The Worst of WWDC - Apple's biggest missteps on the way to success

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 25

WWDC is Apple's annual backdrop for its most important software and hardware announcements. It has also unintentionally launched some of Apple's biggest flops.

Tim Cook with a neutral expression next to a colorful Apple WWDC24 logo on a black background.
WWDC is usually successful for Apple, but you never know how things will go.
WWDC

is not just a platform for Apple to showcase its latest developments. It is also a pivotal event that sets the trajectory for the company's next generation of operating systems and services. And, occasionally, hardware.

For developers, WWDC is a chance to learn about upcoming changes so they can get a head start on developing new apps. WWDC has been the jumping-off point for things, which we cover here.

Highlights have included Apple's transition to the Intel and Apple Silicon. The predecessor to the modern WWDC was Steve Jobs' legendary "fireside chat," where he spent more than an hour listening to developers' complaints and addressing them one at a time.

Apple's software and hardware launches occasionally misfire, though. Instead of ushering in greatness, WWDC becomes a platform for questionable innovations or regressions.

Here are some of the biggest of those WWDC fails.

Worst of WWDC - iOS 11



It's not often that an entire operating system is considered disappointing. Still, iOS 11 was not a normal update, and its release in 2017 occurred during an abnormal period at Apple marked by challenges and changes.

In 2017, Apple admitted what iPhone users had already noticed. A previous iOS update deliberately slowed down some older models to prevent issues with their aging internal batteries.

Tablet and smartphone displaying various applications including a calendar, a messaging app, and music controls, illustrating multitasking capabilities.
iOS introduced many new technologies, and also many bugs



At the same time, the company was dealing with complaints that Siri was falling behind in the virtual assistant world (which Apple still has not resolved), it was facing a backlash that the Mac Pro was languishing and neglected, and the company was hit with lawsuits over the poor quality of the "butterfly" keyboards found in Mac laptops.

The newly announced iOS 11 should have revitalized the iPhone product line with new features and capabilities. Instead, it drew ire from users.

The functionality a new operating system adds often requires more processing power, so it's not surprising that older devices might experience some slowdowns. However, iOS 11 drew complaints that it was sluggish and laggy in even the then-newest iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

Apple officially dropped support for the iPhone 5 and earlier models, but users of the iPhone 6 noticed poor performance, which made their devices next to useless. The iPhone 6 was barely three years old when iOS 11 was announced, so it should have been easily capable of running iOS 11 without experiencing stuttering performance.

Many users reported a major increase in battery drain, with phones barely lasting a day on a full charge. Eventually, the performance was identified as the culprit, but improvements would have to wait for subsequent updates to be fully resolved.

iOS 11 was also plagued with bugs for Apple-native and third-party apps. Many apps broke when running under iOS 11.

Connectivity also suffered with Bluetooth and WiFi issues, and the design changes to the Control Center and other parts of the user experience added power, but at the expense of simplicity.

When Apple released iOS 11.2, many of these issues were resolved, and iOS 12 specifically targeted these pain points. By then, though, iOS 11 had already left a bad taste in users' mouths.

Worst of WWDC - Maps



Almost seven years after Google Maps was released, Apple announced its own Maps app at WWDC 2012. The plan was to replace Google Maps on the iPhone, but right out of the gate, Maps was a disaster.

A screenshot of a digital map with a dropped pin marking a location, displaying details for Rainbow Trout California Historic Landmark in Castro Valley.
Apple's Maps app has improved greatly, but the original version was a lost cause.



Apple's app was widely criticized for literally leading users astray. Directions were often incorrect or confusing, and the routing it provided often took people to the wrong place.

Maps were such a disaster that executives publicly apologized, a rare occurrence at a company often tight-lipped about its behind-the-scenes operations. The company pledged to pour more resources into the tool, and while Maps has improved radically, many still don't trust it.

Worst of WWDC - HealthKit



It's hard to remember when Apple's mobile devices didn't include health and exercise tracking. In 2014, Apple launched the developer tool HealthKit to allow the iPhone to act as a central hub for all things health-related.

