iOS 9 and Conspiracy Theories

September 23rd, 2015

So is Apple deliberately promoting false stats on the iOS 9 adoption rate? That’s a claim being suggested by some as the result of the fact that the figures at the App Store, showing 52% as of September 19th, aren’t being matched by third party web metrics surveys. One article quoted, for example, Mixpanel Trends as reporting something in the mid-20s, but when I checked before writing the article, it was closer to 43%.

But that’s still 9% below Apple’s numbers? So what’s going on here?

Well, Apple is measuring accesses to the App Store by activated iOS gear. If an iPhone or an iPad isn’t accessing the Apple store to download a new app or update an existing one, it won’t be counted. I would expect that older gear might not be counted as accurately because there are no system updates, and fewer apps are updated. But it’s not as if Apple is going to be specific about all the factors governing these numbers, or how they are weighted. So let’s leave it at that.

Dedicated metrics companies will probably measure which browser and OS is used when accessing a site used in their survey, and then, using whatever weight factors they’ve devised, will draw conclusions about how many are using a given operating system.

Obviously such surveys are not perfect, so results will vary from one source to another. Apple’s numbers fell behind Mixpanel Trends for iOS 8 adoption. So is there a reason why the reverse is true with iOS 9? Well, at the outset, I would expect a greater number of upgrades if only because the process isn’t quite as annoying as iOS 8. There, if you didn’t have over four gigabytes of free space on your device, you were forced to switch to iTunes on your Mac or PC to have it done. You might even have to remove some apps, or just go without. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t explain the alternative when the OS first came out, so you’d expect lower numbers.

But with free space requirements of less than a third of its predecessor, it’s a lot easier to upgrade to iOS 9. That it supports the same hardware as the previous version, plus the brand new models, ought to make for a higher migration rate. I see no reason to suggest that Apple is fudging the numbers. But even the Mixpanel Trends figures are nothing to be embarrassed about. Besides, Apple’s numbers aren’t strictly for bragging rights. They are designed to notify developers about the potential user base of a specific iOS version, That may influence whether or not older versions should be supported, and when it’s the right time to invest in building apps with the latest features.

So much for the upgrade pace.

Now as far as the user experiences are concerned, there have been the usual version-zero bugs. The most serious involved the inability to navigate through the setup assistant after upgrading. That problem required a full restore to fix, but on Wednesday Apple released a 9.0.1 update to address the issue. The other bug fixes are less serious.

Unfortunately Apple annoyingly provides sparse information about updates, but consider this phrase in the release notes, that the “update contains big fixes” that include four items. But is there anything else?

Well, there have been reports of frequent app crashing. After installing iOS 9, I encountered problems with two apps. The first, Washington Post “Classic,” was fixed simply by removing and reinstalling. The second involved an Internet benchmark app, Speedmark X, and reinstalling didn’t help. But updating to 9.0.1 did. I’m curious to see if others report similar results.

The MacRumors discussion boards contain a few reports of a curious number of app updates after running 9.0.1, as if updaters installed over the previous week had to be redone. In my case, I found seven, but I wouldn’t presume to guess there’s any connection. Maybe these were just newer versions of these apps, and it’s not that you can necessarily take a few posts as an indication of anything more than a handful of user experiences, unless a wider trend shows itself.

At least this update isn’t as treacherous as the infamous 8.0.1 in 2014, which bricked recent iPhones. Although Apple withdrew it within an hour or so, that didn’t stop the critics from pouncing on the company. Yes, the problem was annoying, but it could be fixed by restoring the affected device. Apple also released the fixed version, 8.0.1, the very next day, but the impression conveyed by the media was something far worse, of a far longer duration. Forgotten were all those very flawed Windows updates over the years, if you want to use a comparison.

In other developments, Apple has reportedly released a second 9.1 beta for developers, which contains more elaborate changes. A public beta will probably arrive soon, since Apple has been keeping the two release cycles fairly close. Whether the iOS releases will move right to 9.1, or there will be a 9.0.2 with more fixer-uppers, is anyone’s guess at this point.

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One Response to “iOS 9 and Conspiracy Theories”

  1. dfs says:

    Let’s see exactly how absurd this claim is. In the first place, if you operate a web site evidently you can monitor what devices and what operating systems your visitors are using. The MacRumors site occasionally uses this technology to generate reports on secret stuff still under development at Cupertino, but presumably they see the whole picture. If the numbers reported by Apple significantly differ from their own observations, they (or some similar site in the computer press) would eventually latch on and squawk.

    In the second place, the only conceivable motive Apple (or at least some individuals within the company) would have for exaggerating the popularity of iOS 9 would be to manipulate the value of AAPL shares. One would think this might not play very well with the SEC, which could regard it as not entirely unlike kiting the numbers in a quarterly earnings report and become vengeful. I’m no lawyer and have no idea whether this kind of deliberate misreporting could be construed as a criminal act, but this might not be out of the question.

    And what reason would somebody owning AAPL shares have for doing this? Deliberately misreporting such numbers in the hope of bumping up share values sounds like the kind of dumb desperation move a corporate executive might make if he thought he was on a sinking ship. But AAPL is a stellar performer, so I can’t imagine that Apple or anybody within Apple would think this particular game would be worth the candle.

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