The Twelve Bugs of Christmas

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hello AppleVis community. It's been some time since I blogged. Other writing tasks have occupied my time. But the real reason I haven't blogged is because bugs are getting me down.

I could remain silent about the bugs as I've been doing for the past seven months. Or I could post a rant on the forum. But ultimately, I decided to approach the topic with some seasonal levity. So if you can read this blog as constructive criticism and humor, then join me on a merry sleigh ride through the Twelve Bugs of Christmas.

On the First Day of Christmas, Alphabetize my Music

In iOS 13, alphabetical navigation of artists or albums in the Music app fails to work reliably. When it does work, VoiceOver includes extra gibberish, such as "Cap C, heading, possibly, refresh," "Cap V, heading, possibly, down arrow," and "Cap X, heading, possibly, close".

Alphabetical music navigation broke previously in iOS10. The recurrence of the issue was a lump of coal in my stocking. It makes me wonder if Apple uses automated regression testing. Santa, please put a fix for this under my Christmas tree.

On the Second Day of Christmas, VoiceOver Shouldn't Talk to SIRI

VoiceOver shouldn't chatter like a mischievous elf when I'm using SIRI. Stuff a fix for this one in my stocking, please.

On the Third Day of Christmas, Set My Volume

I used to be able to set the volume for each specific audio task. In iOS 13, my volume sporadically raises and lowers as if controlled by the Spirit of Christmas Past. Worst case, I was listening to an audio book with earbuds when the volume jumped to a deafening, painful maximum.

While this has improved since the first iOS 13 release, I asked for a more complete fix in my letter to the north pole.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, Tell Me the Time

An iPhone replaces many blind devices. But don't throw out that old talking watch until Apple fixes the bug with VoiceOver not consistently reading the time. I hope Santa can keep his tight Christmas Eve schedule in spite of this issue.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, Return My Home Button

I traded the home button for the home gesture when I upgraded my iPhone SE to an iPhone XR. I expected the home gesture to be faster and easier to use. But after months of use, I still find it as slow and clumsy as Donner after too much egg nog.

Santa, put my home button on the Polar Express and ship it back to me immediately.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, Raise to Wake

I tried Raise to Wake on my iPhone XR. I think a better name for it would be Wiggle to Wake, or even Move Slightly to Wake. It's ironic. The phone is smart enough to recognize my face, but doesn't know when it's being jostled in a pocket, pouch, or Santa's bag.

Apple engineers probably have no idea how often this feature wakes their phones erroneously. Without VoiceOver, there's no audible indication that the phone woke. I've asked Santa to put bells on all Apple employee iPhones. Maybe they'll rename the feature Jingle to Wake.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, Stop Taking Screenshots

On my iPhone XR, it's too easy to hit the side button by accident when adjusting the volume. Like an overstuffed Christmas stocking, my photo library is full of unwanted screenshots.

Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you redesign my iPhone hardware buttons tonight? Or at least give me a way to select and delete all screenshots in the Photos app.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, Fix AppleScript

MacOS Catalina inhibits AppleScript, even the default Apple Script for announcing the time that's built into the Keyboard Commander (right alt+T). I've discovered, quite by accident, that I can nudge an AppleScript along by going to menu extras with VO+M twice quickly. I never had to do this in Christmases past.

I sat on Santa's lap and asked him to bring me well-tested Apple releases, but he just picked cookie crumbs out of his beard.

Update: Resolves in MacOS 10.15.3.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, Fix VoiceOver Pronunciation

I use the Allison VoiceOver voice. With MacOS Catalina, suddenly Allison forgot how to pronounce certain words like gun and Stu. She says G-U-N and S-T-U instead. Thank goodness she can still spell them.

In my letter to Santa, I asked him to send Allison a speech therapist.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, Don't Announce Web Page Insertion Point

When I move through static text elements on a web page in MacOS Catalina, VoiceOver repeatedly tells me things like "Insertion at beginning of text" or "Insertion on word: The, between characters: and T". Santa, please tell VoiceOver that I can't edit a web page, so announcing the insertion point is, well, pointless.

Update: Resolves in MacOS 10.15.3.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, Read the Whole Web Page

Safari in Reader View won't let me read an entire web page. After reading a few paragraphs, VoiceOver focus jumps back to the top. This happens whether I use Read All or VO+right arrow to read by paragraph. I hope this doesn't happen to Santa while he's checking his Naughty and Nice list.