Three iPhones displaying health tracking apps with graphs for body temperature, caffeine intake, and walking/running distance.
HealhKit is a key part of the iPhone and Apple Watch health strategy but it didn't always run well.



iOS 8 ushered in health and fitness tracking, but some things didn't work out as planned. Basic features like step measurement and flight climbed often failed to be recorded. Communication of health data between apps, one of the main reasons Apple developed HomeKit, often didn't work. Third-party health apps had problems sharing data with Apple's Health app.

By the time the Apple Watch was introduced in 2015, HealthKit was updated and much more reliable, but it had a rocky start nonetheless.

Worst of WWDC - Memoji and Anamoji



Apple's emoji-inspired avatars were not well-received when they arrived with the announcement of iOS 12 at WWDC 2018.

Eight cartoon avatars resembling corporate executives with names and titles displayed below each.
Even Memoji for Apple executives looked almost nothing like them.



The cartoon-style avatars must have been a big hit internally because that year's WWDC presentation included Memoji for each Apple executive that took the stage.

As many would find out when creating their own Memoji, they often looked nothing like the person trying to craft one. Craig Federighi's Memoji bore only the slightest resemblance to himself.

It is hard to watch the Memoji presentation without cringing when Kelsey Peterson, Apple's director of machine learning, cheerfully shows off the Memoji builder.

Launching into the demo, she says, "So much fun!" and proceeds to build one based on her recent haircut and style choices. The resulting Memoji was uncanny because it didn't look much like her.

Using face-tracking technology, Memoji could be turned into Animoji. As the name suggests, Animoji are Memoji avatars that replicate a user's facial movements, allowing them to display things like winking, smiling, or sticking out their tongue.

Animoji can also be superimposed over a user's actual body for FaceTime calls and other video uses, and they're just about as creepy as one would expect. It's nearly impossible to imagine anyone showing up for a virtual conference with a cartoon avatar as their representation.

Apple even changed its Leadership page to display the top executives as Memoji but abandoned the cartoon style pretty quickly, just as everyone else did.

Worst of WWDC - Siri



While Siri was officially released at an Apple "special event" in 2011 rather than WWDC, it has been a core part of Apple's ecosystem since then, and various WWDC events have included updates to Siri and the implementation of the voice assistant across all of the company's products.

A near-comical lack of comprehension has always hampered Siri's amazing potential. Siri's inability to process commands and its lack of features compared to other smart assistants has drawn criticism, and Siri's shortcomings have been the subject of countless jokes.

Collage of Apple products including AirPods, iPhone, Apple Watch, HomePod, and Siri Remote centered around the Siri logo.
Siri is one of Apple's core technologies. If only it worked well.



Even the Reddit Siri subreddit is just a stream of complaints and screenshots of Siri's mistakes. Many find that Siri has lost features and functionality over time, with no way for users to keep track of these changes.

Siri's shortcomings are particularly visible because it is so tightly integrated with the operating system, yet it still lacks basic features that other virtual assistants have.

Siri will likely undergo a major overhaul, hopefully at this year's WWDC, where Apple is expected to add AI-based skills to improve its functionality and accuracy greatly.

Worst of WWDC - HomePod



We partially included Siri because of Apple's underwhelming HomePod launch at WWDC 2017. Designed to be the centerpiece of an Apple-envisioned automated home and life, the HomePod was large, expensive, and largely ignored.

The release of HomePod was delayed until early 2018, which was not a good sign.

With a $350 price tag, this wasn't particularly surprising. HomePod was intended to provide a central tool for controlling HomeKit devices, playing music, and accessing Siri.

By HomePod's launch, competitors, most notably Amazon, already had a lineup of smaller, more affordable voice assistant speakers. None of them have the excellent sound quality of HomePod, but when you're putting devices around your home to interact with your virtual assistant, price is a bigger concern than sound.

White cylindrical HomePod speaker on a shelf with a plant and books in a minimalist room.
Homepod sounded good but fell flat.



Apple shelved the HomePod in 2021. after it debuted the smaller and more affordable HomePod mini in 2020.

The HomePod Gen 2 was released in 2023 and includes features that the HomePod mini already had. The new HomePod has Spatial Audio, new Siri capabilities, temperature and humidity sensors, and Apple's U1 Ultra Wideband (UWB)chip. The UWB chip allows for handoff between HomePod and other devices with the U1 chip, such as the current iPhones.

