So Apple is just never going to fix Screen Time, huh?
After nearly four years of (supposedly) tracking everything we do on our Apple devices, Screen Time looks like it’s here to stay. That’s a good thing, for the most part — who amongst us wouldn’t do well with a strict Twitter browsing limit for the day? — but there’s one major thing holding the feature back: Screen Time itself. Screen Time is broken. Very broken. A quick Reddit search turns up many, many iOS users complaining about what many are calling a “major bug.” And we’ve encountered it firsthand.
The crux of the problem is that Screen Time is registering Safari use when the app isn’t even in use. Screen Time reports end up showing a ludicrous number of hours spent on a single website, even when the user hasn’t directly spent more than a few minutes on it. Some users even say Screen Time is reporting sites they’ve never accessed or apps they don’t have installed.
We all know Apple (and every other internet company) profits most when your eyes are trained firmly on the screen. Many wonder when Screen Time will be “fixed” — but maybe Apple likes it broken.
Did Josh actually spend that much time on Bloomberg? — Though many of us here at Input have watched users scream about Screen Time bugs across Twitter and Reddit, it’s Input’s own Josh Topolsky whose plight really caught our attention. Not because he’s using the feature to cut down on the time he spends on Twitter; no, Josh sparked our interest when he shared months ago that he’d spent a grand total of 35 hours on bloomberg.com during one single week in October. Josh did work at Bloomberg — could this be a case of the ex you just can’t get over?
Now here’s the conundrum: Josh claims he did not, in fact, spend anywhere near this much time on Bloomberg’s website that week. This tracks, as Josh is very busy and has many responsibilities. He probably couldn’t spend 12 hours reading Bloomberg each day even if he tried.
It didn’t take long for other members of the Input team to post similar screenshots in Slack. Deputy editor Ray Wong’s iPhone told him just this week that he’d spent about 10 hours reading content on cnn.com. Maybe Ray is secretly staying up until 3 a.m. reading CNN each night; otherwise there’s no way his workload would allow for that kind of screen time.
Not a bug but a feature — Every new iteration of iOS includes bugs of some sort. They’re Apple’s version of Easter eggs. iOS 15 brought with it plenty of camera issues, for example. Usually bugs — especially well-documented ones — are fixed in subsequent iOS releases.
But this Screen Time problem transcends many versions of iOS 15. We’re now up to iOS 15.4 and, still, the bug remains.
There are a few reasons why Apple may not have fixed this yet. It could be that fixing Screen Time is complex; perhaps engineers are stuck. Or maybe Apple just doesn’t want to fix it.