Update: Resolves in MacOS 10.15.3.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Fix Low Vision Features

Santa's sleigh seems to be off course when it comes to the rollout of the Smart Invert and Dark Mode features.

  • iOS 11 allowed users to select between Smart and Classic Invert, but MacOS failed to give users a choice. MacOS v10.13.4 replaced Classic Invert with Smart Invert, leaving MacOS low vision users with no practical way to invert images or videos of text.

  • MacOS 10.14 Mojave and iOS 13 added Dark Mode. Visually similar to Smart Invert, Dark Mode differs from Smart Invert by requiring programs to honor the Dark Mode setting. Even sighted users complain that many programs continue to render dark on light in Dark Mode, including Apple's own Safari, Pages, and Script Editor applications.

  • MacOS 10.14.6 broke the Smart Invert feature by rendering text too dark. I'll take a shot in the dark (I just couldn't resist the pun) and assume this was caused by massive rewriting of old OpenGL code to use the new Metal API. I used Time Machine to back out to 10.14.5 until the issue was fixed in Catalina. Thanks for Time Machine, Santa!

  • Twenty months after MacOS 10.13.4 removed Classic Invert, Catalina restored this feature, allowing users to switch between Classic and Smart Invert, as available on iOS since iOS 11.

If Santa's elves care to take a look at these features, they can find Dark Mode under General settings (Display & Brightness on iOS). Classic and Smart Invert settings are under Accessibility.

This low-vision sleigh ride has been erratic and disorienting, but with the Classic Invert fix in Catalina, it looks like Rudolph is finally getting Santa back on course.

On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas, Fix Current Products

My old iPhone SE worked great. The design was unparalleled. It only had one real problem. The volume was too low when I used the phone in handset mode, and there was no way to make it louder. Hoping Apple's current products would work better, I upgraded to an iPhone XR. That fixed my handset volume issue, but the XR has its own set of problems even though it's a current product running the latest iOS.

My mid-2012 MacBook runs Catalina, but it's a bit sluggish. I'm sure new hardware would run Catalina faster. But if my iPhone XR experience is any indicator, a new laptop would come with new issues.

Santa, if you can't bring me good support for old products, at least bring me good support for current products.

And Everything Else

I went to thirteen days to prove a point. There are so many bugs and issues with Apple products that I could easily fill many more days of Christmas. Here are just a few things I didn't mention.

  • In MacOS Catalina, my 32-bit build of Audacity no longer works. Time to finally learn GarageBand.

  • I've never heard of zsh, but apparently it's the new default shell in MacOS Terminal

  • After a MacOS spell check, shouldn't the spell checker dialog close automatically? It always stays open, sometimes with the last corrected word highlighted as if it's still spelled wrong.

  • I haven't even opened Catalina's redesigned Music app or tried to sync my iPhone. I'm almost afraid to.

  • Do we know any blind users who think the touch bar is a positive change?

  • I'd love to get a Braille display for my iPhone, but it seems like every iOS release has Braille display issues.

If you're so inclined, please put your bug-fix Christmas wish in the comments below.

The Christmas I'd Like to See

Santa isn't going to grant all my Christmas wishes. Apple's releases will continue to have bugs. I expect better from the world's largest corporation, especially when I pay a premium price for their products.

Apple's reputation for breaking things with each new release actually made me look into other computing options. In spite of all the issues, I'll stick with Apple as long as it's the only accessible non-Windows option for Scrivener, and as long as I want to play my iTunes purchases.

So what to do about all these bugs?

It would be nice if we could choose to not upgrade, but we don't really have that option. Content on the App Store quickly fails to support older operating systems. I asked Santa to bring me Time Machine for the App Store, so I could continue to access App Store content built for my old operating system, but Santa just gave me a hearty "Ho, ho, ho!" and offered me a candy cane. Staying on the stable release of my choice is not an option.

I would be more than happy to report issues to Apple if I had any evidence that their releases were slowly coalescing into a state of stability and increased quality. But that's not the case. Every release comes with several new issues, plus many old unfixed issues. For those of you with the time and energy, please join others in a constructive effort to improve bug reporting. I've reported bugs to Apple for years. I can't do it anymore. It's too exhausting and frustrating.

This brings me to the Christmas I'd like to see. I'd like Apple to go to sleep Christmas Eve and, like Ebenezer Scrooge, have nightmares showing how their release quality has gone wrong. I wish Apple would wake up Christmas morning with a newfound love for product quality. I wish Apple would pass out bug fix releases like Scrooge passed out turkeys on Christmas Day. This Christmas, I'm after nothing less than a fundamental philosophical change within Apple. So I'll wish for that and maybe even write Santa a letter.

