Apple has always made a big deal about iOS software updates. It is an important point and many take it as the greatest failure of Android. But is that the full story? In a word, no.
Let’s consider the iPhone 4S. It’s the oldest iPhone still supported and Apple has announced that the 4S will receive iOS 9. For a phone released in 2011 to be receiving software updates four years later is impressive. But what Apple fails to make clear, at least in the big announcements, is that you will be getting a highly stripped down version of the new update. iOS 9 on the iPhone 4S is not even close to what the iPhone 6 will receive.
Another problem is that often, older hardware can’t keep up with the latest OS. My iPhone 4 was worse than lousy on iOS 7. Sure, I had the shiny new user interface, but the lag killed the charm of the UI and I sold the phone pretty soon after the update. The iPhone 4S also suffered from some major lag when iOS 8 was first released, which reportedly reduced with newer updates.
Apple has always been about great user experience. But delivering software updates for four years after the release of a phone is only one side of the coin. It’s equally important for the updates to work properly. It’s easy to feel that the “great user experience” is an excuse to push the perentage of adoption of an update up, for the next WWDC.
And sometimes, I wonder if Apple purposely leaves features out to push users into buying a newer model. When Apple first released Siri back in 2011, it was exclusive to the new iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4 didn’t receive it because of some hardware constraints. Except, Siri worked just fine on any jailbroken iPhone 4.
On the other hand, Android devices often don’t have the latest software. However, they still manage to have a lot of the latest software features, because of the way they’re updated. Every minor new feature doesn’t require an OS update, they can be delivered via the Google Play Store instead. Even Gingerbread phones get some of the new software features.
It’s rather confusing, all in all. You probably don’t have the latest iOS version, unless you have the latest and greatest iPhone. Apple, famous for their emphasis on User Experience, need to work out how exactly they deliver the best User Experience.