Clockwork Updates

For a while now I’ve been collecting and publishing the iOS version adoption in my Audiobooks apps. Since the introduction of over-the-air updates in iOS 5 the rate of adoption by the general population has become extremely consistent. It seems as though Apple has the process of migrating the majority of their users to the latest OS within a few days down to a science.

I was curious how consistent adoption was over different releases so I took a look at the three most recent broad OS updates: 6.1.0, 6.1.2 & 6.1.3 (I didn’t consider 6.1.1 and 6.1.4 because they are only targeted to a single device). Plotting the adoption rate of these OS versions resulted in a rather stunning graph.

It looks like an OS update can now expect roughly 50% adoption within a week, followed by a gradual but solid growth thereafter. The consistency of this pattern appears remarkably stable.

While an interesting data point to consider on its own I think this is most significant in what it means for next week’s WWDC/iOS 7 announcements. It is widely rumored that Apple has significant overhauls planned for iOS both visually and functionally. If true, this could put developers in an awkward position where supporting older iOS versions will be particularly difficult.

Most previous major OS updates contained changes that were largely additive and served to expand what an application could do. However, iOS 7 may change the user experience so dramatically that having the same code work usefully in both contexts could become a daunting challenge. It is reassuring that adoption across compatible devices will likely be quick enough to make it feasible to go iOS 7 only. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Apple encouraged this by pushing all their own apps to iOS 7 the day it is released.

If you are curious what the full adoption curves look like for the year-to-date. Here is the full chart.

David Smith