Don't rely on automatic iOS updates unless you like getting left behind

Don’t rely on automatic iOS updates unless you like getting left behind


iOS 14.4 debuted to the general public on Tuesday.
Automatic updates are designed to drop late.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

iPhone and iPad users should manually install the latest iOS and iPadOS updates if they want to get their hands on Apple’s newest features and improvements as quickly as possible, according to one Cupertino chief.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, confirmed that automatic software updates don’t drop until one to four weeks after the company makes them available to manual updaters.

Automatic iOS updates don’t come quickly

Apple first added support for automatic software updates in iOS 12 way back in 2018. However, many iPhone and iPad users who activated the feature notice that they usually end up waiting to get the latest releases.

That’s not a bug, according to Federighi. Apple designed automatic updates to install later — weeks after a new release makes its official debut — after the company has “received feedback on the update.”

Manual software updates are a lot faster

Here’s what Federighi said in an email to one Reddit user, who asked why automatic iOS and iPadOS updates are always delayed:

We incrementally rollout new iOS updates by first making them available for those that explicitly seek them out in Settings, and then 1-4 weeks later (after we’ve received feedback on the update) ramp up to rolling out to devices with auto-update enabled.

Federighi’s reply suggests — particularly the bit about waiting for feedback — that Apple postpones automatic updates to ensure that there are no major bugs in its latest releases before issuing them to the masses.

That makes sense. But other factors likely play a part in this strategy, too.

Apple probably couldn’t cope

As another Reddit user notes, Apple’s servers likely couldn’t cope with the demand if every single iOS device (there are more than a billion) “immediately start[ed] hammering the sh*t out of [them]” to get the update as soon as it’s available.

A staged rollout avoids that problem. It also ensures a faster, more reliable experience for those who really want a software update as soon as it becomes available.


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