Apple has two upgrade cycles. Hardware and software. With the exception of iPhone and Watch, the hardware upgrade cycle seems to be a mixed bag. Nobody but Apple knows when to expect new Macs or iPad or other accessories. They get here when they get here.
Software is a different issue; specifically iOS and macOS. Those show up on a timely, annual schedule, usually the same month each year. Here’s the way it works.
Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s conference is held late each spring. This is where Apple introduces what’s coming in future iOS and macOS versions (as well as watchOS and tvOS). Sometimes hardware presented, but this is a developer’s conference so software is the key.
Apple then delivers a developer beta version of each new OS so developers can begin testing their applications and adding new features. In essence, Apple is tipping its hand so developers can ready their wares for the new operating system’s introduction, usually later in the summer. That gives developers three to four months to upgrade their applications to get ready for the latest new hardware; mostly iPhone, and in recent years, Watch.
During the beta phase Apple makes continual improvements to each OS version, and then opens the beta program up to anyone willing to sign up and upgrade a device with the latest and greatest. From the moment of the first beta until the last, each update finds and squashes various software bugs, and developers do much the same with their applications.
This period of seeming turmoil has been going on for years and may be the best way to ease a new operating system version into mainstream. This is one of Apple’s most important phases each year. By the time a new iOS version rolls out, nearly 90-percent of all iOS devices are running the version launched a year ago. That means an iPhone that is four years old does more than when it was new as iOS version usually can be installed on devices four to five model years old.
That means customers get security updates as needed, as well as bug fixes along the way.
This OS upgrade routine also means many of us are reluctant guinea pigs for new software. Despite the lengthy beta period, new versions go through similar bug fixes. For example, this year iOS 11 was launched ahead of iPhone X. Very quickly that upgrade was followed up with iOS 11.0.1, 11.0.2, the a larger upgrade to 11.1, then 11.1, 11.1.2, and now, as of today, we’re at 11.2. Chances are good we’ll see a few more such updates between now and next year’s WWDC.
This is tried and true methodology but it also leaves a period of time– usually after new iPhones are introduced in late summer– where the upgrade and update process is more frequent and more nasty bugs are prevalent. Other than improving Apple’s own internal quality control mechanism– which seems to have suffered recently– there may not be a better way. That means customers are part of the beta process even which iOS and macOS (and watchOS and tvOS) versions come out of developer beta and public beta. Bugs are bugs and need to be fixed.
This upgrade cycle contrasts sharply with what goes on in the Android OS world where hardware is seldom upgraded to new versions, and many devices receive only scant security updates. Bugs not withstanding, if smartphone and online security is an important issue for you, buying a cheap Android-based phone isn’t the answer. Many new Android models do not ship with the latest Android OS and may never be upgraded to a new version.