Apple iOS 10.2 Has Three Nasty Surprises

iOS 10 is only three months old but with iOS 10.2 Apple AAPL +0.53% is already onto its fifth update (sixth if you include iOS 10.0.1 which Apple quickly bolted into the original release) and iOS 10.2.1 is already in testing. Why? Because ladies and gents, while iOS 10.2 does contain a fun surprise, it doesn’t bring the crucial fixes many users crave and instead carries something else you might not have been expecting…

‘Great Features’ and ‘Nasty Surprises’ are my regular columns investigating operating system updates for the best features / biggest problems hidden behind the headlines.


Nasty Surprise #1: ‘30% Bug’ Made Even Worse

Remember the ‘30% Bug’ I brought attention to in November? It is a problem which causes many models of iPhone to die when their battery reaches about 30% of charge remaining. The problem was subsequently referenced by the Chinese Government’s watchdog the China Consumers’ Association in a warning to Apple as it was failing to “meet basic consumer needs for normal wireless communication.”

Well iOS 10.2 brings no fixes for this issue. Given Apple continues to deny any model other than the iPhone 6S is affected (though it has widened the range of affected 6S model numbers entitled to free battery replacements), this is probably no surprise.

That said this also won’t do much to pacify affected users, notably on Apple’s official Support Communities forum where the 11 page thread I previously reported on has now ballooned to 50 pages. Moreover some users are reporting iOS 10.2 makes the problem even worse on their devices.

“Same here, iOS 10.2 actually made the problem worse,” says Apple Support Communities poster ricardo jb in response this growing theme on thread. “The battery percentage seems to get stuck at some level for a while, even with battery draining apps such as pokemon go running, then it drops different percentages at different moments, it’s really random.”

Many users claim the issue began with iOS 10.1.1 and it can affect all iOS 10 compatible iPhones (the iPhone 5 and above). So perhaps a fix can indeed be made in software without the need for a battery replacement, but if so then iOS 10.2 isn’t it.

Nasty Surprise #2: New Tracking Telemetry Is On Your Device

The plus side to the 30% Bug is Apple has promised to look into it and said it would release a software update this week which would track the battery consumption on iPhones to help the company get to the bottom of the problem.

That’s all well and good but – surprise – it turns out the tracking software is baked into iOS 10.2 and no mention of this was made in the release notes. Apple exclusively confirmed the integration of the telemetry tool with iOS 10.2 to me today and that it is installed on every compatible device, regardless of whether they are affected by the bug.

Needless to say that’s good news for some, but there’s no transparency here. Many would have expected the tool to be its own separate update and some users do not want new forms of tracking software on their phone – whether through personal preference or professional need. Especially when no specifics have been officially disclosed as to how it works, exactly how it tracks, where the information it gathers is sent, if it is anonymised or how long the data will be kept.

There’s no reason to believe Apple is doing something deliberately nefarious here, I suspect the intentions are well meant – it’s just good manners to ask first.

And, at the very least, to put the inclusion of the tracker on the release notes. After all if “Fixes an issue where VoiceOver users could not re-order items in lists” was deemed important enough to make it then so should “[Temporary anonymised] battery tracking telemetry to investigate battery problems as reported by users/Forbes/the Chinese government’s consumer watchdog”.

Update: Apple has contacted me to say the battery data reporting software is a diagnostic tool not a tracker and is for users who have opted into diagnostic tools. If it provides further information on how the software works or why it was left out of the release notes I will update again.

Nasty Surprise #3: Broken EarPods Stay Broken

Another Apple Support Communities hot topic, this 11 page thread has grown to 24 pages since I reported on it two weeks ago and affected users have been complaining about it since September. In short: the microphone from Apple Earpods is malfunctioning during calls due to a software glitch.

Ending and restarting calls can temporarily rectify the problem but not for long and even a full Factory Reset has not solved the issue for affected users. Posters say Apple Support has only suggested they keep restarting their devices for now, so there were high hopes iOS 10.2 would provide a better solution – but the response is pretty uniform.

As such, while iOS 10.2 brings niceties like ‘TV’ (which replaces the ‘Videos’ app) and 100s of new emoji, it seems a smaller number of more pressing issues will have to wait for the arrival of the iOS 10.2.1 – at the earliest…