Apple Delays Work on Next Year’s iPhone, Mac Software to Fix Bugs
Apple has hit pause on development of next year’s software updates for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and other devices so that it could root out glitches in the code.
In a rare move, Apple Inc. hit pause on development of next year's software updates for the iPhone, iPad, Mac and other devices so that it could root out glitches in the code.
The delay, announced internally to employees last week, was meant to help maintain quality control after a proliferation of bugs in early versions, according to people with knowledge of the decision. Rather than adding new features, company engineers were tasked with fixing the flaws and improving the performance of the software, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.
A spokeswoman for the Cupertino, California-based company declined to comment.
Apple's software — famous for its clean interfaces, easy-to-use controls and focus on privacy — is one of its biggest selling points. That makes quality control imperative. But the company has to balance a desire to add new features with making sure its operating systems run as smoothly as possible.
In recent years, Apple has put more emphasis on quality — even when it's meant delaying new capabilities. In 2018, software engineering chief Craig Federighi pushed back several unreleased iPhone features until the following year amid concerns that the software was too buggy.
In 2019, he overhauled the way Apple develops software in a further attempt to stave off problems. Under the approach, each feature has to be enabled manually — via a process dubbed “feature flags” — allowing employee testers to isolate the impact on the overall system before adding it.
That year, he also adopted what is known within Apple as “The Pact.” The agreement calls for employees to never knowingly allow “regressions” — when software that once worked stops functioning correctly — and quickly fix mistakes. Federighi's policies have helped: Apple software releases have been less buggy in recent years, and fewer features had to be delayed.
But the latest round of development hasn't gone as smoothly. When looking at new operating systems due for release next year, the software engineering management team found too many “escapes” — an industry term for bugs missed during internal testing. So the division took the unusual step of halting all new feature development for one week to work on fixing the bugs.
With thousands of different Apple employees working on a range of operating systems and devices — that need to work together seamlessly — it's easy for glitches to crop up. “It's a problem of 10,000 people typing code and completely breaking the operating system,” one person familiar with the situation said.
Last month, the company completed the first version of its next iPhone, iPad and Mac operating systems. That iteration is known as M1 since it's the first major milestone. The iPhone and iPad software, which will become iOS 18 and iPadOS 18, is dubbed “Crystal” internally. The Mac software, macOS 15, is called “Glow.”
Apple delayed the start of work on the second milestone release, known as M2. The halt also applied to the next Apple Watch operating system — watchOS 11, which is dubbed “Moonstone” — as well as an update to the current iOS 17 called iOS 17.4. That software, used by the iPhone and iPad, is expected to be released around next March.
The move also affected future versions of visionOS, the software for Apple's Vision Pro headset, which is due early next year. At this point, though, the development delays are unlikely to postpone the actual consumer releases. Apple is lifting the pause this week.
Apple typically launches its major software overhauls each September, after previewing them to developers and consumers at its June conference. For next year, the company is planning to focus on integrating generative AI into its products.