And for all of you in the AppleVis community, I wish you all a happy holiday season full of warmth, love, plenty of food, and good times with family and friends.

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23 Comments

Coal in Apple’s Stocking

Club AppleVis Member

I feel your pain. Numbers 2, 3, and 9 are my biggest annoyances at the moment.
Number 9 is also present on iOS. Same words, along with abbreviated months spelling out character by character. Can’t pronounce Maria correctly either.
I’ll add Nightstand mode for my Apple Watch. It isn’t working the way it was designed.
Bah humbug!!! Apple should just release all versions as beta. That’s all they are.

Pain

I agree with 2. Santa fix it or can you say lawyer.

Living in the past

I am living in the past and I am loving it!

Every time I see yet another article like this one about Apple's apparently failing overall product quality it makes me very thankful that I chose not to upgrade? to a newer iPhone and have kept my iPhone SE, as well as choosing not to upgrade? to iOS 13.

At least I can be thankful that Apple is apparently aware of what a turd iOS 13 is and hasn't tried to force me to upgrade, but if they ever try that, I am ready for them!

Regarding some of the problems

Hi.

well, I wouldn't call the removal of the home button a bug or anything else, it was clear before you would purchase the device that it doesn't sport a hardware or even a soft button to go to the home screen and app switcher.

And regarding the 32 bit apps not working, come on, this was a long way coming and apple even announced that, you even had the possibility to check which apps on your mac were 32 bit versions and wouldn't work after the upgrade to Katalina.

I strangely don't have the other problems you mensioned.
iOs 13 seams to be one of those systems where some people have a certain issue, but noboddy else has that issue, at leased that's my observation.

Greetings Moritz.

Touch Bar

Label me a blind person who thinks the Touch Bar could be useful. Apple actually has several bugs relating to it but I do think it can enhance an app and be useful.

Love this

I remember last year when you did "The 12 Gifts of VoiceOver," both are very hilarious in a good way. Although, it would be nice if these bugs would be fixed soon.

My bug fix Christmas wish

When DO NOT DISTURB first came out, you never saw any notifications unless you opened the Notification Center with the three-finger swipe down. Now, when I unlock my phone and DND is on, the notifications are right there and VO starts reading. This includes the one that says, "Calls and notifications will be silenced … etc." So before going to bed I turn VO off. If I don't, the alarm goes off and Voiceover is reading all the notifications like optimize battery, any news stuff that happened over night, and the DND one. So, please Santa fix this annoying bug so when my phone is on DO NOT DISTURB between 8:30 PM and 6:00 AM, I don't want any notifications on the screen unless I ask for them.

Me Like This!

This is very nice. I'm strictly a VoiceOver user and probably haven't experienced some of these issues. While I have experienced the bug with telling the date and time, it has improved on my end and I've always got my other methods for independently doing that. These are my iPhone, Alexa, and my talking watch. Happy and safe holidays to all.

Love this, but especially agree with VO not talking to siri

The thing with VO talking to siri is seriously annoying. More than that, though, if a notification or something comes in while dictation is happening, the sound is audible and can mess up dictation. Maybe I'm misremembering, but I can't recall this ever being an issue prior to iOS 13. As I said in another thread recently, I'm seriously regretting that I upgraded to iOS 13, although I probably would have been forced to do the update by now anyway. It's useable, for sure, but so many petty annoyances all add up. This was a very clever and well-written post. Let's hope that at least some, if not all, of these bugs get fixed very soon!

the DND notification must die!!

Yes to this comment 1 million percent! I can't believe I forgot about it when posting my initial comment. DND needs to go back to the way it was prior to iOS 13. The whole point is not seeing notifications when it's enabled, so why it sends you a lengthy notification every time is beyond me. If they showed it once and then you could check a box to say don't show me this again, that would be one thing, but the way it is currently, it almost defeats the point of DND to my mind.

Twelfth Day of Christmas

I loved smart invert until Dark Mode came along. AND the 2 were working fine together until 13.3. Now my iPhone seems archaic on Classic invert just so I can read safari & pages & any other app that’s not on dark mode...including the Apple Store app!
I appreciate this article so much. Thank you for having fun with bugs!

Present

Santa was not nice to us blind people. He does not like us. He did not fix 2 day of Christmas present bug and more.

