Apple last week rolled out the first beta of iOS 9.3 and delivered a number of interesting enhancements. In fact, with features like Night Shift, TouchID protection for Notes, and a whole array of enhanced 3D Touch functionality, iOS 9.3 arguably represents the most interesting iOS update not to have been unveiled at WWDC.
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Put differently, iOS 9.3 represents something of a departure from Apple’s standard operating procedure. Historically, Apple likes to save its more interesting and compelling iOS features for major numerical updates released every 12 months. The beta release of iOS 9.3, however, may signal that Apple is looking to shake up its iOS release strategy a bit. In what may be a telling sign, Apple went so far as to put up an entirely new webpage touting all of iOS 9.3’s new features. When’s the last time Apple did something like that for an incremental iOS update?
Writing for Macworld, Dan Moren speculates that Apple’s unusual decision to pack substantive features into iOS 9.3 was a strategically purposeful move and perhaps the beginning of an entirely new iOS release strategy. Specifically, Moren articulates that because the iPhone is a mature product, the need to incorporate major new features into annual upgrades is not as necessary as it once was.
In other words, perhaps Apple no longer needs to wait a full 12 months before rolling out interesting new features. Perhaps Apple can better serve its userbase by providing them with minor yet substantive and exciting updates periodically throughout the year. Not only does this keep users engaged, happy and more likely to upgrade, but it’s also a way to ensure users are always running the latest and most secure versions of iOS.
There’s no denying that Apple’s current approach has worked fine so far. I certainly wouldn’t argue that it hasn’t been successful. But the platform and the smartphone market as a whole have both evolved considerably…
So, to me, the goal now seems one of sustainability: keeping the iPhone and its users updated and happy, possibly with a steady stream of smaller updates rather than a single major tentpole release every summer.
Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see if iOS 9.3 represents an anomaly or if it’s a harbinger of things to come.