Apple removed an update of its iOS mobile software following user complaints. WSJ’s Daisuke Wakabayashi reports on the News Hub with Lee Hawkins. Photo: Apple.com.
Apple Inc. is confronting a botched software update and consumer complaints that its flagship phone can be bent out of shape, just one week after launching its new iPhones.
In a rare move Wednesday, the Cupertino, Calif., electronics maker yanked an update to its latest iPhone, iPad and iPod software hours after making it available. Some owners complained the software had disrupted their phone’s ability to make calls and disabled the TouchID fingerprint sensor used to unlock devices. IN OTHER REPORTS, USERS COMPLAINED THAT THEY WERE UNABLE TO MAKE CALLS.
The software glitch followed reports that customers accidentally bent the iPhone 6 Plus—Apple’s largest and at $750 without contract its most-expensive phone—by sitting with the phone in their pants pocket. Videos of people bending the jumbo-sized iPhone with their hands quickly made the rounds on social media.
Together, the issues are embarrassing for Apple at a time when it is hoping to sell a record number of phones. The negative publicity contrasts with largely favorable reviews for its new iPhones and Apple’s announcement of strong initial sales.
Apple confirmed it withdrew the update to its iOS 8 software, but declined to say how many people initially had downloaded it. The company also declined to address reports of the larger phones warping.
Apple recommended that users affected by the software problems connect their iPhones to a computer running iTunes to reinstall the previous version of iOS 8. In a statement, Apple apologized for the “great inconvenience” and said it is “working around the clock” to prepare an iOS 8 update for release in the next few days.
Ryan Orbuch, an app designer, said he installed the software update on his iPhone 6 as soon as it was available, but then noticed poor cellular reception and that TouchID wasn’t working. Apple “shouldn’t ship a [software] build like that,” he said.
It is not uncommon for updated versions of an operating system—especially one used by millions of people on different devices—to report issues in the early days after their release. Major product releases also tempt some people to perform extreme tests that aren’t indicative of everyday use, which then gain attention on social media.
“It’s a PR headache, but it doesn’t affect how consumers view Apple and it’s not a sign that something is fundamentally wrong at Apple today,” said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel.
Apple has had problems with new releases in the past. Its mapping software initially drew scorn when it replaced Google Inc. GOOGL -1.89% ‘s Maps as the default software on iPhones in 2012. The iPhone 4’s debut in 2010 triggered complaints about poor reception and dropped phone calls, a problem former Chief Executive Steve Jobsdisparagingly called “antennagate.” Apple later changed the design of its antenna to alleviate the problem. There were complaints in 2009 about stress fractures in the iPhone 3Gs.
In early versions of 2011’s iOS 5 release, there were reports that the software was draining the phone’s battery. Its iOS 6, released in 2012, brought reports of poor connectivity and dropped calls; Apple issued an update to fix the issues. Apple didn’t respond to a question of whether it had previously withdrawn an iOS update.
Apple released the update, the first for its new iOS 8 operating system, earlier Wednesday with the goal of fixing various software bugs. About an hour after releasing the update, Apple pulled the new version of the software to investigate reports of problems.
“We have received reports of an issue with the iOS 8.0.1 update,” Apple said in a statement. “We are actively investigating these reports and will provide information as quickly as we can. In the meantime we have pulled back the iOS 8.0.1 update.”
The iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5-inch display measured diagonally is the largest iPhone that Apple has ever produced. Despite the larger surface area, the iPhone 6 Plus is only 7.1 millimeters thick, compared with 7.6 millimeters for the iPhone 5S and 8.97 millimeters for the plastic-encased iPhone 5C.
Many consumer products—particularly those encased in malleable aluminum—will bend when enough pressure is applied. The question facing Apple owners is whether their iPhone 6 Plus could withstand a reasonable amount of force exerted from everyday activities like sitting.