Why iOS 7's auto-updating apps aren't always great

One feature of iOS 7 that had me quite excited was its ability to automatically download app updates in the background. Both iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks have a simple setting that lets your computer or mobile device automatically grab updates while on Wi-Fi, saving you both taps and time.

But now I’m considering turning off the feature altogether. Why? Because I’ve been burned too many times lately by bunk updates that render apps completely unusable.

Take for example iTeleport, an iPhone and iPad app I use to connect to my computers when I’m not in front of them. The most recent update, which was supposed to add a new layout and hardware keyboard support for iOS 7 instead offered only a black screen when connecting to a computer while my iPad was in landscape orientation. Had I not had auto-updating turned on and read the reviews on version 6.1.7 before updating, I’d have held out for a fix.

And then this morning my wife called to say her PayByPhone Parking app, which was supposed to have added support for users in Switzerland and provide, “minor look and feel updates” instead messed with her country settings and then refused to let her log in when she needed to pay for parking. Those problems eventually resolved themselves—more a hiccup than a mess-up—but not the kind of thing you want to deal with when rushing to a dentist appointment after dropping the kids off at school.

There are plenty of other buggy app updates that crop up as well.

Now I’ll freely admit that even before auto-update came into play, I’d generally just tap Update All when I noticed new versions of my apps. But for apps I rely on, I’ve always been a bit more wary. After all, Apple only vets apps and updates to make sure they’re following the rules, and doesn’t perform any quality assurance. It is practical to check the reviews for every app update that comes down the pike? Probably not. But auto updating removes even the most basic level of user control, which may be enough reason to turn it off. Fool me once and all that.

Whichever way you decide to go, remember that you can visit Settings > iTunes & App Store and look in the Automatic Downloads section to control how each iOS device handles app updates.

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  • iOS 7

    iOS 7 sports a revolutionary new design, under-the-hood features like Control Center and card-based multitasking, and app updates.

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