A report from Bloomberg has revealed that Apple plans to overhaul the way it tests software, in the wake of an iOS 13 release plagued by bugs and stability issues.
According to the report, people familiar with the matter claim that Craig Federighi announced the changes at a recent internal ‘kickoff’ meeting with the company’s software developers.
The new system will reportedly revolve around development teams ensuring that test versions of iOS future updates (known as “daily builds”) automatically disable unfinished or buggy features. Testers will then be able to selectively enable those features via a new internal process named Flags, a settings menu that allows them to isolate each bug and its impact on the functionality of the software.
The new development process will help early internal iOS version to be more usable, or “livable”, in Apple parlance. Prior to iOS 14’s development, some teams would add features every day that weren’t fully tested, while other teams would contribute changes weekly. “Daily builds were like a recipe with lots of cooks adding ingredients”, a person with knowledge of the process said.
Apparently, the test software got “so crammed with changes” at different stages of readiness that devices became difficult to use. This meant some testers would go days without a livable build, and wouldn’t know what was and wasn’t working. Not being able to test how the operating system was reacting to many new features is what lead to iOS 13’s problems. In fact, according to the report, iOS 13.0 was so buggy, that developers essentially abandoned it to work on fixing iOS 13.1, Apple expected only die-hard Apple fans would take the plunge and risk uploading to iOS 13.0.
Apple plans to apply this new approach to iOS, as well as iPadOS, watchOS, macOS and tvOS also. There is also reference to iOS 14, codenamed “Azul”. Bloomberg reports that this is set to debut next year. Some planned features may be delayed until 2021 and Azul+1, more likely iOS 15. Regardless, people familiar with the plans claimed that iOS 14 would rival iOS 13 “in the breadth of its new capabilities.” Hopefully, it will not rival iOS 13 for ‘number of bugs likely to render mobile software unusable’.
For some of our own thoughts on iOS 13, check out Rene Ritchie’s breakdown of why iOS 13 didn’t meet expectations, and ideas on how else Apple could remedy the problem.