Since the HomePod Mini is still dependent on Siri for its functionality, issues with Siri still hamper the acceptance of Apple's home-oriented smart speakers.

The absolute worst of WWDC - Ping



If you aren't familiar with Ping, it's not your fault. Ping was one of Apple's few missteps in the music space, and this one is a bit of a bonus flop because it wasn't announced at WWDC but was supposed to connect to the company's various music services and so tied to everything WWDC.

Steve Jobs presents a computer screen showing a social media interface during a keynote presentation, with a dark backdrop.
Ping was so bad most people forgot it existed on purpose.



Ping, or iTunes Ping as it was officially known, was launched in 2010. It was designed to allow people to follow musicians and post comments on their feeds. It was an attempt at a music-driven social media network designed to be a cornerstone of Apple's music services.

Within the first few hours after launch, Ping was full of spam. With no user verification, many musicians had accounts made in their names, confusing users and upsetting musicians.

Apple's promised Facebook connectivity never showed up. Ping died a quiet death in 2012 when iTunes added Facebook and Twitter integration.

WWDC - Better Days Ahead



Steve Jobs famously opined that great technological advances come with setbacks. While these flops were setbacks, they shaped the future of technology at Apple in many ways.

After the complaints about Maps arose, Apple committed resources to fix it. Siri's shortcomings will undoubtedly guide future advances, some of which may come at this year's WWDC.

Even with some high-visibility flops, WWDC is still a showcase of the best the Apple ecosystem offers. With many more hits than misses, WWDC is still one of the most important events in advancing Apple's technologies and improving users' lives.

And, if Tim Cook's comments about AI are any indication, it might be remarkable.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,891member
    The good outweighs the bad overall but it's important to be able to laugh at oneself and accept the missfires so well done for this article.

    Currently the worst aspect of WWDC is the prerecorded stuff that just comes over as wooden and almost a parody. 

    They need to go 'live' ASAP, gaffs and flying cameras included. 
    Ofermuthuk_vanalingamAnilu_777dewmeelijahg
  • Reply 2 of 23
    WWDC is Craig Frederici's baby for the most part. Initially, he was great and often funny; now he comes off as someone wanting to be an entertainer rather than the vaunted SV of Software. These presentations have become so over-produced that the messages are often lost in the over-rehearsed segments. Whoever "choreographed" the last few presentations needs to go! What's needed is more heartfelt and less mechanical presenters.

    Still, I'd never miss one!
    williamlondonAnilu_777
  • Reply 3 of 23
    PemaPema Posts: 71member
    I often wonder when I see a pic of Cook. He is either looking like he is seated on the porcelain bowl leaning forward or standing up holding his hands like he is thanking the good lord. The former is when he is meant to reflect that he is stunned and the latter when the quarterly report is spectacular and pleased with the results.  :D
    williamlondonelijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    Cook looks like he got caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing in his that photo.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 1,289member
    WWDC is Craig Frederici's baby for the most part. Initially, he was great and often funny; now he comes off as someone wanting to be an entertainer rather than the vaunted SV of Software. These presentations have become so over-produced that the messages are often lost in the over-rehearsed segments. Whoever "choreographed" the last few presentations needs to go! What's needed is more heartfelt and less mechanical presenters.

    Still, I'd never miss one!
    Agreed, 100%. I really wish Apple would go back to the live audience keynotes. Maybe that is just nostalgic thinking, but I like seeing the crowd’s instant reaction to new products or features. They can still incorporate the premade video clips as needed. They have that great amphitheater just sitting there doing nothing. Put it to use! We have all seen enough fly-through shots of Apple Park I think. 
    Anilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 1,297member
    It’s good to celebrate the failures. It’s the only way to improve.
    Anilu_777
  • Reply 7 of 23
    petripetri Posts: 121member
    Hmm.  Some of this list just reads like “stuff the author doesn’t like/use” rather than failures as such.  Ping is the only thing on the list we can all agree didn’t meet the mark and was quickly abandoned, some other things like Maps had a poor start, but crucially they kept at it and now most people use it daily.  Same with Siri, same with HealthKit, same with iOS (of which v11 was just one of various slight QC dips along the way).

