Yearly iOS release cycle not sustainable

Discussion in 'iOS 9' started by Merkie, Oct 1, 2015.

  1. Merkie macrumors 68020

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    #1
    For 7 years in a row now, we have received one major iOS update for our iPhones. Personally, I don't feel that this release cycle is sustainable anymore in its current form.

    More and more devices are running iOS, or derivates of iOS. Three iPads, two iPhones, watchOS, Apple TV. All of these devices will be getting a major update around the time when the new iPhones will hit the markets.

    At some point in August (every year), all development efforts will be focussed on adding new features to iOS specifically for the new iPhone models. This basicly means no bug fixing, optimizations or improvements will be made to iOS until the .1 release of iOS (might have to hold on for .2 because of the iPad Pro this year). This would also mean that each year we'll get an "OKish" OS around August and Apple won't start improving it until somewhere in October or November.

    This used to be not much of a problem with only 1 iPad and 1 iPhone. However, with the multlitude of iOS devices that are around these days this release cycle pattern isn't suitable anymore. I think Apple actually needs much more time to make sure iOS runs properly on all of these device.

    I think the solution would be to switch to a rolling release schedule. No more major releases with many new features once every year, but instead a release every three months or so that focused on two or three new features.

    Currently, the development pattern (a lot of assumptions ofcourse) with the yearly release cycle looks something like this:
    1. Develop new features (May - September). Release major update.
    2. Fix major issues (September - December). Release .1 update (or perhaps even .2).
    3. Optimize (release .3 update, should be stable/solid/smooth).

    Switching to shorter release cycles with the same pattern would look something like this:
    1. Develop new feature (Month 1)
    2. Fix major issues (Month 2)
    3. Optimize (Month 3). Release iOS update.

    Result: no more major updates with a lot of new features that will require bug fixing / optimizing afterwards, but instead a steady flow of new features with enough time for optimization and bug fixing.

    All of this is based on a lot of assumptions ofcourse, but to me as an outsider it looks like Apple has more and more problems with iOS software each year and I don't see any signs of improvements.

    What do you think? Should Apple drop the major updates and switch to a rolling release (much like Microsoft is doing with Windows 10)?
     
  2. lagwagon Suspended

    lagwagon

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    #2
    Yearly version updates is just fine. You do understand that the iOS team has multiple teams right? Tasks like bugs, new features, optimizing are separate teams within the iOS division.

    I can almost guarantee they already have a small team working on possible major features of iOS 10 and they have a few phones lying around in their lab with iOS 10 in super early stages, testing ideas to see what works as an idea and what "looked" good on paper as an idea that doesn't quite pan out in real life. Which don't effect any of the process of iOS 9 and its future updates. I also bet they've had a roadmap of each 9.x update for a long time now. I'm sure they already know what will be in 9.2, 9.3 and so on.
     
  3. mazdamiata210 Suspended

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    Sep 28, 2014
    #3
    From an Xbox guy, that's not the way to do it. They add one new feature and break 10 others this way and it's an endless cycle of bugs and nonsense which is why I'm on windows 7 and bought a PS4.
     
  4. Rhonindk macrumors 68020

    Rhonindk

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    #5
    It's sustainable with the right teams.
    What Apple needs to do is divorce the Software has to release with the Hardware cycle. Hardware always drives this and grants us buggier Software releases as the landscape becomes more complex.
     
  5. lagwagon Suspended

    lagwagon

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    #6
    I never understand why some keep saying the software has to be "divorced" from hardware releases. New hardware features often also require software to function. How would Apple release new hardware features if it didn't release new software along side it? New software needs to be written to support the new hardware. (3D Touch is the most recent example)
     
  6. Paddle1 macrumors 68030

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    #7
    They mean a major new version, the iPad 2 was released like this and had no issues.
     
  7. lagwagon Suspended

    lagwagon

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    #8
    Well, the iPhone is Apple's most important product. The iPhone basically drives the direction and features of iOS.

