Stop the Madness: Auto-Updates for iOS 7 Suck

I’ve already shared a few thoughts on iOS 7 and since then I’ve reverted back to iOS 6 for my iPhone 5 since it’s most definitely a beta application and shouldn’t be used on any primary device that you use. Some time later this year I’ll move back as I get ready for the official release of it in the Fall and also to get Pressgram ready for it as well.

Which, by the way, if you haven’t kept tabs on it you really need to – I’m in the final stages of my core development and I’m spending most of July refining it for public release in August. I’m sharing this journey here and is a candid look at building a product from scratch and (perhaps) a business (who knows…?).

But one feature that that iOS 7 is bringing to the table is auto-updates for users for their apps – at first glance this seems like a really good idea but I think it’s the exact opposite. I think it’s a terrible idea.

Disable!

Disable!

Thank goodness you can actually disable it as you can see above.

Why is this a bad idea? A few thoughts:

  • Education – Updates to applications allow developers and companies interface with their passionate users and educate them about the new features that are being pushed out to their favorite apps. It allows them to showcase their hard work as well as allow them to highlight what things they can expect in terms of their user experience, features that they might actually miss if not told explicitly. This is an intimate relationship between the end-user and the company and it’s a beautiful thing.
  • Engagement – Closely aligned with education is the opportunity to again engage with their users providing another touch-point between both entities. But even more so, this is sometimes the only way that some app companies actually communicate with their customers – they don’t have public blogs (they should) or an active Facebook or Twitter account, sometimes because they are so busy developing the actual app. Removing this point of contact for engagement forces significant changes in the entire business-customer lifecycle. What a pain in the ass. Seriously.
  • Trust – What is more of a pain? Not having your apps auto-update or waking up one morning and seeing your entire expected user experience vanish and instead have a new app there instead, one that you may not have wanted. I can think of a dozen examples of how v2.0 of an app sucked in comparison to v1.0. The most poignant example is Skitch, which totally fucked their users over when they released a terrible version version, some of that being the fault of the new acquisition by Evernote (which I hate, btw). The internet responded and demanded a roll-back, or at least the v1.0 package to use. I eventually abandoned it entirely and use Glui instead. WTG Skitch/Evernote.

Those are just a few top-of-mind thoughts. Here are two examples of recent updates to two of my favorite apps, one native desktop and the other via iOS:

acorn

Do you see the size of that update to Acorn 4? Thank goodness I didn’t have auto-update for it so I can not only appreciate all the hard work that Acorn put into this release but also walk through the changelog and see what new features I can enjoy. Nothing but pure win here.

How about this one:

Dropbox Update

Dropbox Update

Dropbox updated to v2.3 last night. Look at these awesome new features, some of which are visually obvious. But, what about the swiping feature? That’s neat… except if I had accidentally swiped and deleted a file by accident if I hadn’t known that this new gesture existed. I would have been majorly pissed off and I could have wasted tons of time trying to figure out how/why I had just deleted a file from my device.

Oh, and that last bullet point is a pure gem – pure and simple customer engagement. Hell yeah I’ll take “magical performance improvements to keep me happy.”

Again, auto-updates suck for everyone. Stop the madness.

  • Matthew Snider

    Even with auto updates on, you can still go into the App Store to see what apps were updated and when. All the info is there, it’s just done without your knowledge. I do agree though with you on that one!

    • http://John.do/ John Saddington

      but that’s too much work i think.

      • Matthew Snider

        For a certain few yes I agree. Most people don’t care about release notes and what got updated, they care to use their app.

        I am on your side though for sure, I hear it.

        • http://John.do/ John Saddington

          but that’s the point. they don’t care until they wake up and find a dramatic change to the app or like in dropbox case above where i accidentally swipe and delete something. now i’m a customer that’s more upset than my level of annoyance with not auto-updating.

          upset customer is worse than annoyed customer because they are lazy.

          :)

          • Matthew Snider

            Agreed!

  • http://www.logan.cc/blog/ Bryan

    Even if you have a blog, the customer may not be visiting it.

    I think the bigger issue is what happens when an app goes from 1.0 to 2.0 and….well wouldn’t you know it, a bunch of functions are now IAP. Sure, they were free before, but the developer totally “enhanced them”. Your data isn’t being held for ransom, I swear. It’s just that it uses this great new workflow.

    Would Apple’s approval process catch this?

    • http://John.do/ John Saddington

      you would think. there are enough stories of apps “passing” through all the time and then being pulled.

      • http://www.tech4all.fr/ tech4all

        iobit malware fighter 2.0 serial key – 100% working

  • http://mstrick.com/ Matthew Strickland

    Disagree with the premise that it sucks for everyone.

    Just like any new tool, it needs time to mature and the ecosystem will adapt. What I will be doing for my apps and I imagine other developers will do as well is add a “What’s new” screen to present to the user when they first launch a new version of the application.

    Because apps will now update in the background, users will now more than ever need to be informed of changes (breaking or not) since they are less likely to see the update notes from the App Store.

    • http://mstrick.com/ Matthew Strickland

      Speaking of terrible features, how about the Disqus edit profile feature that hides the save changes button on each screen.

      • http://jorgesilvestrini.com/ Jorge Silvestrini

        This is so true… First time I couldn’t get why my changes where not happening. I got so upset only to find out I needed to press: Save Changes.

    • http://jorgesilvestrini.com/ Jorge Silvestrini

      Matthew – get your point on the What’s new screen. Clever as well… But I think John has a stronger point: what if I don’t want your newest version of the app because the version I have fits EXACTLY what I paid for and what I want to do with the app…

      • http://mstrick.com/ Matthew Strickland

        And for users who want that level of detail you can turn the feature off.

        One thing we are not talking about is how much upgrading your iOS apps really helps the team building the app focus on going forward instead of maintaining older dependencies.

        • http://jorgesilvestrini.com/ Jorge Silvestrini

          I see how we could debate each side of the argument… GOOD!

  • http://josuemolina.com/ J.Molina

    The day an iOS update fixes a broken screen rather than make it slower will be awesome.

    Broke my screen two days ago. No swipe for me. :(

    • http://John.do/ John Saddington

      ah, that’s sad.

  • James

    I disagree. I am your average user and I find myself constantly updating Apps and its extremely annoying. I can’t wait for this feature. I will definitely be turning it on and leaving it on. In the nearly 6 years that I have used iOS Apps, I never once regretted updating an App to a newer version. I think most casual users feel the same. And 99% of Apple users are casual users, not brainiac techies you. :-P I’m afraid you’re in the minority here, my friend.

    • http://John.do/ John Saddington

      which wouldn’t bother me one bit. ;)