    Memoji are a particularly odd inclusion here - sure they might have gone a bit out of fashion by this point but they were fun and pretty popular at the time.  I still have plenty of contacts using them as a profile pic to this day.  Again, not being to the author’s taste does not make them a failure.
    watto_cobraAlex_V
  • Reply 8 of 23
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,686member
    Memoji was dumb.  Anything beyond making an avatar was doomed to be forgotten and not used.   

    Ping: never used it.  

    Siri: she can’t understand the simplest commands.   She fails when I’m in a dead zone and just apologizes  for it instead of saying “Sorry,  but I don’t have a good internet connection”.   Also worthless for two commands in a row because she’s not contextual.   

    All this AI has promise,  but make it useful, not a gimmick.   

    elijahgwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    ATV is also one of the disappointments which was announced as a game changer but appeared to be one of the many hobbies of Apple. And what about Apple Car. Burning $10bn with zero results and no heads rolling is also a failure of big proportion.
    Oferelijahg
  • Reply 10 of 23
    I can remember all of these, except for one, and agree with the author that they were "somewhat less than well received" by a fair number of the Apple fans I know.

    The one exception is iOS 11.  I do remember "batterygate", but I have absolutely no recollection of my iPhone 7 (my third iPhone) being slow or buggy.  None at all.
    dewmesidricthevikingwatto_cobraAlex_V
  • Reply 11 of 23
    Apple doesn’t update feedback and discussion webpages and choices of macOS stay on Mountain Lion and iOS 11. Apple just doesn’t care listening from customer.  That explains why serious mistakes occurred.
  • Reply 12 of 23
    petripetri Posts: 121member
    dutchlord said:
    And what about Apple Car. Burning $10bn with zero results and no heads rolling is also a failure of big proportion.
    Apple car was never announced or promised to anyone.  It was an R&D project, an inherently expensive one, and the result was an internal decision not to proceed any further with it; for a company of Apple’s scale that’s ok.  Better that then launching it to the public for fear of “wasting money” and then having to admit it’s a poor product, doesn’t work, or worse - isn’t safe.
    edited April 26 watto_cobraAlex_V
  • Reply 13 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,539member
    The author’s recollection of these issues and shortcomings paints a bleak picture of the impacts that they had on end users at the time. I had an iPhone 6 Plus with iOS 11 and I simply do not recall any time the device became “next to useless.” Does that mean it only functioned well as a paperweight? Maybe I blacked it out of my memory or maybe the EarPods of that era secretly performed electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) on iPhone users to erase those nightmarish events from their memories. 

    I’m not apologizing for Apple, but sometimes when you’re pushing too hard or juggling too many things you start to make dumb mistakes. The pressure to bring surprise and awe to each year’s major development and product events probably invites sloppy behavior. With large and complex systems there are times when you really need to focus more on stability and robustness of what you already have rather than pushing out new features, especially fluffy features. This sounds good in theory, but in practice every developer who’s every recognized this necessity and brought it to light has been beaten back into submission and directed to work on the new features. It’s amazing how so many of these nagging issues get put on the back burner. Surprisingly the “back burner” becomes infinitely deep and many things never get fixed.

    I’m not sure how it was introduced, but the one Apple flub-up that’s had a lasting impact on me personally is MobileMe. I’m still stuck with two Apple IDs until the end of time because all of the extra Apple ID I acquired upon MobileMe’s death. I already had an Apple ID for iTunes that I’d used for the purchase of a ton of assets like music, apps, and storage. For some reason, during the iCloud transition ended up with an extra Apple ID that could not be merged with my existing one. I’m still stuck with two Apple IDs but interestingly all current Apple hardware devices contain provisions within their setup and registration process to capture both of my Apple IDs.

