Today marks the launch of most of Apple’s major annual updates to its operating systems—excepting macOS Big Sur. iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 are rolling out to users across the globe and throughout the day today (and tomorrow, in some regions).
The timing is unusual this time around. Normally, Apple launches OS updates several days after its September product-announcement livestream, typically timed closely with the release of new iPhones. But with no iPhones announced this week, Apple instead pushed these updates only one day after the event and one day before the new Apple Watch and eighth-generation iPad are expected to end up in users’ hands.
iOS 14 brings major new features to the home screen and app management experience for the iPhone, with support for the home screen widgets that were introduced in iPadOS last year and a new App Library view that allows for easier managing of all installed apps on one panel. Along with that comes systemwide picture-in-picture support for videos—another feature that has made its way from iPadOS—and a number of significant improvements to Messages, Maps, and other applications, as well as a new live translation app.
watchOS 7 renames the Workouts app to “Fitness” and doubles down on new strength-training features, among other things. The OS also adds a feature that helps users make sure they are washing their hands correctly and for an adequate amount of time. Perhaps most importantly, watchOS 7 brings sleep tracking—a major feature available in many competing fitness wearables but not the Apple Watch.
iPadOS 14 expands the widgets feature compared to last year’s release, and it features a number of small design optimizations throughout the operating system. And tvOS 14 expands Home functionality and multi-user support and adds picture-in-picture support.
The rapid launch that frustrated developers
The immediate timing of the releases might seem like a positive for consumers who were clamoring for new features, but it’s been highly disruptive to developers. These major annual OS releases often require developers to make changes to their apps, either to comply with new requirements or to support features added to the OS or newly launched devices. Developers have had access to beta releases that have been introducing these features and making tweaks for a few months—eight beta releases, to be precise.
But final testing and preparation for submission typically happens when the golden master update is seeded to developers. The golden master is intended to be an almost-exact-match with the final public release of the operating system, specifically for this purpose of testing and submission.
Amidst the chaos, Apple published a note to its developer portal yesterday imploring developers to “Make sure your apps are ready when iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 become available to customers worldwide.” That note came with no acknowledgement that, for many, that would be nigh impossible given the timeframe.
For that reason, users should expect to see more issues with third-party apps in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 at launch, and they should expect some updates related to the new release to come several days later than usual this year.
As always, we are working on a review of the new release—expect to see our review of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 late next week.