Apple's surprise OS update leaves app developers scrambling

Alex Hern
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: How Hwee Young/EPA</span>
Photograph: How Hwee Young/EPA

Apple devices received a surprise update as the company released the latest version of its operating systems for iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs and Watches with just one day notice.

But while the new updates bring a wealth of new features for free, some independent developers are warning that the short notice has left them frantically rushing to update their own apps to work with the new systems.

With the Wednesday release date announced by surprise during the company’s press event on Tuesday, the updates – iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14 and watchOS 7 – hit users’ devices at the same time that the final beta version, known as the “gold master”, was made available to developers.

Many of the new features included in the updates have been eagerly awaited. On iPhones and iPads, users have finally been given the ability to change their default web browser and email client, while Apple Watches have gained cycling directions in a few cities in the US and China, as well as sleep tracking and hand washing alerts.

Apple also launched its own secure translation feature, which it hopes will provide a more privacy-focused alternative to Google Translate for users who are not comfortable with the search giant having access to their queries.

But the surprise launch means that some of those features are causing trouble for developers, who assumed they would have a week or two more to finalise their updates. Many popular email applications and web browsers, for instance, can not yet be set as default.

Even those developers who had managed to finish their updates early found problems in pushing their changes to users. The App Store only accepted updates made using the latest version of Apple’s coding tools from 10pm UK time on Wednesday night, leaving little time for the apps to then go through Apple’s own review process.

“This is a whole lot of unnecessary stress on developers in an otherwise stressful year,” wrote Steve Troughton-Smith, an independent Apple developer. Some developers were even recommending users wait a week or so, in case a regularly-used app has an unexpected bug on the new operating system.

For those users who do decide to update to iOS 14 immediately, though, there are a lot of welcome rewards. The company has borrowed many usability enhancements from the Android operating system, including an “app library”, to keep homescreens clean and tidy, as well as widgets that let users display things like the weather, calendar events and to-do lists on the screen.

Eventually, users may have to upgrade to access other products and services. The “app clips” feature, introduced in iOS 14, allows people to access some functions of an app that may be needed to access a service, without downloading the full app. It’s intended to be used for services such as scooter rentals, allowing people to quickly and easily sign up for an account and hop on a rented vehicle.