People like to believe that Apple is a company that never makes mistakes. Never has that logic been so obviously flawed as it was in 2017. This year, it seemed like Apple couldn’t make it through a single week without some big, embarrassing screw up. So, for the sheer joy of it, we made a list.
The word “joy” bears a certain specificity here. By all business standards, Apple had an absolutely spectacular year. In the fourth quarter alone, the company brought in $52.6 billion in revenue and growth in every single product category. The company even managed to grow its long-suffering Mac business and release a new iPhone that everyone agrees is awesome. So there were some goofs. No big deal. Apple is still rich and successful.
Before diving into the chronological catalog of disasters—which is a fun thing to do—it’s useful to define what we’re talking about when we say that Apple made some goofs. Let’s be honest. The definition is broad. Apple has never been an invincible company, even during the hallowed reign of co-founder and mean manager Steve Jobs. However, the mistakes the company made in 2017 range from upper-level management boondoggles to simple software bugs that ruined the blessed Apple user experience. Then there’s the whole Apple-doesn’t-want-to-pay-taxes business.
So let’s start at the beginning of the year and bring you up to speed on everything Apple fucked up this year. It’s a lot!
This is more of a stumble than a full fledged fuckup, but man is it grim. In mid-January, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was developing a plan for scripted television shows and possibly even feature films. While the strategy has worked well for other tech giants like Amazon and Netflix, nobody can confidently say that Apple’s succeeded in the original video business. Its existing properties—shows like “Carpool Karaoke” and “Planet of the Apps”—are embarrassing at best. We actually used the headline “Apple’s First TV Show Looks Like a Cry for Help” to describe the later. Now, after a year and a reported $1 billion budget, Apple still doesn’t have a hit. There’s always next year.
Let’s call this one an unsolved mystery. A teen in Arizona posted a video of her iPhone 7 Plus supposedly exploding back in February. The video went viral, and Apple said it was “looking into” the matter. While there had been other reports of exploding iPhone 7's, this particular one received a lot of media attention—and not the kind of media attention Apple likes. Is it Apple’s fault that a video of an exploding iPhone showed up on the internet? As far as we know, it is not. Still seems like somebody screwed up, though.
In a minor kerfuffle, sports fans noticed that Siri thought women’s NCAA teams only played two halves, when in fact, there are four quarters. That led the artificially intelligent assistant to label the third and fourth quarters of every women’s NCAA game as a first and second overtime. That’s not very artificially intelligent!
A teen got arrested last October for forcing iPhones to call 911 nonstop, bringing a Arizona town’s police department to its knees. He was actually exploiting an iOS bug with the help of a piece of Javascipt he found on the internet. That’s bad enough. But it took Apple nearly six months to fix the bug. That fix finally came through in March of this year. So technically, the original fuckup here must have happened some time in 2016, but the fact that it took Apple so long to fix it puts it on this list.
Despite many celebrated attempts at making its new headquarters environmentally friendly, Apple was bound to bungle the process at some point. That moment happened in April when the San Francisco Chronicle reported that other construction projects in the Bay Area were getting upset after Apple bought up all the good trees for its new multibillion-dollar campus. How rude.
Here we have some fuckups within a fuckup. Last spring, an Environment Health and Safety report about workplace safety at Apple was mistakenly sent to hundreds of Apple employees and then leaked to Gizmodo. Inside, there were allusions to mysterious new Apple products—one of which could be an augmented reality headset—as well as some pretty pedestrian office injuries. We don’t know who fucked up by leaking the report, but it seems like somebody at Apple fucked up by building a prototype that burned people’s eyeballs.
As anticipated, Apple announced its own smart speaker, the HomePod, at WWDC in June. It seems pretty similar to an Amazon Echo or a Google Home, except it uses Siri instead of Alexa or Assistant. Also it includes an indicator on the top that’s a dead ringer from the murderous artificially intelligent software HAL 9000 featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s too bad.
We’ve already covered this, but Apple’s first original TV series is awful. The June premiere of “Planet of the Apps” was met with widespread hatred. Gizmodo’s own Bryan Menegus said that “the most challenging aspect of watching it is arguably knowing which part to hate the most.” He’s honestly being too kind.
