Apple's software updates are breaking things — is it time we delayed installing them?

iOS 16
(Image credit: iMore)

Apple releases plenty of software updates. It's one of the things that we like about the iPhone in particular — Apple is always adding new features and fixing bugs. But sometimes it introduces whole new ones in the process, and that's less than ideal.

I've historically told people to install the new hotness immediately. Whether it's an update to iOS 16 or macOS Ventura, or indeed any other Apple operating system, my stance has always been to install the updates immediately. Who doesn't want more features and fewer bugs?

But with Apple's software quality assurance maybe taking a hit, I'm starting to rethink that. I'm thinking, maybe, it's time that someone else found the bugs instead.

We've been here before

Apple's software quality is something of a hot topic for some, although not quite as blazing-hot as it once was.

There was once a time when you couldn't open a podcast app without someone waxing lyrical about how Apple had dropped the ball in some way or another. Focusing on the iPhone so much meant the Mac suffered, and there's an argument that some of the macOS Ventura goings-on suggest things are as bad as ever — does your Mac tell you there's a new app or service running on every restart?

But things aren't much better over in iOS land anymore, either. Things are breaking and strange decisions are being made. But I can cope with opinionated software development not necessarily agreeing with my opinion. What I don't like is introducing bugs for pretty vital bits of software.

New iOS and macOS problems

HomeKit Home Screen

(Image credit: Future)

Apple's latest round of updates has been problematic.

For example, people running macOS Ventura 13.3 and iPadOS 16.4 report that they can't make Continuity work anymore. Universal Control is a mess right now, while other Continuity-based features are also dead in the water. Copying something on a Mac and having it appear on another device when you paste is the thing of magic. But it doesn't work anymore. It just, doesn't.

The same goes for Handoff in general and it's just bad. These are features that have worked for months or longer. And now they don't, presumably because some service deep inside macOS is broken.

Yes, these things can happen. But we should expect better. We should expect software updates not to break things that were working before. The first rule of software updates should be that they leave devices in a better state than before they were installed. And that isn't what we're seeing.

The Home app has gone backward in iOS 16.4, too. People say their accessories don't work, or work intermittently which might be even more infuriating. Apple has had problems with HomeKit before, and a new architecture seems to be causing problems all over again after it was pulled from iOS 16.2 for similar issues.

We can hopefully expect these issues to be fixed in the next release, whenever that will arrive. 

The solution? Don't update

iOS 17 text in front of an iPhone 14 and 14 Pro side-by-side

(Image credit: Future)

So what do we do about all this?

Unfortunately, the only thing we can do is stop installing updates immediately, mistakenly believing that they will make things better. Maybe we take a week or two to see what's going on and how other people fare. If things are great, great! If not, hang fire instead.

But that right there is another problem, this time for Apple. Because it sometimes rolls out important security fixes that people need to install. And anything that stops them from doing that is a problem. Yes, Apple's Rapid Security Response system might fix that, separating security fixes from the main iOS updates. But people still need to approve them. And will they do that if the trust is gone? And who feels brave enough to leave automatic updates enabled? Not me.

I used to say that the best iPhone was an updated iPhone. The same went for iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs. But now?

Now I just say that the best device is the one that works like it did yesterday.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.