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How Apple Hopes to Eliminate Those Annoying iPhone Bugs

February 13, 2018, 10:45 AM UTC

Apple (AAPL) is making a big change to the way it updates its software for iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads, by relaxing its development schedule.

That means it’s time to stop being used to Apple updating its software like clockwork, on an annual or semi-annual basis. But there’s a good reason for this change, which was reported by Bloomberg.

Here’s what’s happening, and which apps are likely to be affected.

How things used to be

Once upon a time, the iPhone was the slickest smartphone option—the one where everything just worked. Android, by comparison, was a buggy mess.

So even if Google (GOOGL) and Android manufacturers such as Samsung (SSNLF) often beat Apple to the punch when it came to releasing new features, such as multitasking or predictive typing, Apple devotees could at least say that their platform would do it right when it got round to doing it.

That’s changed in recent years. Not only has Android become way slicker than before, but Apple has started to put out buggier software, annoying iPhone and iPad users.

Not a new problem

The Tumblr and Instapaper founder Marco Arment was grumbling about this issue back in 2015.

“[Apple’s] software quality has taken such a nosedive in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future,” he said at the time. “Apple has completely lost the functional high ground. ‘It just works’ was never completely true, but I don’t think the list of qualifiers and asterisks has ever been longer.”

Arment was mainly talking about Apple’s OS X desktop operating system, but the core issue was the same: Apple’s hardware gets updated every year, so the company has compelled its engineers to have their software updates ready to go around the same time.

And that has sometimes meant making mistakes—random crashes and battery drainage, freezing apps, weird autocorrect bugs. These have often been fixed fairly quickly in minor software updates, but not quickly enough to avoid making a bad impression on many users.

Even the new iPhone X has been affected, with some users complaining about app crashes and incoming calls not being noted in time.

The new schedule

According to Bloomberg’s report, “the company will continue to update its software annually, but internally engineers will have more discretion to push back features that aren’t as polished to the following year.”

Apple software chief Craig Federighi apparently told his engineers about the change last month, and the effects should be seen in the iOS update that’s coming this fall.

While this update—probably called iOS 12—will bring new features such as the ability for third-party apps to run across Apple’s mobile and desktop platforms, and new “Animoji” characters, some planned features will reportedly be left out.

These include the ability to run several windows in one app, new features for the Pencil stylus, and a button that would allow users to mute notifications from specific email threads.

So if you’re an iOS user and you’ve been jonesing for those features, just be patient. At least they should work when they arrive.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the report.