Students failing college AP test due to unsupported HEIC iPhone photo format

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High school students are failing their college entry exams when uploading photos shot with an iPhone or iPad and photos saved in HEIC format, forcing many students to retake the exams.




For all the ways technology makes our lives better, occasionally it ends up being the core cause of our problems. Recently, thousands of college students have found themselves failing their college AP exams when attempting to upload images from iPhones and iPads produced from 2017 onward.

The Verge reported the story of Nick Bryner, a high school senior in California. Bryner had chosen to take a picture of his handwritten answer and upload it to College Board's -- the administrator of the AP exam -- website.

Unfortunately for Bryner -- and thousands of other students -- the upload would timeout. Once the test timer reached zero, students would auto-fail, and were told they could retake the test in three weeks.

As it turns out, the problem is the iPhone -- and some newer Android phones as well. The issue arises when a student attempts to upload an image that has been captured in HEIC, a high-efficiency format, to College Board's site.

HEICs are smaller than comparable image formats, which enables users to store more images on their phone or in the cloud. The downside is that HEIC photos aren't widely supported.

College Board only accepts JPG, JPEGs, and PNG images. Additionally, their site does not attempt to convert HEICs to a compatible file format automatically.

College Board is now working with students to help them submit their answers without fear of automatically failing. They've opened up additional support for those who have issues uploading their answers. They also point out that less than one percent of students have had this particular issue.

Of course, all of this can be avoided by simply changing the photo format your iPhone uses. This process can be done in a few seconds.

How to change the default iPhone photo format
How to change the default iPhone photo format
  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Scroll down and tap on Camera
  3. Tap Formats
  4. Tap "Most Compatible"
The Most Compatible setting tells your iPhone to use a JPEG setting, rather than the default HEIC. It's a helpful tip not only for test-takers but anyone who has routinely had issues uploading images from their phone to a website that hasn't updated to the format first introduced to the iPhone and iPad with iOS 11 in 2017.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 897member
    > As it turns out, the problem is the iPhone — and some newer Android phones as well.

    NO. It is absolutely the responsibility of the test makers to continually evaluate new devices for ongoing functionality. It is ludicrous to expect Apple or Google or Microsoft to test ongoing compatibility with the hundreds of millions of apps in the world, just impossible, so the burden sadly must be on app makers to stay current with this shit.

    Lots of students are probably angry at Apple right now. That anger is displaced. This is on the test makers and the notoriously poor education tech sector.

    To re-iterate: the problem is a test maker that hasn't bothered two check if their web app works with iPhones for three years. Period.
    edited May 2020 rob53headfull0winejeffharrisMacPropscooter63ericthehalfbeechiarandominternetpersonlkruppmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 2 of 41
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,221member
    Eric_WVGG said:
    > As it turns out, the problem is the iPhone — and some newer Android phones as well.

    NO. It is absolutely the responsibility of the test makers to continually evaluate new devices for ongoing functionality. It is ludicrous to expect Apple or Google or Microsoft to test ongoing compatibility with the hundreds of millions of apps in the world, just impossible, so the burden sadly must be on app makers to stay current with this shit.

    Lots of students are probably angry at Apple right now. That anger is displaced. This is on the test makers and the notoriously poor education tech sector.

    To re-iterate: the problem is a test maker that hasn't bothered two check if their web app works with iPhones for three years. Period.
    Well what would be most sensible is if Apple changed the iOS/Safari HTTP upload function to actually read the filetypes that are accepted, and convert the photo accordingly. There is already a standard way of telling browsers the accepted file types. 
    <input type="file" accept=".heic,.jpg,.png" />
    
    If it detects .heic, all well and good. If it doesn't, then convert to .jpg. In fact .jpg should really be default anyway, since iOS converts the format to .jpg when sending to something that isn't an iOS device or a Mac as it is, but apparently not in Safari.
    edited May 2020 CloudTalkinbeowulfschmidtchemengin1netroxbaconstangjony0tokyojimu
  • Reply 3 of 41
    andyringandyring Posts: 42member
    Wrong, Eric.

    The iPhone SHOULD default to sending JPG photos any and every time a photo leaves the iPhone, with the sole exception being photos destined for iCloud storage/backup. I hate HEIC, it screws up all kinds of stuff. Apple has a decades-long history of implementing changes like this with a "shoot first and ask questions later" mentality, or removing functionality and labeling it a "feature."

