Never mind iOS 9, iPhone stability and performance improvements are already coming!

iOS 7 was a complete interface and interactivity redesign and iOS 8, a complete functional upgrade. That led to some complaints that Apple was putting innovation ahead of platform stability. This followed years of complaints about iOS looking stale and missing features, of course, but fair enough. In the rush to get major changes out the door, especially when new products depend on them, there were some stumbles along the way.

iOS 9, anticipated for this fall, will focus more on stability. Recent updates like iOS 8.1.2 and iOS 8.1.3, however, and upcoming updates like the in-beta iOS 8.2 and iOS 8.3, and the currently internal iOS 8.4, make it clear Apple isn't waiting on the next version of iOS to address issues. They're already addressing them.

Apple, like many companies, has a system for prioritizing its bugs. High priority bugs get fixed before lower priority bugs. Customers, however, rarely see high priority bugs (because they get fixed) and see a lot of low priority bugs (because they haven't gotten fixed). That's why all of us have a set of bugs that annoy us at any given time. The exact set of bugs vary from person to person, of course, because setups and behavior vary from person to person. What crashes for one doesn't crash for another. What seldom seems to work for one works flawlessly for another. Yet, regardless of their complexity or frequency, we all want all of them fixed. And now.

In an ideal world, one of limitless talent and time, they would be. Engineers wouldn't have to prioritize getting a new feature shipped over getting an existing feature polished, or fixing a bug that hurts performance over one that hurts pride of craft. Yet the reality is, no matter how big or rich a company, resources will always be constrained. There will always be a limit to how many people have the skills to do a particular job and the interest in doing it at that particular company.

It's what leads to tick-tock cycles, where something new is introduced, and then iterated over time. It's what also leads to cycles being alternated — so design changes while much of the internals remain the same, or vice-versa — because regardless of how much we say we want stability we buy based on features. (Which means that, if stability is more important to you, you'll need to be more vocal about demanding it and supporting it, especially when it comes at the expense of additional new features.)

iOS 8 smoothed out a lot of rough edges from iOS 7. iOS 9, regardless of its focus, will no doubt smooth out a lot of rough edges from iOS 8. Apple, whether responding to sentiment over design and functionality, or factoring it into future product plans, spent the last two years introducing major changes. Now, whether responding to sentiment over stability or still factoring in future product plans, it certainly seems reasonable that stability could be up front on the agenda. Based on recent releases, in fact, it feels like it already is.

iOS 8.1.2, for example, optimized and returned a lot of storage space, especially for iPad users. iOS 8.1.3 reduced the amount of free space needed to update software versions. Taken together, they helped fix one of the major complaints about iOS 8 — that it was simply too big for many people to install using the over-the-air Software Update.

Likewise, iOS 8.2 — which I've been using through it's beta cycle — felt more stable and solid still. iOS 8.3 — which I've just downloaded and installed — looks to be even more of the same. They'll introduce new features, including support for new products, but they'll also polish some things that came before. Likewise iOS 8.4, which has been in internal testing for a little while now.

iOS 9 will continue that trend. How much publicity goes to iteration versus innovation will ultimately be a marketing decision — even OS X Snow Leopard had significant new features like Grand Central, Exchange, and OpenCL, after all.

But the point is we don't have to wait. There's every indication Apple is already is aware of current sentiment, and iterating for stability now.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

