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8.1

Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Dave!As a Certified Apple Whore I'm probably more critical of Apple than their harshest detractors. I don't know why that is, except I'm so used to things being awesome when it comes to Apple products that I'm pretty upset when things go wrong.

And it seems as though things go wrong more often than not lately.

As an example... I'm positively outraged that I still can't stream my iTunes movie and television purchases to my laptop or iPad/iPhone. Unlike every other media content provider on the planet, Apple doesn't allow streaming (except to their Apple TV device) and forces you to download video content in order to watch it. This is stupid as hell, makes no damn sense, and means iTunes is grossly inferior to alternatives like Amazon, Google, and Ultraviolet by a huge margin... but Apple simply doesn't give a shit. You do it their way or not at all.

You would think that past idiocy like this would prepare me for any new failures that Apple racks up, but I assure you it does not.

This was only confirmed today when I flew into an apoplectic rage when the two new features I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for in the just-released iOS 8.1 update don't actually work as advertised...

   
APPLE PAY

The idea is an intriguing one. Instead of using a credit card to pay for purchases, you use the credit card information stored on your iPhone 6. Why bother? Well, there's three very good reasons, actually...

  1. You don't have to turn over your credit card number or personal information to anyone. Which means a cashier can't steal your card number, or even know your name, when you make payment.
  2. Your transactions are private. Apple doesn't track what you buy or store any information about your purchases. You get a receipt on your iPhone, but it goes no further than that.
  3. There is an online component for making payments which will hopefully bury the thieving assholes at PayPal WHO STOLE MY MONEY!

Great, huh?

Well... kinda...

Adding a credit card to Apple Pay is pretty easy. You type in the card info (or take a photo of the card to enter it automatically), then confirm the added card via email, text, or phone call. When it works, it's pretty painless. My Chase Bank Disney Visa even brings up a photo of my physical card design so I recognize which card I'm using...

Apple Pay

Once added, credit cards appear on PassBook along with everything else...

Apple Pay

Except... it's not a flawless process by any means. For reasons unknown, my Citi card added just fine, but all subsequent attempts to verify it have failed. I've been trying for two days now...

Apple Pay

Needless to say, unverified cards are unusable, even though they show up in PassBook just the same. I don't know if this is an Apple problem or a CitiBank problem, but it doesn't matter... in the end it's an Apple problem because they obviously didn't test this crap as thoroughly as they should have.

UPDATE: Eventually I just deleted the card and started over. This time, the only option I had for verification was to call a toll-free number and tell a computer the name of my favorite teacher. Alrighty then...

Apple Pay

And then, of course, there's those credit cards that aren't supported, like my US Bank FlexPerks account...

Apple Pay

Now, I'm assuming this is not Apple's fault. I'm assuming that they presented Apple Pay to USBank along with all the other major credit card issuing banks, and USBank decided not to make it a priority.

Which is insane.

A major, major player like Apple comes up with a new method of making payment that DOESN'T cut credit card companies out of the picture... and US Bank is not onboard for launch? Like I said, insane. But hardly surprising. Do you know how long it took USBank to add chips to their cards? Years. Years of waiting for them to get off their asses and add a chip so I could use my card in Europe. Here's hoping that Apple completely removes credit card companies from Apple Pay within five years. Like record labels, they will NOT be missed, and technology will proceed much better without them.

Moving on...

According to Apple's FAQ, if a merchant requires you to give them your credit card number, you are to instead give them your "Device Account Number." Problem is, if you have "Display Zoom" turned on, you can't see the number and can't swipe to get at it. Most times when this happens, I am able to copy the information and paste it somewhere to look at it. Not with Apple Pay. I guess the only way to get my "Device Account Number" is to turn off Display Zoom first...

Apple Pay

Now, I gotta ask... who the hell is beta-testing this shit? ANYBODY?!? Because every damn time Apple releases something, I find a half-dozen bugs within a day or two. Every. Damn. Time. Surely Apple can't be this inept, so the only conclusion I can draw is that they know about most of the bugs they ship, and just figure they'll get to them when they damn well feel like it. In the meanwhile, their customers have to put up with this bullshit. But anyway...