    And to say "the problem is a test maker that hasn't bothered to check if their web app works with iPhones for three years. Period." is incredibly disingenuous and, quite frankly, shows your blatant ignorance. This is happening in large part due to the COVID garbage. 
    elijahgchemengin1lkruppbaconstangcornchip
  • Reply 4 of 41
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,307member
    Eric_WVGG said:
    > As it turns out, the problem is the iPhone — and some newer Android phones as well.

    NO. It is absolutely the responsibility of the test makers to continually evaluate new devices for ongoing functionality. It is ludicrous to expect Apple or Google or Microsoft to test ongoing compatibility with the hundreds of millions of apps in the world, just impossible, so the burden sadly must be on app makers to stay current with this shit.

    Lots of students are probably angry at Apple right now. That anger is displaced. This is on the test makers and the notoriously poor education tech sector.

    To re-iterate: the problem is a test maker that hasn't bothered two check if their web app works with iPhones for three years. Period.
    All true but when this hits the evening news it will be presented as exclusively an Apple deficiency.
    edited May 2020 rob53mac_dogericthehalfbeechiajony0
  • Reply 5 of 41
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,874member
    Speaking in generalities, "THAT" is one of the strengths -- and the weaknesses of Windows as well as one of both the strengths -- and the weaknesses of iOS.  Specifically,

    From the earliest days Jobs imposed a simplicity about Apple's software that he picked up from Atari games where the instruction manual was clear but less than fully complete:  "Avoid Klingons".

    More specifically, in this case, I have no friggin idea what format Apple is using to store my photos and no idea how to find out.   That lack of detail helps to make iOS a very simple, non-technical chunk of software that doesn't overwhelm non-technical users with "needless technical minutia" -- while Microsoft has historically stuck to its history of software rooted in technical detail -- like the "C:" thingee:   'What the hell's that?  And why is it different from the D: thingee".   And, "What's a JPEG and why should I care?"

    In the case of iOS:   When it works, it works really well and smoothly.  But, when it fails, it falls hard.  And, in this case, with potentially life changing effects.

    As iPadOS expands out into more hardcore computing I think we will see these kind of issues become more common.
    Ultimately, it seems, the devil is always in the details.
    elijahg
  • Reply 6 of 41
    payecopayeco Posts: 430member
    andyring said:
    Wrong, Eric.

    The iPhone SHOULD default to sending JPG photos any and every time a photo leaves the iPhone, with the sole exception being photos destined for iCloud storage/backup. I hate HEIC, it screws up all kinds of stuff. Apple has a decades-long history of implementing changes like this with a "shoot first and ask questions later" mentality, or removing functionality and labeling it a "feature."

    And to say "the problem is a test maker that hasn't bothered to check if their web app works with iPhones for three years. Period." is incredibly disingenuous and, quite frankly, shows your blatant ignorance. This is happening in large part due to the COVID garbage. 
    Yes, it screws up stuff that they’ve had years to fix. Period. This is no different than a decade ago when many sites were still requiring Flash. The world is moving on. It’s time to catch up.
    rob53zeus423ericthehalfbeechiarandominternetpersonplanetary pauljony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 41
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 539member
    This is the testing organizations' fault, because they need to tell the user when something didn't work!

    The absolute minimum responsibility of any software is to tell the user about failures so the user can then try to correct the problem. If the user has limited time to correct it, not only are error notifications required, they must be timely.

    Problems like this never have just one cause. Apple attempting to send an HEIF file by default is bad. The application should support HEIF, as it's hardly a new format. Still, the site not telling the user the upload or processing failed is worse, without question.
    edited May 2020 headfull0wineericthehalfbeechiarandominternetpersonmuthuk_vanalingamplanetary pauljony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 41
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 760editor
    zimmie said:
    This is the testing organizations' fault, because they need to tell the user when something didn't work!

    The absolute minimum responsibility of any software is to tell the user about failures so the user can then try to correct the problem. If the user has limited time to correct it, not only are error notifications required, they must be timely.

    Problems like this never have just one cause. Apple attempting to send an HEIF file by default is bad. The application should support HEIF, as it's hardly a new format. Still, the site not telling the user the upload or processing failed is worse, without question.
    The testing organization tested photo taking through their own app. Which worked.

    They did not test taking photos outside of their app and then uploading from the Photo Library, which is what broke.

    I'm with Apple on much of this: The user should not have to care what format the photo is taken with. They took a photo, it's on the phone, they uploaded. There is no reason to expose file formats and make it clunky.

    College Board should have tested photos taken outside of their own app. It never occurred to them to do this.
    They should have checked file extension and file headers and posted an error message with a solution rather than timing out.

