If You Guys Are Really Us, What Number Are We Thinking Of?

A good mid-summer silly story from earlier today. Chaim Gartenberg, writing at The Verge, “Apple’s Weather App Won’t Say It’s 69 Degrees”:

If you’re an iPhone user, the weather is always a particularly nice 70 degrees. Or 68 degrees. Any temperature but 69 degrees, actually, because it turns out that the built-in weather app on some versions of iOS — including the current version, iOS 14.6 — will refuse to display the internet’s favorite number, even if the actual temperature in a given location is, in fact, 69 degrees, along with several other (less meme-able) numerals like 65 and 71 degrees.

It’s not clear if this is a bug or an intentional attempt from Apple to cut down on 69-related humor. The rounding is only visible in the weather app itself: clicking through to Apple’s source data from Weather.com will show the proper temperature, as do Apple’s home screen widgets. But the iOS weather app will refuse to show 69 degrees anywhere in the forecast, whether it’s for the current temperature, the hourly forecast for the day, or the extended forecast.

Marques Brownlee followed with a quick side-by-side demo with an Android phone. But it was soon pointed out by commenters on Twitter that while true for the Weather app in iOS 14.6, it’s not the case in the current betas for iOS 15. (It’s also not the case for iOS 13, which I still have running on a spare phone.) Gartenberg soon updated his story at The Verge with the following:

A possible explanation for the issue (as pointed out by several people on Twitter) is that Apple may be sourcing data for its iOS Weather app in Celsius and then converting it to Fahrenheit. For example, 20 degrees Celsius converts to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, while 21 degrees Celsius converts to 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit — which rounds up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The app appears to have similar issues with temperatures like 65 degrees (where 18 degrees Celsius converts to 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit, while 19 degrees Celsius is 66.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

This theory that it’s a side effect of converting Celsius integer values to Fahrenheit integer values strikes me as almost certainly correct — especially considering that it affects un-notable values like “65”. Or that even in iOS 14.6, negative 69°F displays just fine. But it’s amusing to me that so many people bought into the possibility that someone at Apple thought it was a good idea to avoid showing 69° as a temperature.

Apple’s Compass app will show you 69°. The Finder will tell you if you have 69 files in a folder. Once you start down this path it’s hard to find an app from Apple that won’t display “69” some how, some way, if that’s the value that ought to be displayed. Apple even has products that cost $69.

But Apple’s reputation for prudishness precedes it.

What didn’t pass the sniff test for me with this “won’t show 69°F” idea is that it would cross the line into losing integrity, or at least losing accuracy. Can I imagine a third-party weather app being rejected from the App Store because its screenshots show a big “69°F” current temperature? Yes. But to program the iPhone Weather app to avoid displaying 69°F when it really is 69°F? (Or to demand a third-party weather app not show “69°F” in the app?) No.

Sometimes a cigar is just an integer math conversion glitch.

I’m reminded of the spate of articles a few years ago, when Apple’s original TV+ titles were ramping up production, that Apple executives were squeamish about R-rated content. E.g. this widely-cited report by Tripp Mickle and Joe Flint for The Wall Street Journal in September 2018, which claimed, “The tech giant wants to make scripted shows for streaming, only without violence, politics and risqué story lines.” It didn’t seem preposterous in the least that Apple might have been looking for a Disney-esque “family-friendly only” image for its original content.

Problem is: it wasn’t true. Ted Lasso sure is a feel-good show, but Apple’s acclaimed The Morning Show is just as surely not. Servant is R-rated horror (or pretty close to R-rated). See was a show about a future world where everyone is blind and they pray to their god by masturbating. Disney+ probably wasn’t bidding on that.