65 Comments
  • Here's another rumor. iOS 9 is not coming no out this year. Instead we will have 8.2 .3 and .4 on the fall
  • That's just boring baseless speculation. And highly unlikely :P
  • I highly doubt that sorry. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Dude, you are truly stupid. Sent from the iMore App
  • And you are a moron. Like I care. It's just a thought. Not any different what they guys said in the article but instead of calling it 8.4 they will call it iOS 9. If they don't include that many features they can call it iOS 11 for all I care, but to me will be 8.4. It need to add big changes for me to look at it as a full new OS.
  • I agree, and why are people or should I say the true morons calling this guy a moron for his opinion; especially when his opinion is sound. Why on earth would Apple call it iOS9 just for stability improvements? Sure they could, but will only minimize future iOS when introduced. Apple knows how to sell, and they will sell iOS9 and cause a huge buzz, so again, why change to 9 if nothing significant? I will say this, you guys are the morons, again a sound argument, when you will get all excited for iOS9 and its only stability improvements. So you better hope this guy is right, so you're not let down.
  • Yeah. And it was just a jokingly thought. Not sure why calling Truly Stupid. I don't dictate what Apple does. Either way whatever OS they bring update or new name I will download it so at the end it doesn't matter much. There's no reason to take my comment seriously. Chill out people.
  • iOS has a ridiculous numbering scheme. iOS 8 is really 7.2 in my opinion. It's not that big of an OVERHAUL, no very was. I know they added a ton of features, but OS 10 has been around since 2001. Pretty much every iteration of iOS has just been add-ons. Very few complete ground-up rewrites. Why does a calendar year justify a complete head revision? Sent from the iMore App
  • You obviously don't know what a refinement release is. Sent from the iMore App
  • I guess we all agreed numbering doesn't mean much.
  • Nope Sent from the iMore App
  • Doesn't matter. Not new features not new OS doesn't matter if Apple called it iOS 9.
  • Never has been a new os. So i guess youre still on ios1 in your head.
    9 is just a version number doesnt mean it needs anything new (altho there will be new features)
    Could be a bug fix and new version number be 9 Hell, go the ms route and skip 9, goto ios10... Still just a version number Sent from the iMore App
  • Doesn't change anything.
  • Won't be the first time Apple has played with OS numbering. Remember 8.5, 8.6 and 9.2? If I remember right 8.6 was just a stable version of 8.5.
  • Apple's marketing department will not allow iOS 9 not to be released this fall. if necessary, they will simply re-name 8.4 or 8.5 iOS 9. But there will be iOS 9.
  • The P1 vs P2 distinction here and in your podcasts with Ganant/Melton is an interesting insight on the recently hot topic of Apple's QA. From the outside, it seems like maybe what Apple could use is a kind of automatic elevation to P1 status if a less critical bug has been around long enough. For instance, the "Other" space taking up way too much of your hard drive has been around forever. That it never seems to get addressed kind of undermines one's confidence in Apple the longer it sticks around, because after a couple of years you think, *surely* if they haven't experienced this themselves by now, they've been told about it many times over. Why haven't they fixed it? Even if it's not a showstopper, it conveys, subtly, a message of "we don't care enough to fix it."
  • It's interesting because there are so many different logic models that could get applied to that. For example, a bug that's been around for a really long time could also mean it's never crossed a thresh hold of pain and so is okay to ignore even longer until it gets wrapped up into an even bigger, scheduled change. What metrics are used, and how those metrics are interpreted, can lead to very different choices by very different stakeholders.
  • That's true, quite true. Certainly the "Other" thing has always been a nuisance and never done me any damage. I do think anything that causes confusion and frustration for the user, even it's not really a debilitating problem, ought to have priority. There should be a bug level between P1 and P2 called the "things my mom is going to call me about but I can't really fix for her" bug.
  • Haha, yeah. "Mom-level".
  • Recently got an IPhone 6plus (since November ), it's my first iPhone since the second iPhone and I'm surprised to see how erratic iOS is . I get random re-boots every few days and Chrome is almost unusable . Every freaking website has to reload each time you close and open Safari .
  • That's what you get with 1gb of ram. Hopefully next iphone has more ram to help alleviate this issue. Sent from the iMore App
  • iPad Air 2 with 2GB is really solid with that. Also 64-bit, and with slightly more pixels per screen.
  • Agree. Hence why I think we will see 2gb in this years iPhones, and get rid of most of the reloading of apps issues some experience. Sent from the iMore App
  • A few months ago, Rene said that 1GB of ram was fine on the iPhone because apple uses memory really well. You must be a liar, or an apple hater. Loser... /s Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • LOL
  • Yeah, Renée never remembers what vitriol he spews, so, I remind him when I see that he's confused or having "a moment". Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • I've have a 6plus since November and never had a reboot
    I would suggest you back up the phone, wipe and try with no apps installed, if it still crashes take it back to apple as you may have a faulty phone If does not crash, load apps and data back in batches I had issues with a iPhone 5 randomly crashing and it was faulty, apple replaced once they were happy I'd done the wipe and test and restore
  • Safari will reload tabs even without exiting. I just between tabs and they have to reload. Horrible. Sent from the iMore App
  • Recurring crashes is not normal. Sorry to say you might need to troubleshoot that or take it to the doofus bar. Sent from the iMore App