    So to me it makes the most sense to release the two together. (New phone with new version of iOS)
     
  8. Paddle1 macrumors 68030

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    #9
    Apple is fully capable of making stable software (every year even), they simply wait until after it comes out to fix bugs and performance, weeks and months later.

    There is no reason they can't add new features without releasing a notably less stable OS.
     
  9. Warbrain macrumors 603

    Warbrain

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    #10
    It was still released with a new version of iOS, just not a major release.
     
  10. GreyOS, Oct 1, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015

    GreyOS macrumors 68030

    GreyOS

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    #11
    sure, this is the ideal, everything is calmly planned and well thought out, with plenty of time to implement and test new features, both for the near future and distant future. with a healthy sized team doing support bugs that are coming in day to day etc.

    and to some extent this ideal will be practiced at apple, sure.

    but I think OP's point is that they are being stretched now by the sheer number of devices, configurations, regions and features which must all work in tandem.

    when the demands grow like this it's not always the case of throwing more people on it. that doesn't always work, and efficiency is much lower.

    whether I agree I'm not sure. Apple is obviously one of the top development teams in the world, who probably approach it much better than the development companies I've worked for! yet even with Apple we occasionally hear rumours of mismanagement and incompetence, so they're not above failure
     
  11. Paddle1 macrumors 68030

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    #12
    That would be a technicality. We're talking about "yearly releases" which is in regards to x.0 versions. Every device has it's own individual version of each build.
     
  12. mrkramer macrumors 603

    mrkramer

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    #13
    I'm sure they already have the features of iOS 10 mostly finalized, as development goes on, some won't get ready in time and will get moved to 11 which I'm sure they have a few very early versions of floating around in their labs somewhere.
     
  13. pika2000 macrumors 68030

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    #14
    I do have concerns about the reliability of iOS going forward. Disregarding the issue whether Apple put enough attention or not, it feels like the x.0 releases are too problematic from my liking. I mean the idea of Apple control the software and hardware is to minimise software issues since Apple doesn't have to deal with multitude of hardware configurations (like Windows and Android). I do understand that bugs will always exist, but considering the issues that people are having even with x.0.y versions (e.g. 9.0.2 having 3D touch issues), it is a bit concerning. I hope that having public beta releases would help Apple going forward, but I feel like I need to wait for x.1 releases from now on.
     
  14. lagwagon Suspended

    lagwagon

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    #15
    x.0 releases will always be a little less than ideal. A lot more things get totally re-written to accommodate new features than many think. Even though on the surface it looks the same, a ton has been changed in code. Which is why often a brand new iOS usually isn't exactly as fluid as the final update of the previous OS.

    If Apple (or even every single software company) waited until all bugs were fixed, software would never get released. It's impossible to have 100% bug free software (especially bug free OS's) You get it to a stable and very usable state, and release. Without a solid deadline, it would get pushed back again and again, because it becomes too tempting to just say "hey, since we don't have any specific time to release, lets add x thing, if it doesn't pan out then who cares. It's not like we have a deadline." Releasing bug fixes and performance improvements after release isn't a sign of a bad release. It's how it is, work never ends on making things better.

    They do release features without releasing a whole new version (7, 8, 9) That's what the x.1, x.2, x.3 and so on are for. (Take iOS 8 for example. 8.1 was sms continuity + activating Apple Pay, 8.2 was Apple Watch support + app, 8.3 was new emojis, 8.4 was the redesigned Music app + Apple Music.) Completely new version are for version defining features. So each new iOS has an identity. (The examples above are what define iOS 8)
     
  15. Rhonindk macrumors 68020

    Rhonindk

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    #16
    When you marry the Hardware and the Software together, either the Software drives the release date, the Hardware drives the release date, or a Planned Timeline drives the release date. For Apple, they are having the Hardware drive the release date. This hardware is their important piece as it drives sales, profit and stock value on Wall Street.