    This must be a common issue but I suspect there are a lot of former Mobile Me users who would love to merge everything together into one AppleID. In essence, all former MobileMe users (victims?) get one additional default email address with “@me.com” which is actually an automatic alias for “@icloud.com.” My old iTunes AppleID is still there along with all of the content that is associated with it. To have access to everything from both Apple IDs I have to make my old iTunes Apple ID a member of my family, as if I’m two individual users. Big kludge but it works.
    sidricthevikingwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    Sorry.. I can't stand his ugly face on the picture.. 
  • Reply 15 of 23
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,212member
    Apple Maps was so bad it resulted in the firing of a senior vice president just a month after release, because he refused to sign a public letter of apology. (You know, what's his name.)
    edited April 26 watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 634member
    Compared to what?… Microsoft??

    In the words of Warren Buffet, they have had so my successes,
    they have earned a few failures.
    watto_cobraAlex_V
  • Reply 17 of 23

    dutchlord said:
    And what about Apple Car. Burning $10bn with zero results and no heads rolling is also a failure of big proportion.
    Apple car was never announced or promised to anyone.  It was an R&D project, an inherently expensive one, and the result was an internal decision not to proceed any further with it; for a company of Apple’s scale that’s ok.  Better that then launching it to the public for fear of “wasting money” and then having to admit it’s a poor product, doesn’t work, or worse - isn’t safe.

    It was obvious to make a car, but Apple failed.
    I can confirm it as I am in the automotive industry and a lot of HW engineers were hired incl. chassis manager, antenna, quality engineer from automotive, car designers etc. 
    One of them confirmed that Apple intended to make a car. 

    But Apple can´t differentiate themselves from others without autonomous lv. 5. 
    But frankly speaking, it is not about when we will get the lv. 5, but where we could have it. 

    Having said that, the full autonomous driving will never be achieved by Apple or others. Never (Dream on the lv. 5 in NYC, Tokyo, LA, and other crowded cities). 

    Apple should rather focus on their SW (too many bugs), their potential hardware devices (Their 1st gen goggle is a fail). 

  • Reply 18 of 23
    petripetri Posts: 121member

    dutchlord said:
    And what about Apple Car. Burning $10bn with zero results and no heads rolling is also a failure of big proportion.
    Apple car was never announced or promised to anyone.  It was an R&D project, an inherently expensive one, and the result was an internal decision not to proceed any further with it; for a company of Apple’s scale that’s ok.  Better that then launching it to the public for fear of “wasting money” and then having to admit it’s a poor product, doesn’t work, or worse - isn’t safe.

    It was obvious to make a car, but Apple failed.
    I can confirm it as I am in the automotive industry and a lot of HW engineers were hired incl. chassis manager, antenna, quality engineer from automotive, car designers etc. 
    One of them confirmed that Apple intended to make a car.  

    I don’t doubt for one second that they were working on a car.  But it was an internal project - again, it wasn’t announced to anybody and nobody was promised it.  It has nothing to do with WWDC since it was never mentioned there.  It was a set of ideas they were working on, and then (as far as we can tell) that research led to them realising it wasn’t the right product and not the thing to be spending time on.  I think that was almost certainly the right decision for Apple and quite a brave one really.
    Alex_V
  • Reply 19 of 23
    As an Apple user for many years and having spent considerable sums on many bits of Apple kit, plus apps, music, books, tv programmes and films, plus Apple One, etc., with ancillary devices running on HomeKit, probably approaching six figures, I have, obviously, been very happy with Apple stuff.  However, Siri is not for me.  It can’t even find albums I have bought.  It can’t play radio stations and often can’t turn lights on and off.  It’s very good at directions in Maps, though.  The only other problem I have is that I can’t update my camera firmware because the security settings are so strong.  I’m sure there is a way but if I confirm acquiring it onto my laptop is what I want to do should be enough.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    What is it people want Siri to do?  I use Siri multiple times per day and haven’t thought, oh, would be nice of Siri told me what to eat for dinner or recommended the one and only restaurant I should dine at.  I don’t need an assistant that draws me a picture of a unicorn on a unicycle balancing a plate shrimp scampi on the tip of its horn while pooping skittles.  It seems that the things other assistants do better than Siri are mostly time wasters and things for giggles and shits that no one really needs.  Like Memoji!  But I am willing to be educated and open minded.  Probably won’t be downloading ChatGPT any time soon.  My experience with that has been more underwhelming x 10 than the worst of anything from WWDC.
    pslice
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