Apple’s once glittering reputation for quality took quite a few hits during the last few years, especially when it comes to iOS, the software that runs on iPhones. In some cases, recurrent software bugs have plagued users with issues such as the inability to use Wi-Fi, frequent crashes, and ridiculously short battery life. This week reports surfaced about a hardware flaw that makes some iPhone 6 screens inoperable. (Apple hasn’t confirmed any related problems.)
It’s hard to tell how widespread some of these issues are, but a new report from a company that monitors smartphone quality suggests iPhones are far more likely to “fail” or suffer serious glitches than Android phones. The Blancco Technology Group says it collected performance data from millions of mobile phones during the second quarter of 2016, and it found that iPhones had an overall failure rate of 58 percent, compared to just 35 percent failure for Android devices. The term “failure” doesn’t necessarily mean that the phone has become a brick, according to Blancco. Instead, it means the device or software running on the device suffered some serious problem.
Carriers and device makers use Blancco tests to diagnose phones that users send to them for repairs or refunds, or that are going to be resold or repurposed. Of course, not all phones that users complain about are defective, but Blancco’s sample does likely skew toward phones with potential problems. So it isn’t accurate to conclude that 58 percent of all iOS devices are likely to fail, only that 58 percent of the millions of iOS devices diagnosed by Blancco’s software had failed to some extent, according to Richard Stiennon, chief strategy officer at Blancco.
Although the data likely included reports of glitches in aging phones that are, of course, more likely to fail, new model iPhones also performed poorly. For example, the iPhone 6 had the highest failure rate (29 percent), followed by iPhone 6s (23 percent) and iPhone 6s Plus (14 percent), according to the report. “One possible explanation for why the iPhone 6 may have struggled with more performance issues and failures than other models in Q2 2016 could be Apple’s recent software updates — iOS 9.3.1 released in April and iOS 9.3.2 released in May,” the report says.
Android phones ‘fail’ less often than iPhones
Android phone failure raters were not only lower than Apple offerings in Blancco’s report, they showed considerable improvement over the rates from the first quarter of the year. Android failure rates dropped from 44 percent to 35 percent from quarter to quarter. Samsung phones had the highest Android failure rate — 26 percent — but Samsung had a market share of 37 percent, so it’s not surprising that its failure rate was higher than that of competitors with less market share, according to Blancco. In contrast, Apple’s failure rate more than doubled from the first quarter of the year to the second, up from 25 percent to 58 percent.
The most common performance issue for iOS devices was app crashes, affecting 65 percent of the devices tested, followed by Wi-Fi problems at 11 percent, and headset and mobile data issues, both at 4 percent. Half of the top 10 iOS apps with the most common crashes were social media apps, including Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Pinterest.
In an attempt to resolve some of these problems, Apple issued a number of iOS updates during the spring of this year. “However, many users who updated their iPhones or iPads with the iOS 9.3.2 software reported not being able to connect to a Wi-Fi network, having Wi-Fi settings grayed out, dropped connections, slow speeds and incorrect password prompts,” the report says. (Apple has since pushed out two more updates: iOS 9.3.4 and iOS 9.3.5.)
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.