    And Apple should work to spread HEIC more widely as Google has attempted with webm.
    headfull0winepscooter63chiacornchipplanetary paulentropysjony0StrangeDaysfirelockfastasleep
  • Reply 9 of 41
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,339member
    Eric_WVGG said:
    > As it turns out, the problem is the iPhone — and some newer Android phones as well.

    NO. It is absolutely the responsibility of the test makers to continually evaluate new devices for ongoing functionality. It is ludicrous to expect Apple or Google or Microsoft to test ongoing compatibility with the hundreds of millions of apps in the world, just impossible, so the burden sadly must be on app makers to stay current with this shit.

    Lots of students are probably angry at Apple right now. That anger is displaced. This is on the test makers and the notoriously poor education tech sector.

    To re-iterate: the problem is a test maker that hasn't bothered two check if their web app works with iPhones for three years. Period.
    %100 agree. 
    cornchipplanetary pauljony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 41
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,829member
    Clearly the testing organisation goofed with their, ehem, testing protocols.

    We can niggle at the way Apple handles the format but the web page just being allowed to time out without a suitable error message AND slamming the door on a way for students to fix the problem is unreasonable.

    If you are going to allow web uploads you have to test them properly. This kind of issue should never have reached userland. It isn't the result of a bug, it is the result of poor testing procedures. 
    muthuk_vanalingamcornchipentropysjony0
  • Reply 11 of 41
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 539member
    vmarks said:
    zimmie said:
    This is the testing organizations' fault, because they need to tell the user when something didn't work!

    The absolute minimum responsibility of any software is to tell the user about failures so the user can then try to correct the problem. If the user has limited time to correct it, not only are error notifications required, they must be timely.

    Problems like this never have just one cause. Apple attempting to send an HEIF file by default is bad. The application should support HEIF, as it's hardly a new format. Still, the site not telling the user the upload or processing failed is worse, without question.
    The testing organization tested photo taking through their own app. Which worked.

    They did not test taking photos outside of their app and then uploading from the Photo Library, which is what broke.

    I'm with Apple on much of this: The user should not have to care what format the photo is taken with. They took a photo, it's on the phone, they uploaded. There is no reason to expose file formats and make it clunky.

    College Board should have tested photos taken outside of their own app. It never occurred to them to do this.
    They should have checked file extension and file headers and posted an error message with a solution rather than timing out.

    And Apple should work to spread HEIC more widely as Google has attempted with webm.
    Apple clearly shares some of the fault. They shouldn't try to send HEIF until they get affirmative confirmation the recipient can handle it.

    The testing organization deserves much more of the fault. Beyond just their lack of test coverage (irony!), if they had simply made the user aware that something went wrong with the upload, the user would have had a chance to fix it. Instead, "The website got stuck on the loading screen until [the student's] time ran out." That is the biggest problem, because a lack of error reporting (or low-quality "Something went wrong" errors) turns inconveniences into breakers.
    randominternetpersonmaltzbaconstangGeorgeBMacelijahgjony0
  • Reply 12 of 41
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,050member
    Another vote for pro-Apple here.

    College Board is just another app... albeit an app with the clout to DIRECTLY affect people’s lives.  They should have tested, and they’ve been caught with their pants down.

    All their posturing is just deflection to save face, and they know it.  Shame on AI, for playing into their hands with the tone of this article.
    cornchipplanetary pauljony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 41
    mimsmims Posts: 22member
    My kid took a couple AP exams this week, and I panicked when I read the article. I asked him about it. His school told him to change the format before submitting. In other words, this was a known "issue" ahead of time, and students should have been instructed by the College Board and their teachers on a workaround. 

    Turns out, they were told by the College Board ahead of time: In the email that I got (as a parent), it explains the problem with HEIC. 

    As for submission feedback on the website, I completely agree. That's an easy add to the submission site. College Board really dropped the ball. To be fair, they only had a couple months to completely change AP testing to online. 
    maltzbaconstangplanetary pauljony0gatorguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 41
    Corrected headline:  College Board AP test lacks support for Apple HEIC format resulting in failed results for thousands.

    Having said that I have no doubt that (eventually) the College Board will make good for those students.  Asking them to retake a high stakes exam because their IT team didn't account for an edge condition outside the control of the student is unacceptable, and I'm sure the College Board leadership agrees with this.  I'm sure the IT guys are pointing the finger at Apple, but I doubt they'll be able to pass the buck.

