To cut down on bugs, Apple is changing how it develops its software

Ars Technica:

The initial release windows of both iOS 12 and iOS 13 saw users complaining about a plethora of bugs both major and minor. Apple has plans to mitigate this problem when iOS 14 launches next year, according to sources who spoke with Bloomberg.

People familiar with the shift told the publication that a major factor contributing to iOS 13’s rough launch window was the fact that many Apple developers were making daily or weekly commits of new features at varying levels of readiness and quality, and those features were enabled by default regardless of their readiness. This meant that test builds were often unusable for stretches of time due to one problematic feature or another, which limited the amount of time testers spent with the software.

Under the new methodology, new test builds of Apple’s future operating systems will turn certain features deemed to be buggy or to cause usability issues off by default. Testers will be able to opt-in on a feature-by-feature basis in many cases, reducing the likelihood that they will be working with “unlivable” builds.

Bloomberg’s sources provided some insight about how Apple assesses the reliability and state of its own software features, as well. From the report:

Apple measures and ranks the quality of its software using a scale of 1 to 100 that’s based on what’s known internally as a “white glove” test. Buggy releases might get a score in the low 60s whereas more stable software would be above 80. iOS 13 scored lower on that scale than the more polished iOS 12 that preceded it. Apple teams also assign green, yellow and red color codes to features to indicate their quality during development. A priority scale of 0 through 5, with 0 being a critical issue and 5 being minor, is used to determine the gravity of individual bugs.

The change in approach was directed by Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software engineering, and was announced during an internal meeting. And this would also apply to Apple’s other operating systems such as macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and iPadOS.

People familiar with Apple’s internal operations have said that Apple is also considering postponing some features from iOS 14 to a later update, possibly iOS 15, in order to put the magnifying glass on performance and stability. However, iOS 14 would still likely have as many new features as iOS 13 shipped with.


The report also says that Apple “privately considered” iOS 13.1 to be “the actual public release” and that the company expected only die-hard fans would update to iOS 13 within the short week between its initial release and the iOS 13.1 update. This is a surprising expectation, given that the company often publicly boasts of how quickly its users adopt new software updates compared to competing platforms.

Apple is currently working on iOS 13.3, another major feature release. Bloomberg’s sources suggested that the company has been happier with the stability and quality of its software releases this cycle since iOS 13.2, despite a background multitasking bug that needed to be fixed with a minor update recently.