iOS 7 Compatibility and the App Store Apocalypse!: What it means for us all

UPDATE 6/28/13:It appears that Apple is doing something quite interesting. Apps that are not compiled with the new SDK will not contain the new UI changes. This is an interesting solution to the problems I outline below. Basically, if you do not update your apps, the UI won’t be updated and you won’t have compatibility issues. I suppose that those clever Apple engineers have found a solution for us. Now all this really means is that once the new SDK is out, in order for developers to make a simple patch to their app they will probably need to update their UI to be compatible with ios 7 as well.

UPDATE 10/12/13:Man… Apple has outdone themselves again. They have done us a huge favor and given us a new easy method to move transition into IOS 7. With a new feature Apple has added to the app store, users with OS versions prior to the version that is currently targeted by your most recent version can still download previous versions of your app that are compatible with their OS. What does this mean? It means we can be backwards compatible AND move our apps to use the features that only in iOS 7. This is huge! No longer are the days where we must exclude new features in order to support older iOS versions, or risk losing legacy users… now those legacy users can just download the old version of the app!
Perfect Apple!

Original Posting:

While I am not at liberty to discuss iOS 7 in depth (developer NDA), it is very clear that we are in for some serious compatibility issues when the iOS 7 update hits users this fall.

A year ago as an app developer, when iOS 6 was coming out, I continued along my normal path of “wait until the update is released and hope my apps work.” I was in for a big shock when iOS 6 was released and most of my apps were crashing and exhibiting bugs all over the place. Luckily Apple came to the rescue of myself and other developers who were this stupid. They expedited reviews for apps that were being updated to iOS 6 and the negative impacts were minimalized. I will not make this mistake again and I strongly encourage developers to do the same.

If you are developer who is serious about supporting your apps, heed my warning and watch the WWDC videos from the WWDC App, especially the ‘Whats new in UIKit’ and ‘Whats new in Cocoa Touch’. These videos will give you a general idea of what changes are coming and what you need to do to prepare.

If you are a business manager who hires developers, ensure that your developers are ‘in the know’ and are keeping up to date with WWDC. You should consider allowing them to receive pay during this time since it will likely take up a good portion of their week to watch all of the WWDC sessions that they should. You should keep them motivated to learn about all the new cutting edge stuff that is Apple is putting into their OS so your apps can benefit. If you have hired a freelance group to create your app, ensure that you hire them to maintain it and have them make sure it is ready for iOS 7 before its release.

If you are a user, you need to make sure that your apps are being updated. Contact the developers of any apps that you are reliant on. Consider holding off on the iOS 7 update until you have verified that any important apps are updated and compatible. Don’t become reliant on apps by cruddy developers that don’t maintain their apps.

We, developers will have some challeneges in front of us. Apple is pushing hard to keep us pushing on to their next OS, but a certain group of users who will be reluctant to upgrade may hold us back. That group by name, is the jailbreak community. iOS 6 now has a 92% adoption rate according to Apple, but this rate only came about after it was finally jailbroken. Prior to this there were loads of users refusing to update. If we aim to keep those users around, it means ensuring backwards compatibility with iOS 6. Further, since this update is such a significant over haul, there is sure to be a group of users who will be reluctant to update- simply because they don’t like the new UI. Apple’s goal is to make sure that this new UI is so awesome that these users will be minimal, but we will have to wait and see how the OS is received to really know this for sure.

If you are a jailbreak user, your future is very uncertain. I feel that the changes coming about in iOS 7 are so profound that developers will grant Apple’s wishes and target iOS 7 as their minimal build. This means if you are sitting around waiting for the next jailbreak you may be missing out on app updates and prevented from getting new apps. Further, after the problems we saw finding the vulnerabilities needed to create the iOS 6 jailbreak, I imagine it will take some time before iOS 7 can be jailbroken.

If you are a legacy user, holding on to an old iOS version, like 4 or 5 because you don’t like something about iOS 6, or because you have an old device that doesn’t support the new iOS versions, I believe you will find that your app choices will begin to dwindle. Because supporting iOS 7 will probably require the use of AutoLayout classes ¬†found in iOS 6, I think that most app developers will be setting their minimum supported iOS version to at least 6. Apps that are not updated will probably be subpar apps made by subpar developers who do not care to maintain their apps.

Is this a doomsday scenario??!
I certainly hope that the world will continue post iOS 7 but only time will tell. Until then, I think it is best to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Live it up and download as many apps as you can (especially those by iParty! Mobile) until the App Store Apocalypse in Fall 2013.
Juuuust kidding :) iOS 7 is going to be an amazing update. Be excited for it! Hopefully developers will not be lazy with this one and the transition will go very smoothly.

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