Reflections on Hissgate 

Last Saturday — September 17 — I noticed something as my iPhone 7 Plus was completing a restore from iCloud backup:

After picking the device up from my desk, it was clear the sounds are coming from back of the phone, possibly from the CPU. It seems to get worse if the iPhone is under load. It’s loud enough to be heard even if the iPhone is just sitting on the table. I don’t have to put it up to my ear to hear it.

In addition to the short blog post, I posted a clip of the sound to YouTube.

Before I recorded the sound coming from my new iPhone, I searched Twitter for people complaining of the issue, and hadn’t seen much. I posted the video and blog post on a Saturday morning thinking that people who were experiencing the same thing I was would be able to find it and feel a little less crazy about calling AppleCare.

What happened next was … weird.

Very quickly, several Apple news sites picked up the article. Most simply posted the video and recounted my story and left any opinions out of their posts.

Some people began tweeting they had noticed the same noise from their new phone. Others blogged that they could hear it, but only if they held their iPhone up to their ear.

Some sites reported that the sound was completely normal, and that all devices make it. While coil whine — the probable cause of the noise I heard — is something I have come across before, I’ve never heard it on the many, many iOS devices I’ve handled over the years.

Others suggested I was exaggerating or fabricating the story entirely.

This writing didn’t line up with the experience I had when I called AppleCare after publishing my post. My call was quickly escalated to a supervisor, who sent me to my local Apple Store to replace the phone. They agreed that hearing a whine or hiss from an iPhone sitting on a desk was unusual and unacceptable.

I’d like to clarify that I never claimed that the iPhone 7 Plus had some widespread or even critical flaw; I simply reported on what my device was doing.

Last weekend, the Internet didn’t care about my intentions. The video was going viral and it didn’t matter how comfortable I was about it or how fair the replies were.

As someone who reports on Apple here and on my podcast, I’m not interested in painting Apple in a good or bad light. I’m not in the business of being an Apple cheerleader, or bashing them. My job is to report and comment on my experience with their products and the ecosystem that surrounds them.

By the next day, the video and blog post were really taking off. The video was getting hundreds of thousands of views.

(As of this writing, it’s approaching 1.5 million views.)

Here are some stats from my YouTube channel for the month that really show the impact it had:

YouTube Stats

By Saturday night and into Sunday, I felt completely overwhelmed. A 13-second video that I recorded and uploaded in just a few minutes was suddenly bigger than any other single piece of content I’d ever created.

By this point, almost every big tech site had written up the story. Popular YouTubers were making videos about it. My Twitter replies were a dumpster fire of people accusing me of trying to stir up trouble for Apple for my own personal gain. Most importantly, I felt pretty beat up by those who had rushed to the “other side” of the story.

I took Tweetbot off my phone for the weekend and turned off YouTube comment notification emails.

At this point, I briefly thought about taking the video down just to avoid any future attention. I decided not to for a pretty simple, but important, reason: I stand by the reporting.

My iPhone 7 Plus was acting in an unusual way, and I felt the need to share that. While some didn’t react very well to the story, it didn’t change the facts.

As uncomfortable as it may have been to see the story spin up into a thing, it didn’t change the situation I was in. I continued to update the post with my interactions with AppleCare, and just tried to avoid the avalanche of feedback it was getting.

On Monday, the story crossed from the tech media to the mainstream. I was contacted by Good Morning America. The NBC Nightly News did a story that my grandmother saw. I got emails from people saying they had seen the story in papers and on the news from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands and even Dubai.

Since then, things have quieted down. People who had a similar experience are having their devices replaced. My replacement phone is here and is silent. As far as I know, Apple didn’t make a comment on the story, even to me. Unlike Antennagate, Hissgate seems to have been short-lived.

I’m glad it is over. It’s not because I am afraid it damaged Apple’s brand, or my relationship with Apple. My job is to report on my experiences using its products and living in its ecosystem, and that may put me — and many others — at odds with the company from time to time.

