Marco Arment wrote about it. Friends Scott Willsey, and Allison Sheridan have written about it. I’ve lost count of the number of podcasts I’ve listened to in the last while that have discussed it. Apple’s software is not living up to fairly basic expectations – that it do what it says on the box. Every time.

Mostly I’ve tended to think “yeah, they have a point, but it’s not so bad as I see it.” Today I’m writing this blog post because it is bad as I see it and it’s getting beyond being simply disappointing.

It was a somewhat cool, slightly rainy evening on my commute home from the city today. As I almost always do, I fired up Overcast on my iPhone, secured my earbuds, tucked the phone in an inside jacket pocket and set off from the office into the cold, darkening world outside. I had noted that I probably didn’t have enough remaining time of unlistened-to podcast to get me all the way home.

The train was moments away from pulling into my station when the podcast ended. I considered fishing out my phone to fire up the Music app but as the train was already slowing, I opted to wait. I got out of the train into a light drizzle and walked around the far side of the station building, both to delay my arrival at the regular mash of people entering the pedestrian over-bridge and to give me some free and quiet space to ask for Siri’s assistance. My experiences haven’t been great with Siri, so I thought I’d keep it simple.

[Pushes and holds remote button on headphone cord…] Beep! “Launch Music”

Boop! “Sorry I didn’t get that.”

[Pushes and holds remote button on headphone cord…] Beep! “Launch Music”

Boop! “Sorry I didn’t get that.”

Sigh. Siri was a wash, again. I have reasonable success with it inside, but very rarely when outside. I was at the human jam at the foot of the over-bridge when I pulled out my phone, in the light rain, unlocked it with Touch ID, pressed the home button to exit Overcast, and launched the Music app. As the app zoomed into view, I quickly jammed the phone back in its pocket as I could already see numerous tiny rain drops on the screen. I don’t like getting the phone wet!

As I walked up the ramp on the bridge, I pressed the (only) remote button on my headphone cord. Nothing. I pressed it again. Nothing. It should be noted at this point that during my earlier walk I had twice used that button to pause and resume the Overcast audio. In fact, I use it all the time when I go into shops with my earbuds in or on the train when an announcement is made. It works. Always. Except now.

I tried a third and a fourth time before I gave up, nearly at my car. I got into the car, extracted my earbuds, started the car, and then extracted the phone. There on the screen was the song I had been listening to earlier in the day, with the play icon beckoning. I can only assume that, for whatever reason, the remote was still trying to start playback for Overcast, which would technically, I guess, be the background audio at this point. EXCEPT… the MUSIC app is now in the foreground! Could my intentions be ANY clearer? I don’t think so.

John Stanford gets the top spot in the playlist that isn't.

John Stanford gets the top spot in the playlist that isn’t.

I might have simply written this experience off as a glitch, except I have a hateful relationship with “currently playing audio” on my iPhone. Almost every night when I arrive in the house, the last thing my phone was doing was playing audio from Overcast. Every morning when I get into my car and hook it up to Bluetooth, guess what starts playing? Music! Every time. Every. Single. Time.

Here’s a newsflash: I almost never listen to any audio on my phone when I’m at home. Certainly not music. I think it’s pretty clear it’s not me when the music that gets played happens to be the first song on my iPhone. What’s the first song? It’s the first one in the list of “Songs” in the Music app. The list of songs that I almost never use. Clearly in an effort to always be playing music despite not having recently done so, it has to start somewhere.

So now I’m joining the chorus and calling on Apple to up its game. These are delightful, revolutionary products that can be a joy to use every day. How infuriating, then, that these silly glitches can so easily ruin the delight.

I am once again going to misquote Winston Churchill and state that iOS is the worst mobile operating system, except all of the others.

Categories: Tech

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