Fun and on target

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Fantastic! Another excellent piece. Now, if text editing with a Bluetooth keyboard could be fixed on my iPhone, I'd know that Santa still loved me...

Personally I’d be happy if they’d just fix the volume bug.

Hi, Great article and although I’d love to be able to laugh about the bugs in iOS which on the whole I can, I don’t have much of a sense of humour about 2. If my phone screams in my ear one more time I am going to be the one leading a class action law suit against apple. It happens when I pick up a FaceTime Audio call, it happens when I’m listening to books on a Bluetooth speaker. Its made worse by Apple putting a full loudspeaker in the ear peace so I get the full volume of the phone screaming in my ear. I am pretty sure its doing some damage although that would be difficult to prove. I have written to Apple about it but they don’t seem to have a way of differenciating annoying bugs from dangerous ones. Sadly only law suits appear to focus the attention of large companies. I value my hearing and don’t appreciate Apple treating it with contempt. I remember commenting when they installed that speaker in the earpeace that it won’t be long until a bug has that blasting full volume directly into my ear canal and here we are. Apple this is not F*ing funny, fix your Sh*tty software and stop it damaging my hearing.

Be careful

The people who like to kiss appls's blank might get in your case. According to them apple does a great job with accessibility and when we demand that apple fix this bugs they call us names. PS. I do love my apple watch and iPhone but do not care how we are treated like second class citizens. No one gave me the iPhone but I spend my money on both and expect them to work %100. Afterall if you get a car you do not want it to have bugs.

Re; Be careful

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I'm not worried what people think about this article. I cited my sources with links. I'm not saying anything that hasn't already been said elsewhere on any media outlet anyone cares to peruse.

Someone asked me recently which computing platform I recommend for blind users. My recommendation used to be Apple, hands down. But now my answer is that all platforms have their pros and cons. No matter what you choose, you'll encounter issues that you must find workarounds for.

It's sad that Apple has fallen from the apex of accessibility it once stood upon, and I hope the company takes positive action to regain that lofty summit.

Microsoft

Have Windows 10 and support from microsoft regarding accessibility is great. Also jaws respond ASAP. They are not perfect but they do respond to you. I wish I could go back to iOS 12.4.4 because it was very stable and shows what apple can do when they give it %100 to their work. Yes it was not perfect but it was better than unlucky 13.

MacOS Mail app hang

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Catalina's Mail app reliably hangs for me every morning. I wake up my computer and it hangs opening the first message. I have to Force Quit, then Mail runs fine after that.

I bring all this up not to complain. Apple has a real problem here, and nothing is going to change if we stay quiet about it. No one is served by slavishly worshipping Apple when their product quality is increasingly on the downslope. I want the old Apple back, the Apple that used to compare their sleek and well-designed Macintosh to a clunky IBM PC and its stack of bulky 3-ring binder manuals.

Santa

Santa was not nice to us all blind nuts. Instead of a nice present, he gave us unlucky iOS 13.3 with bugs. Santa needs to be punish. Rudolphwhen you guide Santa, crush him agains a tree.

Syncing an iPhone in Catalina

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I finally got brave enough to open Catalina's music app and then sync my iPhone.

I keep my iTunes library on a local cloud storage device on my home network. After opening the Music app for the first time, it spent hours loading album artwork. Why, I'm not exactly sure, as everything in my library already had album artwork, some of it meticulously added by hand. When the process finally finished more than a day later, much of this album artwork was missing, with no rhyme or reason for what was preserved and what the Music app had inexplicably deleted. With the continuing decline of my eyesight, I guess I don't care, though it's frustrating to see this process run for hours and then have it destroy my work.

Next, I had to figure out how to sync my phone. This used to be done in the iTunes app, but the analogous Music app seemed to have no clue the iPhone was plugged into my MacBook. So I searched online and found out that syncing is now done in Finder. Once I was looking at my iPhone in Finder, I found many issues with VoiceOver, including VO not telling me when a control is dimmed or not. I also could not find a progress bar telling me the progress of the sync. The only way I could tell the sync was still in progress was to place VO focus on my iPhone in the sidebar, and VO told me it contained a Stop button rather than an Eject button.

At one point, it told me it couldn't copy some items that could not be found. After selecting Okay, I could not get focus back into the Finder sidebar.

Having things broke seems to be the norm anymore.

Day 8 - AppleScript

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

The AppleScript issue, in which I had to nudge scripts along by hitting VO+M twice quickly, seems to be resolved in Catalina 10.15.3. I skipped 10.15.2, so I can't say for certain when it was fixed.