Apple's Quality Problem May Be Bigger Than You Think

Like millions of others, I've upgraded my iPhone to iOS 6, Apple's (NAS: AAPL) new operating system for iPhones, iPods, and iPads. I'm not impressed. Not yet. Passbook, a neat new app for storing affinity program information, gift cards, coupons, and boarding passes, isn't working.

You wouldn't know it to look at the phone's home screen. Passbook's wallet icon, with its flashes of green, yellow, and blue, stands out against the black background. Click to open, and a start screen invites you to begin adding data. All you need to do is navigate to the App Store, the screen says.

Click again, and the problems begin:



Interestingly, it's not that I can't connect to the App Store at all. Navigating from the error screen to "featured apps" brings me to the store's main screen. Clicking the "genius" tab didn't work, nor did updates as of this writing.

Twitter also had issues. A reply sent to me by a follower appeared on my iPhone, but not via Twitter. Hojoki, a cloud aggregation service that I authorize through -- whoop! whoop! irony alert! -- my Google ID, notified me of the reply.

Both App Store features require entering an Apple ID and password. Twitter also depends on verifying my iOS credentials, which suggests the problem has less to do with Passbook and more to do with how Apple's servers are handling user requests.

The "fix" is in
On Thursday, the Apple support forums buzzed about a fix to the problem that included switching off Apple's mechanism for automatically setting the date and time in iOS devices. Move the date up a year and navigate back to Passbook, the instructions said, and all would be well.

Source: Macworld.

Source: Macworld.

The "fix" no longer works for some -- Yours Truly included -- and I think I know why: because it sounds more like a security hole than a genuine patch. Think about it. How queasy would you feel knowing that a one-click change to the default device date would allow for circumnavigating your ID and password?

Imagine the implications, especially if Apple has any designs on challenging eBay's (NAS: EBAY) PayPal and Groupon (NAS: GRPN) in enabling mobile payments via the iPhone? My guess is Apple has coders working overtime on an iOS update.

Where did all the magic go?
Whether or not I'm right about security concerns, we've got good circumstantial evidence that hardware isn't the issue. Apple's support boards are filled with Passbook complaints from iPhone 4 and 4S users; I'm a 3GS owner.

There's also history to consider; Apple's iOS and iPhone upgrades have been plagued with problems in recent years. Consumer Reportsrefused to recommend the iPhone 4 after discovering problems with the antenna. The iPhone 4S suffered from a battery issue that required a quick iOS fix. Last year, some users reported errors when upgrading to iOS 5, apparently created when a tidal wave of download requests overwhelmed some of Apple's servers. And finally, there is Apple's new Maps software, which is suffering from mixed reviews.

Add it all up, and investors are left with a troubling question: When did Apple stop obsessing over quality? Did it fade out with the end of the Steve Jobs era? I doubt it, but we've seen enough problems with iOS in recent years that -- even for an Apple bull like me -- it's time to ask the question.

Taking a bite of the Apple
This and other issues notwithstanding, Apple remains one of the world's best-positioned companies. If you're thinking of buying or already own shares, now's a great time to sign up for our premium research service. You'll get a complete rundown of everything you need to know about the Mac maker, plus a bonus iPhone 5 report with ideas for profiting from the new device. Sign up today to get not only all the research but also free updates for a year.

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Fool contributorTim Beyersis a member of theMotley Fool Rule Breakersstock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim'sWeb home,portfolio holdings, andFoolish writings, or connect with him onGoogle+or Twitter, where he goes by@milehighfool. You can also get his insightsdelivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, eBay, and Google and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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