machine that I first learned the iPod Touch to be a decade ago.

Luckerson: If Apple has convinced you to continue buying iPhones without feeling like they’re getting better, it deserves every cent of its $900 billion valuation. That’s some peak Microsoft Windows type lock-in.

McHugh: I’m totally locked in because I’m never going to move my digital existence over to a new platform. Bad iOS update or not, I’m stuck.

Bereznak: In that case, let’s just hope Jony Ive doesn’t go on any ayahuasca benders anytime soon. We can’t afford to lose any more vowels.