Writing to myself

Escribiendo para mi mismo

Is Apple's Software Quality Going Down?

Apple just announced the iPhone lineup for 2017, which includes the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X (which is supposedly to be called 10, not X for exclusive as the rumors said). I could debate the new lineup introduces features that justify the price and my willingness to replace my iPhone 7. But this is not about the new iPhone X hardware, it is about the software, iOS 11.

I have been brave enough to put the iOS unreleased versions on my personal phone in the past, usually after the WWDC in June every year (everyone with an Apple Developer Account can do this or signing up for the Public Betas), and this year was not the exception. Every time I do this, the first version usually introduces several bugs, orientation issues, some apps even stop working, etc. As the release day approaches, new versions (of the beta) are released fixing some of these bugs. But I have noticed a pattern lately, Apple has left some bugs in the master seed which is released to the public.

Why is this happening? Is this something that started after Tim Cook became the CEO? Was it even like this when Steve Jobs was in charge? After all, they have the means to invest on tough testing, formal methods and interfaces to achieve good quality, so, what’s wrong?

First and foremost, as a developer, I think the software has always been buggy. But if I go with this route, then, why is that I just start noticing it a couple of years ago? This points me to another idea, Apple has not being innovating lately on any of their features (one example is the new Screenshot feature, that allows you to share it right away, just like Android - we could debate too, what features were introduced in which platform first, but that is for a later topic). If Apple has not being delivering great features, then maybe the aha moment (or eureka moment) is small or does not exists. Then, If I don’t get excited about what they introduce, I get more objective when using their products. So maybe, if the new feature is not able to outweigh the cost of lack of reliability, then I will be more punishing with their software, but if the feature does indeed outweigh the bugs, I could understand why they exists.

Another idea I have is Apple is driven by an hardware upgrade model, this mean, they want you to switch your phone every 2 years at least. Apple recently stopped signing older versions of the iOS, so even if you want to restore your phone to a given version, you no longer can. Maybe on every release the software is so tied to the new hardware that older hardware versions do not behave properly running the new iOS.

My last idea is we as customers have developed a sophisticated judgement and taste (I think this would only apply to people in deep touch with technology), maybe early on the days, inexperience or tech limitations made us complacent, what seemed good back then, now has obvious flaws, and as we gain experience and technical blockers are removed, we can evaluate things better because we are aware of what is possible.

I just wanted to share this. Thanks.

Javier Azuara