Apple’s annual software the upgrade this spring will provide users with many new features: allowing a single set of apps to run on iPhone, iPad and Mac, a digital health tool to show parents how long their kids have been looking at their screens, and improvements to “animojis”, those cartoon characters controlled by the facial recognition sensor of the iPhone X.

But just as important this year will be what Apple doesn’t introduce: redesigned home screens for iPhone, iPad, and CarPlay, and a revamped Photos app that can suggest which images to display.

Those features were delayed after Apple concluded that it needed its own major upgrade in the way the company develops and introduces new products. Instead of keeping engineers on a relentless annual schedule and bundling features into a single update, Apple will start focusing on the next two years of updates to its iPhone and iPad operating system, people say. familiar with change. The company will continue to update its software every year, but in-house engineers will have more leeway to push features that aren’t as polished until the following year.

Software chief Craig Federighi presented the new strategy to his army of engineers last month, according to a person familiar with the discussion. His team will have more time to work on new features and focus on improvements under the hood without being tied to a list of new features every year, just so the company can boast a huge year-over-year leap. ‘other, people familiar with the situation say. The renewed focus on quality is designed to ensure that the company can deliver on the promises made every summer at the annual developer conference and that new features perform reliably and as advertised.

“This change is that Apple is starting to realize that schedules are not being met, that things are published with bugs – which would never have happened before,” when Apple was a small business with less. engineers, customers and devices to manage, says a familiar person. with the company. Apple declined to comment.

The change is an admission of what many customers have already noticed: Some Apple software has become prone to bugs and underdeveloped functionality. Over the past few months, users have complained about out-of-order text messages appearing, iPhone X recording incoming phone calls late, and frequent app crashes.

Apple also recently released features later than expected, as the rush to meet the annual deadline overloaded engineers and created last-minute delays. For example, last year’s iOS version didn’t initially include previously touted features that would allow consumers to send money through iMessage or sync full-text message history between Apple devices.

More time

The decision to formalize the process and give engineers more time to perfect the software is a major cultural change. For years, the company has channeled its energies into swift, dazzling upgrades that are designed to wow devotees and make rivals look slow.

The strategy has paid off as feature-rich upgrades keep customers connected to Apple’s ecosystem and encourage them to make more use of the company’s lucrative services. More than 90% of Apple customers use one of the last two major iOS updates, compared to 30% of Android users who downloaded the last two versions of Google’s mobile operating system, according to data from two companies.

But feature-rich upgrades place huge demands on Apple’s beleaguered engineers. At Google, teams update apps on their own schedule and aren’t tied to the annual version of Android. At Apple, all of the new features tie in with a big southern hemisphere spring release, when Apple rolls out its hottest new software, and a more modest update in the spring. Individual apps are not updated on their own and everything is governed by the release schedule.

In the previous system, someone familiar with Apple said, “inevitably some things will be late because you underestimated how long it would take. Some things have to be cut, some things have to be rushed. It is the result of having thousands of people working the same schedule.

The first test of the new development strategy will take place in the spring, when Apple launches the next software upgrade for iPhone and iPad. Internal code name “Peace”, it will probably be called iOS 12.

The biggest noise change: Allowing a single third-party app to run on iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers. The upgrade will be included in the upcoming macOS 10.14 (known internally as “Liberty”) and may involve bringing some of Apple’s own iPhone apps to the Mac, including Home, which controls smart devices.

Apple’s popular animojis will get new characters and an easier-to-navigate menu. Animated emojis will also be coming to the iPad; the company is working on a new model that will have the required Face ID camera. Apple plans to integrate animojis into FaceTime, allowing people to put virtual faces on themselves during video calls. (Technology to integrate multi-person conferencing with FaceTime video calls is under study, but may not be ready for this year.)

Also in the works for this year: a redesigned version of Apple’s inventory tracking app and an updated version of Do Not Disturb that will give users more options to automatically reject phone calls or turn off notifications. Apple is also working to integrate Siri more deeply into iPhone’s search view, redesign the interface used to import photos into an iPad on the go, and allow multiple people to play augmented reality games at once. .

Consumers will have to wait until 2019 for major software upgrades focused on the iPad. Among them: a feature that will make it possible to run multiple windows in a single app and click between them just like tabs in a web browser (the Mac got this feature a few years ago) and a related improvement that allows two screens of the same application running side by side. Other updates that have been pushed back include new features for the Apple Pencil and a toggle in the messaging app that will turn off notifications from specific threads.

In the past, “Apple’s smaller scale has helped it create better quality software than the rest of the market,” says Steven Troughton-Smith, a seasoned application developer. “But with his new size he has apparently been unable to find the right balance.”

Finding a new balance between speed and quality will be tricky. On the one hand, spreading feature updates over a longer period could hurt Apple’s competitiveness in the hotly contested smartphone market. On the flip side, sticking to what Troughton-Smith calls a “ruthlessly ambitious” upgrade cycle risks rushing features before they’re ready and undermining the company’s much touted reputation for quality. Apple. – Reported by Mark Gurman, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP


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