The Small Things

iOS users: open Settings, go to Sounds, and change the Text Tone sound. Lock your screen, and ask someone to text you. You heard your custom sound, right?

Unlock your phone or iPad, launch Messages, and have the person text you again.

Wrong sound.

Now send that person a message and note the bloop sound that plays. There’s no place in the OS to change that sound; it can’t even be disabled. If you don’t want to hear it, your only option is to flip the mute switch on the side of your device.

Yesterday, a friend of mine played a cute trick. He renamed a group chat in Messages to my wife’s name.

In the message list, there’s almost no way to distinguish between the group chat and a conversation with my actual wife. Incoming messages show two names on the lock screen (my wife’s and the sender’s).

The chat was renamed a couple of times after this. For some reason, though, messages in that thread appear on my lock screen with my wife’s name as the conversation name. In Messages, the conversation name is completely different.

My friends see a mix of the correct and incorrect conversation names on their devices.

We used to laud Apple for the company’s relentless attention to detail. Small but noticeable things like this—whether they be bugs or just inconsistencies in the interface—didn’t show up often. Now, it seems like I spot one or two a day.

When it works, iOS can still deliver moments that feel like magic. It seems like these moments are declining in number, though, being replaced with many small frustrations.

Technology should strive to remove friction; any time it introduces friction, we should ask ourselves whether the benefits of the thing outweigh the aggravation. Yes, even when the frustrations are minor and when the technology is as transformative as a smartphone. As these frustrations accrete, the mental tax we pay for dealing with them can become a death-by-a-thousand-cuts situation.

The stability and overall success of the Apple Pay launch has at least shown that some teams inside Apple continue to carry the same QA ethic as the Apple I remember. It’s made me hopeful that Apple will one day be capable of doing something to steer things back to center. In the meantime, I’m just hopeful that things don’t get worse.