Apple has been busy creating software updates to remedy issues with iOS 8. After a rough launch, they have reassured customers and investors that iOS 9 will focus on quality and stability.
iOS 8 Was Flawed
If you have used Apple products for a long time, iOS 8 was exceptional. Apple’s latest operating system has been plagued with bugs. Their engineers have been rushing out software updates to fix serious issues. Basic features, like the ability to copy, cut and paste text, suffered from annoying glitches. Due to their product release schedule, Apple had no choice but to release iOS 8 on time, warts and all. I do admire the speed with which they have addressed defects. After a few weeks, iOS updates solved most of the egregious bugs.
Let’s put this in perspective — iOS 8 is buggy only when compared to other Apple products. I use iOS 8 every day on my iPhone and iPad, and it isn’t as bad as the blogosphere distortions would suggest. When compared to other technology companies’ offerings, it is actually a decent release.
After a few weeks and a few patches, the major problems were solved. In total, I had about three app crashes with iOS 8, and not a single crash after the second update was released. Apple customers expect more, however. We pay a premium for quality and Apple has a reputation for providing solid products. This may be why Apple has promised to focus on quality, instead of cramming in features, with iOS 9.
iOS 5 Was Worse
If you have owned an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch for a few years, you may remember iOS 5. It was much worse than iOS 8 and didn’t offer nearly as many features. Specifically, AirPlay support was horrible. I bought my first iPhone and Apple TV shortly after iOS 4 came out. I was pleased with AirPlay and used it all the time. After upgrading to iOS 5, I found AirPlay to be horribly buggy. The connection would constantly drop and require a lot of fiddling, which is unacceptable for an Apple product. I was livid, as I had cancelled cable and relied on AirPlay and Apple TV for entertainment. They never really fixed it with software updates. These problems plagued iOS 5 until the release of iOS 6.
There are some good excuses for this lapse in quality. This was when Steve Jobs was stepping away from leadership, and there was a battle for control. Instead of focusing on iOS, the head of the mobile operating system division was vying for the CEO job. He was eventually put out to pasture and replaced by Craig Federighi, head of OS X. Apple’s mobile operating system improved dramatically.
iOS 7 was also a tricky release for Apple. It featured a major UI redesign. Along with the new look came quite a few app crashes. In terms of apps closing and crashing, iOS 8 is better than its predecessor. To put it in perspective, however, a few app crashes would be considered acceptable quality for most tech companies.
iOS 9 to Focus on Quality
According to multiple sources, Apple will focus on quality and stability with iOS 9. The major pieces for HealthKit, ApplePay, TouchID and the Apple Watch are all part of iOS 8. With this infrastructure in place, they can focus on fixing defects and providing a quality product.
I do expect to see some new features with iOS 9, but they will build on the existing infrastructure of iOS 8. I expect Siri to make some more improvements and become more capable. The Apple Watch will likely improve and offer more functionality due to underlying improvements in iOS 9. With the major pieces in place, however, iOS 9 doesn’t need to offer sweeping changes.
This is not about resting on their laurels or taking it easy. Any developer knows that bug fixes can be tricky and challenging. Some components and features may need to be re-designed, refined or completely re-architected.
I applaud this commitment to quality. It is rare in the current technology landscape, where companies often release beta-quality products and expect people to pay to test them. As flawed as iOS 8 is, one can appreciate that Apple fixed the major issues rapidly and are once again committed to quality.
People often contend that competition makes products better. This is not always the case. If competing companies are trying to cram in as many features as possible, quality will suffer. Drastic changes to the code base will result in more defects. You may witness other technology companies leapfrog Apple in a few areas within the next year, but these new features will likely be implemented poorly. For example, mobile payments existed long before Apple Pay. Apple waited until they had everything in place — TouchID, 64-bit processor (used by TouchID), NFC, backend security and partnerships with financial institutions.
There’s a difference between being first and being best, and often the two are at odds. It takes time to make something that is close to perfection. I am satisfied to see Apple committing to sane and sensible releases that focus on quality, instead of cramming in features.