    The challenge comes when when one or the other isn't ready at launch but they go live anyway. As the hardware becomes more complex, you have more models and generations around, your software becomes the weak link. Almost all major companies in this type of business know this and have divorced the two or launch by timeline. This gives them some flexibility. With Apple driving the launch by Hardware and forcing the Software to go with it, the consumers are left with a higher incidence of "defects" in the software affecting one, many, or all active models and generations.

    The other options Apple has is to launch the Software only with the new model till it is ready for the other generations and models. or use a flexible launch date. I believe though that past expectations would seriously impact their stock value if they "delayed" the iPhone launch. The Software launching when ready makes a lot more sense. Iow; divorced.
     
  16. Paddle1 macrumors 68030

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    #17
    Apple still releases performance and stability fixes either way, it would just be nicer if they did it before the final release. Not tying to the iPhone doesn't necessarily mean no deadline, it simply means not tying it to the iPhone, potentially giving more time/flexibility to optimize.
     
  17. Yun0 macrumors 65816

    Yun0

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    #18
    its easily sustainable, apple isnt a big company, apple is a HUGE company
     
  18. DaveTheRave macrumors 6502a

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    May 22, 2003
    #19
    Disagree. What they should do is get rid of the "this must be updated exactly one year after the last update" mentality. Release it all when its ready. Not a moment sooner.
     
  19. Warbrain, Oct 1, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015

    Warbrain macrumors 603

    Warbrain

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    #20
    Yeah, but the second release of a major version for those iPads is the main release. It's valid.
     
  20. Justim, Oct 1, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015

    Justim macrumors 6502

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    #21
    I'm not convinced that hardware drives the release date. Previous iPhone releases have varied by months. If you remember, the iPhone 4 was released in June while the 4s was released in October. That's a large gap, from a consumer standpoint.

    We also publicly catch wind or new iOS software 2-4 months before the announcement of new iPhones. That's another gap giving plenty of time for improvements.

    On the Mac side, we don't see the computer and software "marriage", yet the timeline has followed that of iOS for years.

    I'm not an experience developer, and don't know the entire process. But I have been participating in beta programs for years as an enthusiast. iOS 9.0 beta was the most stable beta version I've ever installed.

    Microsoft is the reason I'm an Apple user. I haven't trusted them since Windows 98.
     
  21. _Refurbished_ macrumors 68000

    _Refurbished_

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    #22
    In theory this is great, but which software would Apple release with an iPhone 6s? 8.4.1? It wasn't designed to run with that software.
     
  22. Paddle1 macrumors 68030

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    #23
    Valid pertaining to what?
     
  23. Rhonindk, Oct 1, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2015

    Rhonindk macrumors 68020

    Rhonindk

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    #24
    So you are saying they should drive the release via the Hardware but off er flexible launch date depnding on how "finished" the Hardware/Software is?

    The stockholders would love that. Not.

    Hardware drives it. Apple announces or alludes to an iPhone date and all the analysts jump on that which drives the whole stock up/down cycle and stockholder expectations. Right now that date is assumed to be yearly and that won't change unless Apple announces this well in advance.
    Hardware tied to launch date and Software is tied to all. This is married to stockholder expectations.
    Watch Apple change this date and what happens to stock prices.
     
  24. cynics macrumors G4

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    Jan 8, 2012
    #25
    I think it's getting more and more evident they are getting further and further behind.

    Compare the amount of patches each version of iOS has gotten throughout the years. Now it to the point where at about the time most people are satisfied with a release (ie iOS 8.4.1) they are releasing another major update.

    iOS 8 was the first version of iOS to make it to a X.4 update. iOS 4 had a ton of updates too but there was more of a disconnect between carrier specific phones back then.

    iOS has turned into a monster and bringing it all together in a timely manor is getting more and more difficult. This is where you can see good management shine because adding more people can get to the point that it hurts more then it helps and requires ton notch supervisors to bring it all together.

    Honestly I wouldn't mind to see more of an El Capitan or snow like approach. Add a couple superficial features and spend the rest of their effort streamlining what is already in place.
     

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