iOS 9 Off to a Rousing Start

November 5th, 2015

Last year, the critics were wondering why so few were switching from iOS 7 to iOS 8. The theory went that the number of visible changes were fewer, and thus people were less inclined to update, and don’t forget the infamous 8.0.1 update that bricked some new iPhones.

It didn’t help that Apple made the upgrade storage requirements too high for people with space-challenged gear. That meant that many who might have upgraded early on, found it difficult or impossible to do so.

At the end of the day, you would find it easier installing via iTunes on a Mac or a PC, since the storage requirements were less. Apple also slimmed the update over time. By September of this year, before iOS arrived, the iOS 8 adoption rate had grown to between 85-90%, depending on the source, not very far behind its predecessor. That pretty much ended speculation that the upgrade was fatally flawed.

Indeed, one of the biggest changes in iOS 9, other than the promise of greater stability, is a much tinier upgrade archive. This helps reduce the upgrade failures, and there’s less need to do it on a Mac or a PC.

All told, it resulted in Apple reporting a migration rate of over 50% less than a week after its September release. This figure was way above that reported by third-party metrics systems, such as Mixpanel Trends, and resulted in some level of skepticism. Apple’s numbers were based on visitors to the App Store, and loads of apps were updated to support the new features in iOS 9 during the first few weeks. I suppose that could have skewed the numbers some, but things have more or less equalized since then.

In any case, less than two months since its release, Apple reports the iOS 9 migration rate has reached 66%. It’s over 70% at Mixpanel Trends, and that’s the usual spread between Apple and the third-party stats. This speedy adoption curve, partly due to apparent high sales of the new iPhones, is all the more impressive due to the fact that the number of improvements is lower than has been the case in recent years. Some of that is attributed to Apple’s clear intent to focus more on minor enhancements and performance improvements above gee-whiz features that may require a few revisions to work properly.

Apple has also been pretty fast in issuing updates to iOS 9 to fix problems and add a handful of features. So 9.0.1 and 9.0.2 arrived a week apart starting in September. Two weeks ago, Apple issued a 9.1 update that had additional bug fixes, tweaks for Live Photos, and a bunch of new emoji icons. I suppose the latter has appeal for some of you.

Regardless, all these fixes have clearly chipped away at the remaining bugs in iOS 9. It doesn’t mean all the problems are gone, but it’s commendable that Apple continues to work on the issues. More to the point, members of Apple’s Public Beta program continue to get software seeds.

Indeed, an iOS 9.2 is already under construction, and both developers and Public Beta testers are able to download copies. While Apple rarely announces what’s going to be fixed in one of these updates, testers report that the key fixes impact the Safari View Controller, problems with iCloud Keychain, Apple Watch syncing, audio quality and AT&T’s NumberSync and Wi-Fi calling features. I suppose this version will be the one that ships with the iPad Pro when it arrives, and that’s rumored to happen as early as next week, though Apple hasn’t confirmed it.

Regardless, it does appear that Apple is moving fast to make iOS 9 as reliable as possible. When I looked over the list of bugs, it appears most have already been addressed. The lists haven’t been updated much in recent days either, which augers well for its long-term success.

Contrast that with the early buzz on OS X El Capitan, which arrived at the end of September. While you can’t always accept App Store ratings as more than a rough indication of a product’s reception, it’s telling that the score is less than 2.5 stars. That’s somewhat worse than OS X Yosemite at this stage, and indicates that Apple may have plenty of work on its hands to fix the bugs.

I rummaged through the reviews and encountered some reports of installation problems, or the inability to reboot after an apparently successful installation. While the circumstances appeared to differ, quite often installation glitches are the result of existing problems on the Mac, rather than anything Apple did with the installer. Without accounting for any of those problem reports, I can tell you that I did experience the beta process and never had it fail to install on recent iMacs. I’ve not as yet attempted to upgrade to El Capitan on my 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro. The major reason is inertia. I don’t use it as much as I used to, so I just haven’t bothered.

Meantime, Apple is working on an El Capitan 10.11.2 updater, so perhaps some of the glitches reported at the App Store will be addressed. I’m still encountering occasional freezes in Mail. It hangs for a bit, but things resolve themselves after 30 seconds or so. That problem has existed through every version of El Capitan that I’ve installed.

But that will take us to another article.

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