The rumored new Macs didn’t make an appearance during the WWDC keynote as many had hoped, but Apple did have a lot of software to show off. There are new versions of iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and macOS, all coming to devices later this year. But perhaps there won’t be as many devices running the new software as there have been for past updates. As spotted by DroidLife, iOS 15 will be the first optional iOS update.
Hidden in the iOS changelog is an interesting item under the heading “Software updates.” The paragraph-long explanation, which you can see below, says that Apple will allow users to stick with iOS 14 when iOS 15 rolls out. This is a first for Apple’s mobile products — it has often gloated about how many iPhone owners have updated to the latest software, drawing a contrast with Android. Its on-stage criticisms were so biting that Google stopped updating its OS stats on a monthly basis.
So, Apple will presumably not be crowing about the number of people on its latest OS going forward. However, this isn’t the same as stubbornly canceling the OS update as a small number of iPhone users have done in the past. By refusing updates, those devices were left without important security fixes, but Apple will not abandon those who decide to skip iOS 15. The changelog notes that iOS 14 devices will continue getting security updates. This is a more Android-like model for managing updates, but presumably, Apple will be able to keep the patches flowing longer.
Apple’s decision to make major OS updates optional makes sense in a way. Ever since the “Batterygate” mess a few years ago, more iPhone users have been distrustful of updates. Others don’t update because they don’t like the way their phone works to change. This is something Samsung has taken to heart when it develops updates for its phones. Even when a Galaxy gets bumped from one version of Android to the next, the feature set remains mostly the same. For example, the latest Samsung phones that come with Android 11 finally get Google Discover on the home screen, but devices updated to Android 11 don’t gain this feature.
It’s unclear if Apple will allow people to languish on old versions of the OS indefinitely. They might only be able to hang one version back, or Apple might stop rolling out security patches for old versions eventually. Having too many users on old software can make it harder for developers to target their apps. Sound familiar? Pretty Android-y. You might even call it fragmentation.
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