‘Great Features’ and ‘Nasty Surprises’ are my regular columns investigating operating system updates for the best features / biggest problems hidden behind the headlines.
So what happened?
In short Apple has decided to leave iOS 9 with an unfixed bug that is of minor inconvenience to many users, but which causes serious problems for the visually impaired. The bug means use of VoiceOver corrupts voice dictation causing words to be repeated and jumbled. It is particularly bad in the Notification Center when quick replying to messages.
Having been contacted by a number of visually impaired users, they explained that the only workaround is hugely impractical. They have to turn off VoiceOver (which removes all audio navigational aids) turn on dictation, speak, turn off dictation (all without guidance) then turn VoiceOver back on. For the visually impaired VoiceOver is essential, but so too is voice dictation.
VoiceOver is crucial for visually impaired iPhone and iPad users, but using it breaks voice dictation – an equally vital feature. Image credit: Apple
For its part, Apple confirmed to me the bug is known but it was left in iOS 9.3.4 and also in iOS 9.3.5 because it will be addressed in iOS 10 (and is fixed in the latest public beta). The problem is the iPhone 4S, iPad Mini, iPad 3rd gen and iPod touch 5th gen are not entitled to iOS 10 upgrades so the bug will remain and there will be little choice but to upgrade to new hardware.
As such I believe that if Apple knows how to fix the bug, and iOS 10 shows it does, then the company should fix the bug for this generation of devices which will be stranded on iOS 9. Technology has long had an obsession with looking forwards (and the iPhone’s future is very exciting) but in this case I would strongly urge Apple to also respect the past.