Once set up, how is it to actually use Apple Pay? Easy. Just hold your phone next to the NFC (Near Field Communication) terminal and your iPhone 6 will automatically come alive and ask you to approve the transaction with TouchID (and allow you to change to a different card than your default, if you wish). You then get a confirmation that the payment was made and a confirmation of the transaction on your card's "info" panel...

Apple Pay

All of this is, of course, is entirely dependent on whether the merchant in question A) Has Apple Pay. B) Know what it is and how to process it. and C) Has it up and running. I tried four locations that were listed as Apple's "partners" and the result was a mixed bag...

  • McDonalds. Had it and knew what it was. Processed quickly ("I thought that's what you were doing!"). PassBook receipt said "East Wenatchee, WA" for the transaction, even though I was in plain old Wenatchee. Didn't provide the amount of sale.
  • Subway. Didn't have it and had no clue what it was. Which means I bought one of their shitty, overpriced sandwiches for nothing.
  • Walgreens. Had it and knew what it was. Processed instantaneously ("Isn't it nice to be able to pay for stuff with your phone?"). Not only provided the proper store name, but had the proper location listed and the amount of sale. The promise of everything Apple Pay is meant to be was on display right here, and it was glorious.
  • Staples. Had it... I think... didn't seem to know what it was or how to make it work. Never activated on my iPhone, so I'm guessing perhaps the equipment was nonfunctional or turned off?

So... 50/50 with only one of the two successful transactions working exactly as intended. Not bad for second day after launch, I guess. The one thing I didn't do was attempt to return something to the store, which is supposed to be a real mess. I can imagine that may take a while for stores to train their employees how to handle.

UPDATE: One interesting thing... as I mentioned above, my Device Account Number doesn't show up because I have Display Zoom enabled. But on both my Walgreen's and McDonald's receipt, it says "VISA ACCT" followed by four digits that are not from my credit card. I'm guessing this must be my DAN, so I've made note of it.

Ultimately, Apple Pay has amazing potential. If every transaction could be as utterly painless, seamless, and blazingly fast as my experience at Walgreen's was, I would never pay with any other method ever again. Which, of course, can't happen until all the bugs are worked out and every merchant gets off their ass and implements a NFC processing system... so we're a ways away on that. But still, the future of payment is here, it's really great, and it's Apple Pay.

   

AIRDROP & HANDOFF/CONTINUITY

For quite a while now, Apple has had a technology called "AirDrop" on their Mac OS and iOS devices. This wonderful feature allows you to transfer files between machines with very little effort. Except... not really. Despite being named the same, AirDrop on Mac OS was an entirely different system than AirDrop on iOS, and they were completely incompatible. This was stupid with a capital D, and Apple should have waited until they got Mac OS/iOS interoperability before unleashing unfinished shit. Well, that day has finally come with Mac OS Yosemite and iOS 8.1. Except not really.

I'm just going to set aside that since my iMac doesn't have Bluetooth LE, it is incapable of connecting in any way with my iOS devices...

NO AIRDROP FOR YOU!!!

I can, however connect with other, newer Macs, but this involves entering an "Old Mac Compatibility Mode" on a more recent Mac to work. And once you are in that mode, you have to dump out in order to use the current AirDrop with "iOS devices and newer Macs" again...

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

About as elegant as buttering a slice of toast with a hammer, but I'm assuming there's some kind of technical reason for it. But, hey, at least there's an option here. When it comes to getting files from an iOS device, I'm back to emails and DropBox.

But what about those Macs which have Bluetooth LE and are compatible with AirDrop 2.0? Well... I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that it works. Except... not really.

Connecting my MacBook Pro (mid-2012) with my MacBook Air (Early 2014) and iPhone 6 works nicely. Though there was some confusion at first as to what I was AirDropping with because all it shows is the device's owner. In order to know which device you've got a connection to, you have to connect to two or more devices at the same time, then the information pops up...

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

No. I have not one damn clue as to why Apple doesn't help you out with that info when there's only one device connected. Maybe it's aesthetically displeasing to the spirit of Steve Jobs or some crazy shit like that. With Apple, you can never tell. But anyway...

