OS Power Up?

My phone is running Android Oreo.

As I type this, my iPad is downloading iOS 11.

And I’m asking myself why. It’s not like either OS introduces new features on my years-old devices. Yes, there are security fixes. Those are important, certainly, and in both cases installing the entire update is the only way to get those fixes.

Okay, yes, some of my current disenchantment is depression brought on by looking at the current news. But still, why do we have to have major OS updates on an annual schedule?

Remember, Android and iOS upgrades are free. Google and Apple aren’t making any money directly off of them, and they’re spending a bundle to tout the new features. Sure, the iOS release is tied to the release of new iPhones, which is where Apple lives. But they’d sell just as many iPhone 8s and iPhone Xs if they came with iOS 10 point something.

For the record, it’s not just phones and tablets. OS X is doing the same thing. Windows is even worse–we’re getting two upgrades a year.

And every time an upgrade comes out, we get reports of bricked phones and scrambled computers, followed by the eternal reminder that “it’s impossible to test every combination of hardware.”

I’m not suggesting the OS vendors should stop upgrading their software. Just thinking the annual upgrade cycle might possibly have more downsides than up.

What about a slipstreamed approach: roll out new features year-round in a series of smaller upgrades that’ll be less likely to break things?

Of course there are problems there. Problems in design, development, and testing. I may not be doing much formal QA these days, but I haven’t forgotten that much about software development. But the approach works well at the application level. It’s worth a try at the OS level.

On a related note, remember a couple of years ago when I griped about software upgrades violating user expectations? I just found a nice example of not doing that in iOS 11.

For the past couple of iOS releases on iPad, swiping up from the bottom of the screen with four or five fingers has brought up the list of running apps. Quick and easy, and I’ve gotten used to it. (Windows users, think “Alt-Tab”.)

In iOS 11, Apple introduced a new “Dock”: a list of frequently-used and currently-running apps. You can pop the dock up over your current program by swiping up with a single finger. And swiping up a second time brings up the new-and-improved list of running apps.

But, and here’s the important thing, the four-finger swipe still works! Even though there’s now a new route to the task switcher, I can still use the old route.

Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if the four-finger gestures disappear in a later release, but at least my muscle memory is safe for another year.

3 thoughts on “OS Power Up?

  1. I’m thinking now about how games become addicting with frequent, incremental and otherwise meaningless “rewards”. Pass Level 1? Have a few coins. Play for more than 5 minutes? Have another coin. What are those coins good for? Absolutely nothing, except playing more with some slight variation. If the game feels stale for more than a few minutes, people will either stop playing or they’ll pay through the nose to play just a little longer. It doesn’t take that many in that latter category to make the entire venture profitable.

    Granted, these OSes aren’t games (but sometimes it feels like one, with quests to find the feature you used to use all the time or challenges to regain the battery power that’s draining faster than before). But if they don’t keep finding ways to keep us engaged with the devices, we might stop using them — which means we won’t use the device to buy books or music through their app stores, or worse, we might start using a competing device.

    Just my 3¢ (adjusted for inflation).


    • That’s a good point about games. I recently returned to a game I haven’t played in several months, and the very first thing I saw was “Hey, there’s a new powerup!” Which helped me get past the level I was blocked on–which was a large part of the reason I stopped playing. Mind you, I set a personal goal to get through the game without spending any actual cash, so I’ve got a huge store of those fake coins. Not the behavior they’re trying to drive.

      But–to continue beating up on iOS–is the new App Store in iOS 11 really going to encourage you to buy more books and music? Or even more Apps? If you regularly buy media, you’re going to keep doing it, regardless of the interface Apple gives you, right? And if you only indulge occasionally, is a new design going to change your behavior radically? I’m dubious.

      Once you’ve got the hardware and develop your usage pattern, it’s just not going to change that much, at least until you get a new device. IMNSHO, of course.


  2. Pingback: Another Corporate Fail | Koi Scribblings

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