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Ambitious iOS 18 update should make up for modest iPhone 16 hardware upgrades

Published Nov 13th, 2023 10:17AM EST
iPhone 15 Screen and USB-C port.
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Apple’s senior management described iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 as “ambitious and compelling,” according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. This should be an exciting claim to any longtime iPhone and iPad user, especially considering the current landscape. Everyone in tech focuses on generative AI like ChatGPT, and Apple is no different. I wrote recently that I will upgrade to the most expensive iPhone 16 if that’s how I can get access to the Apple GPT features coming to iOS 18.

Apparently, Apple is aiming very high with its iOS 18 upgrade, if a new report is accurate. iOS 18 will feature “major new features and designs,” on top of security and performance improvements. iOS 18 has to deliver big upgrades next year, the report says, to make up for the iPhone 16’s hardware, which won’t feature any major changes.

After claiming that Apple had stopped iOS 18 development recently to deal with the increasing number of bugs in the early version of the iPhone software, Gurman detailed Apple’s iOS 18 progress in his newest Power On newsletter.

Late last month, Craig Federighi reportedly decided to freeze iOS 18 development to address bugs and improve performance. Apple hit pause after reaching a key milestone in iOS 18 and macOS 15 development.

Apple completed the first internal versions of the upcoming releases, which include the biggest new features. It’s unclear if these features include generative AI features. But Apple decided to stop development in favor of fixing the glitches:

When Apple gets to that stage, known as M1, it usually embarks on work for the next milestone, M2. In this case, the debugging break delayed the start of M2 development by a week.

The report says Apple’s iOS 18, macOS 15, and watchOS 11 are more critical than usual. Apple is reportedly racing to catch up with OpenAI and Google, as iOS 18 will bring generative AI to the iPhone. Maybe that’s why the pause is warranted. Fixing critical bugs early in such a high-stakes operating system might be a key priority for Apple.

An app folder on iPhone containing AI apps, including the Google Bard Safari shortcut.
An app folder on iPhone containing AI apps, including the Google Bard Safari shortcut. Image source: Zach Epstein, BGR

The report says Apple goes through about four milestones with the new software releases, before unveiling them at WWDC in June. Each milestone lasts six weeks. Four are reserved for adding features, and the following two weeks will be dedicated to fixing bugs. Apple essentially added one week of bug squashing to the last period.

The delay should not impact the overall rollout of iOS 18. “At worst, it will give Apple a little less time at the end of the development cycle to eliminate any last-minute glitches,” the report says.

I’ll point out that iOS 17 wasn’t a perfect release. Apple didn’t bring out any major features, but it improved the overall experience. The company is still fixing iOS 17 bugs, however.

Gurman reports that Apple is “taking quality as seriously as ever” with iOS 18. The delay echoes a 2019 policy that Federighi implemented; The Pact: “We will never knowingly allow regressions in the build. And when we find them, we will fix them quickly.”

In theory, Apple should stop development if bugs from a new iOS feature impact the iPhone experience. The rumored break in development indicates that either Apple is doing that, or that it hasn’t adhered to its own policies.

If iOS 18 is indeed going to offer such a groundbreaking upgrade, Apple should be more motivated than ever to ensure the new features “just work” right out of the gate.

On that note, I’m already excited to try the first iOS 18 beta when it comes out next June. I skipped the iOS 17 beta this year, but if the next version comes with generative AI Siri features from the get-go, I’ll want to try those out as soon as possible.

As always with these reports, nothing is official. And Apple isn’t likely to ever comment on internal issues, such as stopping iOS 18 development to fix bugs. But it’ll surely be interesting to see what iOS 18 feels like in the first beta release. Fewer bugs and a great first experience might indirectly confirm Apple’s renewed focus on fixing errors before they impact customers.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.