  • Seems like an article stating the obvious. Apple is releasing software updates to improve performance and stability and will continue doing so while possibly introducing new features. To me, that's what we should expect, right? Otherwise what are software updates for?
  • it might seem obvious … but once upon a time … they're was no ability to patch post release - so software had to be written 5 times better in the first place, as the commercial repercussions of releasing schonky software were serious, now even apple throw stuff out the door on the basis they can patch it afterwards and sometimes the updates don't even correct the bugs or worse they brick your device, my iphone was fine from the shop and bricked as soon as i updated it at home, sometimes your left waiting a year for pretty obvious bugs to be fixed, more importantly is that they release patches that are worthy of the word that really fix the issues and in a timely manner.
  • Humans aren't obvious creatures. We want everything and we want it now.
  • "We want everything and we want it now" - we may be fickle, but the people buying Apple products are drawn from the same pool of humanity that makes Apple products. Apple, who separate themselves as 'a class above' and sell premium products at premium prices, should not think it unreasonable to be held to closer scrutiny. I would think it's an invidious position to be in from Apple's standpoint, but also one of their choice and making.
  • I can confirm that 8.3 has more bug fixes for me than both 8.1/8.2 combined. It feels solid. I think Apple is starting to catch up and re-aligning itself to be more agile. Instead of an annual sprint cycle for WWDC, they might just use WWDC to announce new features and push these out into multiple updates rather than one update.
  • does it deal with the schonky text selection and copy paste issues ?
  • I've heard of these issues from other users but I could not reproduce it. Copy/Paste and text selection seem to be working fine for me even in previous iOS 8 versions. If you can give me specific step by step, I can try.
  • I have the same as issue with cut/copy/paste. On an iPhone 6+ now, but saw it on my 5s. This is what I experience:
    - If text is selected (either on purpose or accidentally) often you can't make the cut/copy/paste highlight disappear. Even if you select one of the options or try to click away from it.
    - the handlebars for selecting text seem much more fiddly, in that it's very easy to mis-select the text your going for.
  • if they can sort the god awful text selection issues in safari and flakey as anything copy and paste while there at it that would be good, should never have been released in the state its in. If theres text on my screen that is not a bitmap image > I expect to be able to select and copy it If I wish, and with a single tap selecting a word, a double tap being a line, and triple tap being a paragraph, that text selection analogy has been around since forever - quark did it - no doubt some muppet of a company has patented it up the wazoo or something, because the american patent office will let you patent the sky practically.
  • I'd like to see Apple use the cursor "magic" they have in the Pages app, on their other apps as well. It really helps a lot with text operations.
  • I'm curious if apple will focus on more iPad feature and functionality for IOS9. At the moment I feel that the iPad hasn't had that many iPad specific/unique features and would like see some functionality like Weather for iPad, Multiuser account/guest mode & the rumour Multitasking being implementing. Not to say that stability and performance improvements are not Important but I feel like iPad hasn't had much attention to unique features for the iPad since iOS5.
  • I agree. I have never understood why weather is not available on the iPad, (or the phone app and a bunch of others for that matter). I live in Canada and there are literally NO good weather apps that aren't hugely ugly or full of commercials. I have weather on the Mac, and weather on the iPhone built-in (it aint great but at least it's there), but apparently people who use iPads have absolutely no need to know the weather according to Apple.
  • I don't know really what people are talking about when they talk about the "stability" of iOS. I think it's mostly bunk. I've used every iOS device that exists, in order, as they came out with few exceptions, and I've helped literally thousands of people with problems with their iOS devices on a daily basis since 2007 when it all started. Once in a blue moon, an app will crash. Once in a purple moon, the device will crash. It just seems like super-hyperbole to talk about iOS as being "unstable" in any way to me. Anyone who remembers what working with MS Windows (pre Win7) was like understands what an unstable operating system is. iOS users, not so much.
  • It's relative, so it depends on what you are using as your reference point. Is iOS as unstable as Windows Vista? Of course not -- not even close. Is iOS8 noticeably less stable than iOS7, which in term was less stable than iOS6? In my experience, yes. Admittedly, that is a personal anecdote, and not data. It also does not mean iOS crashes right and left for me, but a little bit more than it used to, and a two year trend away from stability is cause for some concern about their internal processes.
  • True. (the relative nature of the problem) and my response was decidedly anecdotal. I read the tech press every day all day though and I guess it just seems weird to me that we have endless stories about "stability" and "bugs" in iOS, but for the most part it's really one of the most solid operating systems around. And it's a new operating system too, it's not like they've had the years that Microsoft has had to get it right. That's where I was coming from anyway.
  • Eh, Windows is old but iOS is new? What are you smoking? How 'old', is, then, say the upcoming Widnows 10 for phones? How 'old' is iOS 8? I am quite sure you cannot answer either question. iOS 8 bugs are discussed because they are a real problem. No-one expects iOS to be Linux stable, of course; just average stable would be good enough. it is not that, despite costing mint. So people complain.