Going Mac OS to Mac OS works perfectly. Going Mac OS to iOS works as expected. But going from iOS to Mac OS? No joy...

AirDrop Old Mac Mode

AirDrop is clearly connected... I can verify that on the Mac side in two places. But iOS simply will not acknowledge that it's part of an AirDrop network no matter what I do. I've rebooted my phone. I've disconnected and reconnected various devices in every order I can think of. I can send files TO my iPhone... but can't send a damn thing FROM my iPhone. At least to a Mac. To another iPhone 6 it works fine. I have verified in Apple's support forums that I am not the only one having problems. A lot of people are having problems. To which I have to say (again) who the hell is beta-testing this shit? ANYBODY?!?

Oddly enough, "Handoff" or "Continuity" (or whatever the hell Apple is calling their iPhone to Mac to iPhone to Mac app transfer service) only works in the opposite direction... I can hand off composing an email or looking at a web page from my Mac to my iPhone with no problem at all. A little icon of my current Mac activity shows up on the lock screen of my iPhone 6 (opposite the camera icon), I swipe up on it, login with Touch ID, and I'm picking up exactly where my Mac left off, as advertised...

Handoff iPhone Working?

But the opposite direction? No joy. No matter what I do, nothing will ever handoff from my iPhone to my Mac. To which I have to say (again) who the hell is... well, you get the picture.

   

So Handoff, like Apple Pay, has some problems that need to be ironed out. Why Apple doesn't test thoroughly enough to iron them out before release is a complete mystery to me, but here we are. You'd have thought that Apple would have learned their lesson after the utter disaster that was iSync, but... well... apparently not.

The frustrating thing here is that Apple is developing these awesome technologies that are actually useful. Apple Pay, Air Drop, Handoff... all terrific, terrific stuff. On paper. In order for me to be impressed, Apple needs to make this shit work in reality. Apple Pay is close. AirDrop/Handoff isn't even in the ballpark.

I'm confident that one day things will get hammered into place. Apple has too much to lose if it doesn't. The only question is... how soon?

I want the future now.

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Categories: Apple Stuff 2014Click To It: Permalink
   

Comments

  1. Ren says:

    Neither of my Macs have BTLE, so I can’t even experience it working poorly. At least I knew this in advance. I have seen Continuity work from iOS to OS X. Once. I think. Hmm… now I’m thinking it was actually the iOS while-your-using-your-device version, where the Continuity app shows up to the left of the current app in the app-switcher view.

    I don’t have my iPhone on the work WiFi, so I miss out on much of the benefit as I’m less likely to want the functionality at home.

    • Ren says:

      Oh, and I was able to use Pay at McDonald’s with no issue (well, no issue once I got a card added), but I’ve been using PayPass there for a while. I’m hopeful that the Pay roll-out will motivate the vendors to get their hardware working, as most of the places that have the terminals, don’t have them working. For that matter, I’ve gotten the chip readers to work even less often than the NFC.

  2. I guess I got lucky on this go-round from Apple—with the exception of Apple Pay—but that’s only because NONE of my credit cards work with it yet.

    Continuity and Airdrop work fine in both directions between my iPhone and MacBook…and it really is amazing.

  3. martymankins says:

    I’m still a good 11 months away from having an iPhone 6, so hopefully by then, many merchants will support Pay.

    As for Continuity, I should have a Yosemite system here in a couple of weeks that I can test with. I’m really sad to read that it’s not working from Mac to iOS. One of my scenarios I painted in my head when this was announced and demoed, was me working on something on my Mac, I go downstairs to watch a movie, picking up my iPad in the process. I sit down, see the icon in the lower left corner and continue working. Then I imagine 3rd party apps supporting this as well.

  4. Vahid says:

    I have to wonder if Apple’s super intense internal secrecy and internal compartmentalization are responsible for some of these super obvious errors that make it into a final release. A friend of a friend of mine worked for AMD and did development for graphics cards for Mac. He described Apple’s bug tracking as being a “black hole” – they would discover a bug and file it with them and then never hear anything about it again. Made me wonder if it’s the same within Apple.

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