This one’s a doozy. Apple, the company that’s infamous for its ruthless secrecy about new products, pushed out a version of its HomePod firmware that also contained details about a new iPhone. The HomePod code suggested that Apple would soon release a bezel-free device with no home button, a touch-to-wake and some sort of facial recognition software built-in. We now know that Apple was indeed about to do all of those things. In other words, Apple itself leaked the biggest features of the iPhone X before Gizmodo had the chance.
Remember how embarrassing it was when Apple accidentally revealed new iPhone details in the HomePod firmware. Well, Apple encountered the exact same problem six weeks later, when the Gold Master build of iOS 11 leaked online. The additional information about the iPhone didn’t include a picture of the new device, but it did confirm the existence of FaceID. The leak also revealed the names of the new iPhones (the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X) as well as the existence of Animoji. On top of all that, the code showed that an Apple Watch with an LTE chip was on the way.
One could argue that the very act of release iOS 11 amounts to an Apple fuckup, but for the purposes of this list, we’re going to give every major iOS 11-related scandal its own little section. First up is the fact that the new operating system would not work with apps built for the older 32-bit iPhone processors. That means if your favorite app didn’t support the new 64-bit standard, it simply wouldn’t open in iOS 11. Now obviously Apple is trying to push developers to build apps that work with its latest devices, but preventing its own users from using some apps they love is just rude.
Here’s another rude thing: in the new iOS Control Center, you think you’re turning off Bluetooth and wi-fi by deselecting their icons. But you’re not. Toggling these features into the off position simply disables them. This really pissed off security researchers who believed many users would feel tricked into a false sense of security that their devices weren’t talking to other devices when they actually were.
If you thought that only iOS 11 was riddled with problems, you’re so silly because macOS High Sierra’s release was also a shitshow. On the same day as its launch in September, a security researcher reported that hackers could access all of the passwords in the Keychain utility in plain text. Apple played down the issue at first and eventually fixed it. But High Sierra would rear its ugly, bug-ridden head again a couple months later. More on that in a second.
Uber is a bad company that’s done a lot of bad things, and on at least one occasion this year, Apple was complicit. For some reason, Apple let Uber include a feature in its iOS app that allowed Uber to record the device’s screen, even when the app was only running in the background. The app got yanked after security researchers pointed out the privacy invasion, but the fact that Apple let it happen in the first place is unsettling to say the least.
Reports that iPhone batteries were swelling and causes displays to pop out because widespread enough that Apple launched an investigation into the issue in October. This was no exploding Samsung Galaxy sort of scandal, but it sure made Apple look bad.
For months, news reports claimed that Apple was experiencing some supply chain issues that would make the iPhone X hard to get at first. Those reports turned out to be true, and for at least a month, after the phone’s November 3 ship date, it was indeed very difficult to obtain in iPhone X. This also meant that people were paying scalpers on eBay close to $2,000 to get the device during the shortage. Obviously, it’s not Apple’s problem that people are so desperate to spend money on their products. It is pretty annoying that the company couldn’t get its shit together in time so that the supply of its new iPhone matched up with the demand.
A lot of people were worried that Face ID would be vulnerable to hackers, and to a degree, they were right. In addition to the feature getting a little confused when confronted with twins or a person wearing lots of makeup, some researchers in Vietnam claimed to have tricked Face ID completely with an elaborate mask. This one’s not such a huge deal, since Apple was obviously selling the iPhone X with its Face ID feature faster than it could make them. Still, Tim Cook probably wishes it hadn’t happened, especially after the very public screw up, when Craig Federighi demoed Face ID on stage at the iPhone event and it didn’t work.
Once again, Apple is struggling to release its new products on time. Not two months after the iPhone X shortages, the company announced that the new HomePod smart speaker wouldn’t be ready until early 2018. Too bad.
Someone, Apple left a gaping hole in the macOS security because someone figured out how to gain access to all the user accounts by typing “root” into a username field and then skipping the password field. Once they had access, the intruder could delete accounts or grant themselves access to other accounts. It was even possible to do this remotely. Apple fixed the bug pretty quickly, but wow.
As the year comes to a close, iOS 11 is still buggy as hell. This, in addition to the macOS screw ups, made it painfully clear that Apple and perfection were no never synonymous. In fact, it seems like Apple gets sloppier every year. And 2017 was a doozy.