It looks like Apple’s upcoming iOS 15.2 will change the way iCloud Private Relay is flagged in the Settings app. I can only assume that the reason for the change is that no one used it, probably because they didn’t understand what it was doing. The new message makes it clear that it will “limit IP address tracking”. I expect more people to use it as a result.
This change is today’s Apple in the microcosm. While it’s great that the company seems more willing than ever to change things when they’re not working, the fact that they don’t work is also a pretty big problem. And messaging is something Apple hasn’t been good at lately.
This latest example suggests that Apple’s momentum and failure with iCloud Private Relay is because that feature and descriptions aren’t easy to understand for too many people. Similar communication problems emerged earlier this year and with even more devastating results when Apple announced, and then postponed, its Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) system. Again, the communication was terrible, and Apple spent two weeks trying to reset the narrative after making a mess in the initial messaging. Finally, CSAM was returned to the drawing board and has been there ever since.
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Previously, there was a problem with AirPods Max messages that made people confused about how the headphones manage power and whether or not they have a low power mode.
And then we have the other side of this coin – another example of Apple’s ability to listen and do the right thing. This week’s news that Apple will make it easier for people to repair their own iPhones is great to hear and another sign that they might be listening to people more. After the company has spent years telling everyone that she and her authorized service centers are the only ones who can replace screens and stuff, it’s as if Apple sometimes needs a second try, often struggling to fix things the first time.
Going back to the iCloud Private Relay situation, it’s easy to see how a solid and vital feature can be overshadowed or completely thrown out of the water by a poor explanation of what it does. Apple seems to be changing that, which is a positive step. But what characteristic will confuse people next time?
I am extremely happy that Apple is not only listening again, but also making changes based on what it hears. Now, if only things could be fixed the first time, I would be even happier. After all, the best iPhone is the iPhone that everyone understands, whether it’s a technical network security feature or how to turn on a flashlight.
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