I have been highly critical of the impact of Android ‘fragmentation’, which is something I am acutely aware of as a hardcore gamer who loves playing games on smartphones and tablets but has constantly been thwarted in spite of having a dual-core Tegra 2 device. That criticism has led some to think I ‘have it in’ for Android. Not true, not true – I have it in for EVERYONE! Look at the way I have taken Apple to task repeatedly, and Sony has also been a frequent target.
Today, I have yet another axe to grind with Apple, which is based on my experiences over the last couple of days trying to help out a less tech-savvy friend, who was in turn trying to help out his daughter who was home sick with the flu.
Her simple request? She wanted to play Angry Birds.
The problem? Her father had a first-generation iPod Touch that he barely used and had never kept updated to the latest iOS version.
No matter what he tried, he couldn’t get Angry Birds from the iTunes App Store to deal with the iPod Touch. He checked in iTunes and it said that ‘you have the latest operating system version available’ … so he came to me.
As a bit of a historical aside, when the iPod Touch first came out there was no app store – this is something Dan detailed here. Also, Apple was very careful to maintain a ‘second class status’ for the iPod Touch. This was exemplified better than anywhere else when iOS 2 was released in July of 2008 – iPhone users got the update for free while iPod Touch users were charged $9.99. Apple had some esoteric GAAP accounting rule to explain it all away back then … but somehow that hasn’t applied as I’ve updated my iPad to iOS 4 and then 5, my iPod Touch 4th Gen and iPad 2 to iOS 5.
So when he came to me and said he ‘had the latest OS version’, I immediately asked if it was 3.1.3 or 1.5.1, and he knew it was NOT version 3, and that the version was definitely 1.x. As it turns out, the requirement to BUY the iOS 2 upgrade is what makes iTunes think he had the latest version.
So I sent him to the iTunes store via this knowledge base link, which would then send him into the iTunes Store to purchase the update. Seemed simple enough … until I heard from him again.
The problem now? He had successfully bought the update (only $4.99 now) and was trying to install it onto the iPod Touch, which he had successfully connected to his computer. The update was successfully downloaded (remember the good old days of 250MB iOS updates?), but refused to install!
As it turns out, he had fully updated his iTunes (on the PC, to make matters worse) to the latest version. A search of the Apple support forums revealed that iTunes 10.5 is NOT compatible with the iPod Touch first gen or the update file, and gives the wonderfully descriptive “error 8288”.
Looking into it, I found that he needed to uninstall iTunes 10.5 (as well as all the ‘Apple droppings’ scattered on the PC during install), download and install iTunes 10.3 on his system, and THEN install the update to bring the iPod Touch to version 3.1. After that, he was safe to re-update iTunes to 10.5, and sync up the iPod Touch, now happily on the last possible version of operating system software.
Oh yeah, and then he could grab Angry Birds for his poor, sick, daughter.
All of this took until almost midnight last night, and so I rechecked some things this morning. The Apple support documents say NOTHING about an incompatibility between the older iPod Touch and iTunes 10.5. There is also no reference for error 8288. Fortunately the Apple community forums were much more helpful.
So overall you had two people spending close to six hours across two days, spending $5 on an update, uninstalling and reinstalling and reboot-reboot-rebooting a computer, communicating via phone, text and email, being thwarted by official documents and needing to find answers in the community … all to download a 16MB game for $0.99. We were joking this morning that after this she WILL be playing Angry Birds, whether she wants to or not.
The Gear Diary crew have discussed back and forth about the distinction between fragmentation and obsolescence. For Apple, obsolescence has never been a concern – not because they don’t obsolete products, but rather that their history is littered with the carcasses of product families, processor support, OS support and so on.
Worse still, for a company that likes to pride itself on things that ‘just work’, there are too many examples similar to this about how not only DON’T they work, there is no easy way to MAKE them work. For someone like me, I keep everything fully updated, even force-updating my Nook Touch as soon as it became available. As a result, when I reformatted my first gen Touch last weekend to use as my car MP3 player (the screen contrast on my old 40GB is just too awful at this point) I had no issue at all. But most people don’t like to worry about constant updates and just do it when forced or necessary for some reason.
Oh … and my friend’s daughter went back to school this morning – and never got the chance to play Angry Birds while she was sick.