    (I speak from professional experience working for an organization involved in high stakes educational testing.)
    jony0pscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 41
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,026member
    I am curious why the board does not bother to fix that problem than to tell students how to "fix" their "problem." They can just fix the problem on their app to convert HEIC to JPG or add viewer support for them to view them. I wonder how the files are stored on their site. Do they store them in database as BLOB? (it's a big no no)


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 41
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,699member
    Eric_WVGG said:
    > As it turns out, the problem is the iPhone — and some newer Android phones as well.

    NO. It is absolutely the responsibility of the test makers to continually evaluate new devices for ongoing functionality. It is ludicrous to expect Apple or Google or Microsoft to test ongoing compatibility with the hundreds of millions of apps in the world, just impossible, so the burden sadly must be on app makers to stay current with this shit.

    Lots of students are probably angry at Apple right now. That anger is displaced. This is on the test makers and the notoriously poor education tech sector.

    To re-iterate: the problem is a test maker that hasn't bothered two check if their web app works with iPhones for three years. Period.
    Abso-friggen-lutely!  

    If you create a process for anything you are 100% responsible for verifying and telling your customers what you think it works on, what you think it it doesn't work on, and make no claims about everything else prior to deploying it to your customers, because you tested it. If you tested it with an iPhone 5 you tell your customers that you tested it with an iPhone 5. You can't assume it works with anything other than exactly what you've tested it with. Everyone knows what they say about making assumptions...

    That said... we've all been burned by this compatibility ass bite at one time or another, as both a vendor and as a customer. Whether it was compatibility of your website with a new browser version, or "surprises" that cropped up in your app after an OS or framework service pack was released, things got broken and people got mad. As a customer you've been on the mad side plenty of times even if you're a vendor or developer.

    There's no good side of this problem, even when you are the developer and explicitly state your app's compatibility "constraints" so to speak, your customers who've been impacted won't be happy even if you are technically "abso-friggen-lutely right." If you value your customers, you'll apologize nevertheless, and hopefully everyone will calm down and move on. Some people won't move on, they'll be rehashing their grievances to their grandkids 30 years from now. Hey, you can't please everyone.

    Like it or not, this is the one of the prices of "progress" in technology. Shit happens and things break. If you can't handle getting your toes stepped on every now and then, buy some steel toed shoes.
    randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 41
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,699member
    andyring said:
    Wrong, Eric.

    The iPhone SHOULD default to sending JPG photos any and every time a photo leaves the iPhone, with the sole exception being photos destined for iCloud storage/backup. I hate HEIC, it screws up all kinds of stuff. Apple has a decades-long history of implementing changes like this with a "shoot first and ask questions later" mentality, or removing functionality and labeling it a "feature."

    And to say "the problem is a test maker that hasn't bothered to check if their web app works with iPhones for three years. Period." is incredibly disingenuous and, quite frankly, shows your blatant ignorance. This is happening in large part due to the COVID garbage. 
    Unless there is a standard, e.g., IEC, IEEE, SEC, IETF, etc., for information interchange, and one that all parties subscribe to up-front, there's no such thing as a "SHOULD" in this case. You are merely stating your opinion. A less stringent claim may be made for a de facto standard or common convention in which case the testing board should have stated something to the effect that all submissions had to be sent in a specific format, like jpg or pdf. Being explicit about the submission format would probably would have saved a lot of grief.

    As far as the Covid relationship, I don't get it. Any disruption of any kind, manmade or natural, often results in processes being done for the very first time. Anything done for the very first time and/or inadequately tested is bound to have issues. So you fix them and are hopefully you're better prepared for the next time something disruptive happens. But in all likelihood you'll uncover different broken things the next time. Yeah, if life was perfect and nothing bad ever happened, we would never have to worry about anything. That's not the world we live in. That's why they make steel toed shoes.


    GeorgeBMacelijahgpscooter63
  • Reply 18 of 41
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 735member
    I'm running 13.4.1 on my iPhone.  The 'Formats" button does not appear on that page, or any page I could find, on my phone.  ???
  • Reply 19 of 41
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    I'm not a programmer, but this seems to clearly be the fault of whoever is responsible for that College website. 

    Anyway, this only affected a very tiny amount of users, and a work around has now been found, so this is a non issue.


  • Reply 20 of 41
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,372member
    I have sent photos directly to other people, posted them on social media, and done other things that involve moving the photos from my photos/camera roll to other services or devices ... my iPhone is set for HEIC and I have never had an issue with pictures sent in email or to services like 500px/FB/et al not receiving them.

    Thus I am also inclined to blame the college for this. Goddam PC-oriented webmasters and IT depts, no doubt.
    randominternetpersonmacplusplusjony0
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