Developers Unhappy With Bug Causing iCloud Unreliability

A number of developers are upset with an increasingly problematic iCloud server issue that is causing some apps that have implemented ‌iCloud‌ support to fail to sync properly.

iCloud General Feature
As outlined on the Developer Forums and on Twitter, there are CloudKit connectivity issues that have been occurring since November. Some users of apps that have ‌iCloud‌ support built in are seeing the following message: “Request failed with http status code 503.”

The developers behind popular note taking app GoodNotes have been seeing the problem frequently enough that they wrote a support document for customers who are running into the error message. The GoodNotes team says that the app automatically retries to connect and thus the issue gets solved eventually, but they’re not sure what’s causing the connectivity error to begin with.

HTTP 503 is a temporary error code (“Service unavailable”) indicating iCloud servers aren’t responding correctly to requests from your devices. The error typically gets resolved as GoodNotes automatically retries, but we’re getting many reports of the error lingering on, causing sync failures.

This issue is not apparent to us and we’ve escalated the case to Apple Technical Support team for investigation. It seems it’s happening to other apps as well.

Some developers have noted that their apps have worked without issue for years prior to the sudden appearance of the ‌iCloud‌ server issue that is apparently causing the error message. From a developer on Apple’s forums:

I have the same issue with a relatively small percentage of my users. They are getting 503 errors now, but last year did not. My code hasn’t changed. I’m not even sure how to file a bug report because I cannot replicate the issue on my devices and it’s occurring on a relatively small percentage of my users.

A handful of developers have been able to get help from Apple engineering, and one was able to change their ‌iCloud‌ container for their developer account to fix the issue, but there appear to be many developers who are still having issues.

Other developers have resorted to building ‌iCloud‌ status dashboard into their apps so customers can see when ‌iCloud‌ is non-functional.

‌iCloud‌ failures are a major problem for app developers because the end user of the app doesn’t know that it’s an Apple issue, so customers blame the app developers for a non-working sync feature that they have no control over.

Multiple developers have reported the ‌iCloud‌ syncing bug to Apple, but it has gone widely unaddressed based on the number of complaints and the fact that the issue has seemingly persisted for at least the last couple of months. It’s likely that the problem popped up with the launch of iOS 15 and its sister updates, and it’s not clear when a fix might be available.

Customers experiencing ‌iCloud‌ issues should be aware that it’s likely an issue on Apple’s end and not a bug that app developers can address at this time.

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