  • You consider post-windows 7 stable? Not in my experience! Sent from the iMore App
  • What stability issues? Don't use novelty/gimmicky keyboard extensions and iOS8 is solid. Sent from the iMore App
  • Novelty keyboard extensions? Some people want more than the stock Apple keyboard and what it offers. Had third party keyboards been working properly in iOS 8, you would not refer to them as gimmicks. I guess Apple can get some sort of leeway though. I mean it is their first attempt into modular parts being incorporated into what has been a largely locked down OS for years.
  • Thanks Rene!!!
  • That was the longest article to say nothing noteworthy. Seriously, EVERY COMPANY DOES THE SAME THING. Sent from the iMore App
  • 8.1.3 has been like getting my phone back. Sent from the iMore App
  • Well mine crashes quite frequently sometimes 2 to 3 times daily and the annoying telling me I have no Internet connection when every other one of my devices connect with no issues . Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • It's good to hear that focus now is on quality and stability.
    In order to make customers happier and better understand that even though sometimes it doesn't seem that way, the company is constantly (hopefully that is the case) trying to improve it's product, Apple should make some sort of bug fix/improvement whish-list available for iOS device owners where they can report bugs and suggest improvements and see how they get prioritised.
    There are many iOS related forums where people complain about their issues. As a new iOS user I searched a few times for solutions for problems with my iOS device and found that people are complaining about the same issue for years. In such situations customers can't help feeling that Apple doesn't care about any of their problems. And sending feedback also isn't changing anything.
    I am not suggesting for Apple to expose new features thus giving away their secrets, but a simple list of Top 20 bugs/improvements where iOS device owners can report, suggest, vote and see which issues get enough votes for Apple to address.
    To avoid a huge mess - one device gives a person 1 vote per month.
    To avoid Apple loosing control - they can reject any bug/improvement (though it should be explained why was it rejected).
    This way customers can see which issues are more likely be addressed and whether a particular issue/improvement isn't because of lack of votes and/or explicit rejection by Apple.
  • and in other news...water is wet
  • So Rene (or anyone), I've got 8.2b5 and 8.3 downloaded but haven't installed one yet... which is more stable in your experience so far?
  • 8.1.3 has been the first iOS update I can remember that has hurt my battery life. I have a 6 Plus which, on everything before 8.1.3, could easily go at least 2 days without charging. It would still get through the first day but whereas before I would have 60% or more, I was lucky to have 30% after updating. It was even a drain on my iPad Air 2 as well which has completely different settings. I went back to 8.1.2 after a week and a lot of settings tweaks not working. Anyone else having battery problems with 8.1.3?
  • Thank you! I thought I was the only one! 8.1.3 has KILLED my battery life.
  • After I started having issues with two different devices I thought where there's smoke there's fire but I have heard very little about battery issues with 8.1.3 except for me and you. You can still drop down to 8.1.2. I'm pretty sure it's still signed by Apple for now but won't last long. I've kept the iPad on 8.1.3 because I don't use it far from a charger anyway and I haven't had time to mess with it but I'm about to go on a trip and am leaving my MacBook at home. It's making me nervous.
  • Even though I love getting the upgrades in iOS it's time Apple does work on stability. What good are features if you can't use them? My wife and I sometimes need to use a laptop and unfortunately its Windows OS. Every time we use it it gets slower and slower and crashes more and more. I run the system utilities and other pc maintenance programs and they help but then the next we turn it on its back to needing more done. Also, I promise you if I turn it on there will be updates for Java and Microsoft and others. Several will require rebooting the machine and though you can set the "update later" to leave you alone it keeps bugging you, reminding you, pestering you, hounding you...argh.......... Every time we use it we swear( after first swearing at the laptop) that we are getting a MacBook. The only think stopping us from going to the Apple Store tonight is the Macs Price and our iPads do so much. It's like can't you just bear the frustration for a short hour or two and then go back to your iPads. Stability improvements and the way Apple does most of its upgrading in the background keeps the similar tasks of maintaining it's system less intrusive. The stability of the iOS keeps the product from feeling like it was put together by some kid. iOS 9 needs to be a good thorough look at both the visual and operational parts of the OS. Especially since iOS 8 opened the OS to developers a lot more than before and because iPads and iPhones especially will be interacting as controllers for non Apple devices for your home and personal devices like fitness bands or personal data like your medical information or bank information. Apple needs it idevices and computers to be rock solid and operating correctly so the frustration that you get from other systems are not found. You pay quite a bit more for Apple products with the expectation that the experience of using those products will justify it. For so many years Apple had its walls. Those walls have been lowered so some issues will arise. iOS 9 is Apples chance to prevent the experience of more user control and customization from becoming like Windows.
  • Buy a newer computer... 8.1 hasn't slowed down on me. Hell, my computers haven't slowed down in over two years running 8.X Posted via the iMore App for Android