While it was wild to see that view counter climb so high, it came with a price. Seeing the replies from people who just wanted to jab at me and reading articles that took my honest accounting of what happened and twisting it to defend Apple at my expense was hurtful.

The whole thing was just … exhausting. I’m happy it’s already out of the news cycle. I don’t regret reporting my experience, but had I known things were going to get so far out of hand, I’m not sure I would have done it.

Musk Outlines Mars Plan »

Ria Misra at Gizmodo:

SpaceX plans to build a “self-sustaining city” on Mars, according to its founder Elon Musk. But, while we now know a lot more about how SpaceX plans to get to Mars, details about how people will actually survive up there remain sketchy.

Misra has the best round-up of the news that I’ve seen. I haven’t had a chance to see all of the keynote yet, but there are plenty of open questions left about Musk’s plan.

Connected #110: Swimsuits and Sunglasses For Dogs »

I’m at the Release Notes conference, so Myke and Federico took Connected over this week:

This week Federico struggles to use the new W1-enabled Beats with his new iPhone 7, Myke shares some thoughts on Snapchat Spectacles, and Stephen is away so the Europeans join Snapchat on-air.

Sigh.

My thanks to our sponsors:

September: Learning Empathy »

Instead of running RSS sponsorships this month, I’m raising money in support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Click here to learn more and donate.


In the nearly seven and a half years of being the parent of a child with cancer, I’ve heard this line a bunch from people sharing their own story of pain or grief:

It’s nothing like what you guys are going through.

I know what people mean when they say this. They suddenly remember they’re talking to someone who was told their baby had a brain tumor and feel like whatever they are saying isn’t valid in light of my situation.

For a long time, I struggled with this type of conversation. Watching someone fumble with a sudden pang of guilt — maybe mixed in pity — would make me angry. I can’t give a shit about your problem,” I would often think. Don’t you know my rock is way bigger than yours?

That response proved to be a pretty good way to damage my friendships. It took a lot of time — and therapy — to realize a simple truth:

Suffering exists on a scale.

For example, I have a friend who was telling me about his child breaking her arm on a playground. They had to rush to the hospital and have it set. It sounded truly traumatic, then he stopped himself short.

It’s nothing like what you guys are going through.

The truth I’ve come to learn is that for him, and for his family, that day on the playground was terrifying. It was the scariest moment he and his wife have had as parents. Seeing their daughter in pain and in danger was traumatic.

Just because my family’s worst day was more dramatic or more serious doesn’t mean I have the right to discount his family’s worst day. That’s taken time to learn, and it’s something I still have to think about when I talk with people.

I don’t know how my family’s story will end. I can’t tell you what the future holds, but I know the last seven and a half years have changed me. Some of it for the better; a lot of it not. Extreme situations have a way of boiling a lot of life away, leaving just the raw core. It’s hard, but it’s a chance to look at who we really are, and, hopefully, work to improve.

No matter what’s going on in your life, I encourage you to take a step back and think about empathy. It’s not a natural response — at least for me — but one I’m learning, day by day.


Instead of running RSS sponsorships this month, I’m raising money in support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Click here to learn more and donate.

Back in Black(book) »

This month at iMore, I wrote about everyone’s favorite notebook:

Like its predecessor, the MacBook’s case was plastic: The two lower-end models used an outer shell that was glossy like the iBook; the screen bezel, trackpad and keyboard were in a nice, matte white.

But the most expensive MacBook model, which cost $200 more at launch, came in black.

macOS Sierra Fixes Disk Utility’s Typos 

Forget Siri, iCloud and whatever has you excited about macOS Sierra. With this version of macOS, Apple has corrected the typos I found in Disk Utility.

The Erase Disk sheet used to read:

Erasing “DISK NAME” will destroy of all the data stored on it. Enter a name, choose a format.

The sheet now says:

Erasing “DISK NAME” will delete all data stored on it, and cannot be undone. Provide a name and format, and click Erase to proceed.

Disk Utility in Sierra

I think this language is a lot more clear. Well done, Disk Utility team.

Radar closed.