Welcome to our weekly collection of all the Apple news you missed this week, in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
iOS 16 and the dangers of feature creep
Lots of fun speculation this week about iOS 16, the major iPhone software update set to be unveiled at WWDC in a few weeks. The latest report says iOS 16 will feature “major changes across the system” and “fresh Apple apps,” while here at Macworld we think Apple itself may have just spilled a bunch of details on iOS 16.
All of this is exciting to write and read about, and we’re as interested as anyone to see what Apple has come up with. (Keep up with the latest developments with our iOS 16 superguide.) But it’s hard to escape the feeling that Apple is just adding features for the sake of having something to talk about. When was the last time a new iOS feature actually enhanced your life? I bet it’s harder to remember than the last time you tried a new feature and thought, “That cool,” and then never used it again.
Take those “fresh” apps, for instance. (We’re assuming that this means new Apple apps, rather than refreshed versions of existing ones, which would be a bit anticlimactic.) That sounds good, right? Who doesn’t want brand new apps on their iPhone?
Well, let’s think about the new apps we’ve got in recent iOS updates. We got Files in iOS 11 (sporadically useful but hasn’t lived up to its potential), Measure in iOS 12 (haven’t used it in years), and Translate in iOS 14 (far worse than Google Translate). Was it worth adding those new apps, or would the time have been better spent ironing out bugs, optimizing performance, and reducing the burden on the hardware so battery life improves?
Translate is a particularly interesting case study, because it’s a great example of iOS, for no clear reason, swallowing up a function that a third party already does extremely well. If a user wants great real-time translation they can download Google Translate. Why does that function need to be added to iOS? For that matter, why do half of the functions in iOS need to be there?
Somewhere along the line Apple–although I suspect it isn’t alone in this–forgot what an operating system is for. It’s the framework that the rest of the software works around. It’s supposed to do the basics and keep out of the way. And if you start baking in features that would be better served by optional standalone apps created by specialists, you increase the size of the download and waste the time of your in-house software team. And annoy your put-upon developer partners, presumably.
Apple’s relationship with app developers has been distinctly rocky for years now, with devs angry about high fees, heavy-handed rules, and what some see as monopolistic behavior. It’s time to make amends. And the company could start by making WWDC actually about developers and what they can offer to users, rather than trying to do everything itself.
WWDC is only three weeks away! Apple will reveal its latest iPhone operating system, but will it have the features that you want? We talk about iOS 16 features on your wish list in this episode of the Macworld Podcast.
And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy your weekend, and stay Appley!