Slate’s Russell Jacobs looks at the end of Dark Sky, a popular weather app that is shutting down and will no longer be supported after today. Apple bought it in 2020 and has since folded many of its features into the default weather app. While it had its devotees (it was never available in Canada, so I couldn’t use it), it was, at best, “sometimes accurate”: Jacob enumerates plenty of cases where Dark Sky’s forecast failed him in one way or another. (Predicted storms failing to appear is one thing; the opposite is much worse.) It turns out that their forecasts were based not on meteorological modelling but on image processing: it treated the weather systems on radar maps as shapes. Jacobs: “Dark Sky simply monitored changes to the shape, size, speed, and direction of shapes on a radar map and fast-forwarded those images. ‘It wasn’t meteorology,’ Blum said. ‘It was just graphics practice.’” My father the retired meteorologist is no doubt twitching as he reads this.
“I didn’t intentionally get infected with COVID-19 just to figure out whether Apple’s exposure notification system was working, but it ended up that my experience might offer some additional insight to the situation.” Daniel Eran Dilger’s long and discursive piece for AppleInsider on whether Apple’s COVID-19 exposure tracking is working kind of buries the lede: he got the dubious opportunity to try it out, as implemented in Germany and Switzerland. It wasn’t as flawless or as seamless as you might have hoped. “Over a week later, neither Germany nor Switzerland has used my positive test result to send warnings through the system Apple created. That’s important because the timing of exposure notifications have a very limited useful window. By the time I got a positive result, I likely wasn’t even contagious any more.”
On Friday Jennifer discovered that she could no longer run Facebook on her iPhone; the app gave an error message telling her that “This app is no longer shared with you.” This bug appears to be widespread if not ragingly common; the working theory (given the error message) is that a bug in Family Sharing is to blame. Deleting and reinstalling the misbehaving app solves the problem, but as AppleInsider points out, that might lose you your data: offloading the app (under
Settings > General > iPhone Storage), rather than deleting it, is the better option. Update: TechCrunch reports that Apple has fixed the bug.
I downloaded the update this afternoon and everything is now back to normal. The Health and Activity apps have their data back — and not just the data from before the 10.1 update. The iPhone continued to collect and receive Health and Activity data during the period of the bug — even the weight data I entered manually. It just couldn’t display it.
This must have been a simple fix, like a typo in the code, if they could go from gathering data to releasing a solution in two days flat.
There are reports that the iOS 10.1 update is deleting users’ Health data. I can say something about this, because it’s happened to me too.
On Friday I installed the 10.1 update on my new iPhone 7, which had arrived the previous day and was so far working flawlessly. Transferring the data from my old iPhone 5 and pairing my Watch had taken place without incident. But on Saturday morning I noticed that my Health data — which goes back two years — was missing. So was my Activity data, which goes back to April (when I bought the Watch).
I checked the Internet and found a few reports of people having their Health data disappear on them after the 10.1 update on the Apple discussion boards and in online media: see here and here. Those reports suggested that nothing appeared to fix the problem — not restarting, not restoring from backup or factory settings, not even downgrading back to 10.0.3. They also suggested that the data was simply inaccessible rather than missing. A check of Settings revealed that I still have (as of this writing) 88.5 megabytes of Health data; I just can’t get at it. And adding new data doesn’t do anything: it doesn’t appear either.
So I called AppleCare, which began as an exercise in frustration. Getting past the first level of support required me to breathe fire a bit, and I got disconnected when being transferred, but in the end I got through to a senior advisor and was able to have a productive conversation about it. Apple is just starting to get reports on this, so not everyone has encountered customer complaints about it or knows about it — keep this in mind if you have to call AppleCare yourself.
From what I can tell Apple’s engineers are still trying to get a handle on the issue. I was given a number of questions to answer that I presume are so that they can replicate the issue, and I’ve been following up with additional observations (which by the way is really quite extraordinary: it takes out a bit of the sting of having been hit by this bug to be able to help in fixing it) so I suspect they’re at the early stages of “Apple is aware of the situation and is working on a solution.”
I hope that this will turn out to be an easy fix and that it’ll be pushed out quickly. (Apple has every motivation to get this done fast: Health and Activity are rather important features that form a major part of the rationale for the Apple Watch.) The fact that the data still appears to be there, and that Activity sharing is still taking place between my and Jennifer’s Watches, makes me think that it’s a problem with the user-facing apps accessing the data rather than the data itself. When you go into Sources in the Health app and choose one of the data sources (for example, your iPhone or your Watch), I get an endlessly spinning wheel; on Jennifer’s iPhone SE, which is still running iOS 10.0.3, the categories of data the devices contribute to (such as heart rate, walking activity) show up in a second or two.
Does this mean you should hold off upgrading to 10.1 if you haven’t already done so? That’s a really tough call: 10.1 fixes some major security flaws that really ought not to be left unfixed. It’s not clear how widespread the Health and Activity problem is: whether it’s affecting only a few people or whether it’s hitting everyone who uses the apps — we’ll know more in the coming days. At this point, if you have an Apple Watch or use the Health app a lot, I can totally understand not wanting to upgrade quite yet.