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Apple of my eye lets me down. My phone was my master – until it confessed to its faults - By Matthew Norman

Blog | Feb 12, 2024


An email advocating an iPhone update has arrived from Apple.

It arrived a few weeks ago, to be more precise. But I have been saving it, unopened and unread, for a New Year morale-booster.

There must be those to whom January is either an active pleasure or a neutral irrelevance, and to them I doff my cap. To me, the New Year is a torment of bleakness and despair; a waking midwinter nightmare when the God-fearing take to slippers and dressing gown, and shuffle aimlessly about an underheated residence questioning, with heightened intensity if less expectation than ever of stumbling upon an answer, the purpose of human existence.

>span class="s2">crème de la crème.

It offers the tantalising prospect of perfecting not merely the device but also, by reflection, the life of the nominal owner, who is in truth its slave.

When I first bought one, about 15 years ago, I blithely assumed that the relationship was effectively completed by the purchase: that I would use the object to make calls, listen to music and anything else of which it was capable at the time.

I had no idea that it was more akin to an imperious pet than a piece of touch-screen technology, and that caring for it would be such a relentless burden. Over the years, there have been scores of emails urging that the phone be plugged in overnight so that a security fix or some staggeringly crucial new feature be installed. So far, frankly, these updates have tended toward the disappointing.

But isn’t that the magical thing about the New Year? With it comes that electrifying jolt of fresh hope, and it was in this spirit of optimism that I opened the email this morning. More than worth the wait, I think you’ll agree, it certainly was.

‘This update provides bug fixes for your iPhone,’ it announced, ‘including: in rare circumstances, Apple Pay and other NFC features may become unavailable on iPhone 15 models after wireless-charging in certain cars.’

This is outstanding news. Admittedly, I don’t use Apple Pay, or know how to, and have no clue what an NFC feature might be. It is also the case that I have no conception what wireless-charging in a car entails, nor the vaguest desire to do it. Yet I see now that the possibility of accidentally charging the phone in a car, wirelessly, and so being prevented from using features of which I remain entirely ignorant, was a subliminal terror gnawing insidiously at my soul for too long.

The second bug fix outlined in the email, on the other hand, addressed a more conscious fear. I have been almost paralysed with worry about this one for a while. ‘Weather Lock Screen widget may not correctly display snow.’

Although the danger speaks for itself, let’s spell it out all the same. Imagine you are in the car, no doubt wirelessly charging your iPhone at mortal risk to its Apple Pay and NFC viability, when a flurry of white flakes descends from the sky.

Having no notion what the precipitation might be, or how it might affect driving conditions, you glance at the iPhone screen, as legally mounted on the dashboard, for guidance. And there, would you believe it, is the symbol for a wholly unrelated weather phenomenon.

Let’s imagine that the widget indicates a monsoon. Do you continue with the journey as planned? Or do you execute a sharp U-turn, and rush home to raise the house on stilts to protect it from the rapidly rising flood, an architectural quirk much favoured on the streets of Manila?

While you’re pondering this dilemma, the road becomes ever more slippery. If you only knew what kind of downpour was suggested by a flurry of white flakes, you’d press the swervy-lines button that prevents skidding.

But of course you don’t. All you know, thanks to the widget, is that it’s a monsoon – and there’s no dashboard button for one of those. So it is that you lose control of the vehicle, and swerve into the path of a juggernaut.

The coroner records ‘Death by faulty widget’, and the grief of your mourners is eventually assuaged by the £20 million compensation paid by Apple to avoid the publicity attending a charge of corporate manslaughter.

Given that this would be of limited consolation to the deceased, I will plug it into the charger tonight. The battery will henceforth drain in 27 seconds, as it does after all updates.

But that’s a price worth paying to wake tomorrow, cosseted by the knowledge that Apple Pay will never be affected by wireless vehicular charging – and that the next time it snows heavily in London, as it does for five minutes once a decade, I will be correctly informed of the fact by my iPhone.