How Apple Plans to Root Out Bugs, Revamp iPhone Software
Apple’s annual software upgrade this fall will offer customers plenty of new features: enabling a single fixed of apps to job across iPhones, iPads and Macs, a Digital Health tool to show parents how much day their children have been staring at their screen and improvements to Animojis, those cartoon characters controlled by the iPhone X’s facial acknowledgment sensor.
But just as important this year will be what Apple doesn’t introduce: redesigned home screens for the iPhone, iPad and CarPlay, and a revamped Photos app that can suggest which images to view.
Photographer: David Paul Morris/ Bloomberg
Apple will start focusing on the next two years of updates for its iPhone and iPad operating system, according to people familiar with the change. The company will continue to update its software annually, but internally technologists will have more discretion to push back features that aren’t as polished to the following year. These features were delayed after Apple Inc. concluded it needed its own major upgrade in the way the company develops and introduces new products. Instead of retaining engineers on a unrelenting annual schedule and cramming features into a single update,
Software chief Craig Federighi to be laid down the new strategy to his army of technologists last month, according to person or persons familiar with such discussions. His team will have more time to work on new the characteristics and focus on under-the-hood refinements without being tied to a listing of new features annually simply so the company can tout a massive year-over-year leap, people familiar with the situation say. The renewed focus on quality is designed to make sure the company can fulfill promises stimulated every summer at the annual developers seminar and that new features run reliably and as advertised.
when Apple was a smaller corporation with fewer engineers, customers and machines to oversee, says one person familiar with the company. Apple declined to comment. ” This change is Apple beginning to realize that schedules are not being hit, stuff is being liberated with flaws- which previously would not have happened ,”
The shift is an admission of what many patrons had now been be submitted to notice: Some Apple software has become prone to glitches and underdeveloped features. I n recent months, customers have complained about text messages appearing out of ordering, the iPhone X registering incoming telephone call late and frequent app accidents.
Apple has also recently released features later than it expected, as the rushing to gratifies the annual deadline overtaxed technologists and made last-minute waits. For example, last year’s iOS freeing didn’t initially include previously touted features that would let customers send money via iMessage or synchronize full text message histories among Apple devices.
The decision to formalize the process and commit technologists more time to perfect software is a major cultural shift. For years, the company has funneled its energies into quick-turnaround, splashy upgrades that are designed to wow the faithful and induce contenders seem slow-footed.
The strategy has paid off handsomely because the feature-packed upgrades retain patrons tied to Apple’s ecosystem and prompt them to use more of the company’s lucrative services. More than 90 percent of Apple patrons use either of the last two major iOS updates, compared with 30 percent of Android users who have downloaded the two latest versions of Google’s mobile OS, according to data from both companies.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, speaks about the iPhone X during an event in Cupertino, Calif. on Sept. 12, 2017.
Photographer: David Paul Morris/ Bloomberg
But the feature-packed upgrades place huge requirements on Apple’s beleaguered technologists. At Google, teams update apps on their own schedule and aren’t tied to the annual Android release. At Apple, all new features are tied to a big release in the fall, when Apple rolls out its splashiest new software, and a more modest update in the spring. Individual apps aren’t updated on their own, and everything is driven by the release schedule.
Under the previous system, person or persons familiar with Apple says,” unavoidably, some things will be late because you underestimated how long it would take. Some things have to be cut, some things have to be rushed. It’s the result of having thousands of people working on the same schedule .”
The first test of the new development strategy will come in the autumn, when Apple debuts the next iPhone and iPad software upgrade. Internally code-named “Peace,” it will likely be called iOS 12.
The change that will cause the biggest stir: make it was feasible for a single third-party app to work on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. The upgrade is likely to be folded into the upcoming macOS 10.14( known internally as “Liberty”) and could involve bringing to the Mac some of Apple’s own iPhone apps, including Home, which controls smart appliances.
Apple’s popular Animojis will get new characters and a more readily navigated menu. The animated emojis will also come to the iPad; the company is working on a new modeling that will have the required Face ID camera. Apple plans to integrate Animojis into FaceTime, letting people throw virtual faces over themselves in video bellows.( Technology to bring multi-person conferencing to FaceTime video calls is being explored but might not be ready for this year .)
A customer tries out the Animoji feature on an iPhone X.
Photographer: Daniel Acker/ Bloomberg
Also in the works for this year: a redesigned version of Apple’s stock-tracking app and updated version of Do Not Disturb that will give users more options to automatically spurn telephone call or stillnes notifications. Apple is also working to more deeply integrate Siri into the iPhone’s search view, redesigns the interface used to import photos into an iPad on the go and make it possible for several people at once to play-act augmented reality plays.
Consumers will have to wait until 2019 for significant iPad-focused software upgrades. Among them: A feature that will make it possible to run several windows in one app and click between them just like tabs in a web browser( the Mac get this feature a couple of years ago) and a related enhancement that lets two screens from the same app operate side-by-side. Other updates that ought to have pushed back include new features for the Apple Pencil stylus and a toggle in the email app that will mute notifications from specific threads.
In the past,” Apple’s smaller scale helped it build better-quality software than the rest of the market ,” says Steven Troughton-Smith, a veteran app developer.” But with its newfound size it has seemingly been unable to find the appropriate balance .”
Finding a new balance between hasten and quality will be tricky. On the one hand, spreading feature updates over a longer period could suffer Apple’s competitiveness in the ferociously contested smartphone market. On the other hand, staying to what Troughton-Smith calls a” ruthlessly ambitious” upgrade cycle perils rushing out features before they’re ready and undermining Apple’s vaunted reputation for quality.
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