Longtime iOS developer Sebastian Dittmann, who helped bring us SoundPrism and Audiobus, had some things on his chest. I invited him to write an OpEd to let off some steam! He's got a good one here, with an important warning to all iOS musicians about the upcoming changes to app updates in iOS 7.
The Pitfalls of Automatic Updates in iOS 7
By Sebastian Dittmann
This is a public service announcement for iOS musicians and developers of music apps:
Back up your apps! Do it now, please.
My friend Michael Tyson has written a very good article about how to do this and if you’re following what’s going on in the iOS music scene you might have already read that blog post but it is going to become even more important with the advent of iOS 7.
Why, you ask?
iOS 7 by default is going to update your applications automatically. That’s right. No more red badge on your App Store app. No more ‘update all’. iOS 7 is going to figure out on its own when it’s convenient for your device to download a new version of whichever app just got updated and install the new version for you.
I can't comment on if this option can be switched on or off since I’m bound by a non-disclosure agreement until the public release of iOS 7.
[Editor's Note: I'm not bound by the NDA, so I can say that there is an option to turn it off in the current beta version of iOS 7. Read on for why you'll definitely want that option in the final version! - Tim Webb]
While this might be great for the average user it’s actually a bit scary for developers and iOS musicians.
As we know new versions of an app might introduce new features and in rare cases even changes to the interface. While this is to be expected it can be harmful to musicians who use iOS music in a live setting and did not turn off automatic updates.
In a live gig you may discover that your buttons have changed in an automatically updated app. A button which used to switch the bass to a higher octave, instead is now changing the attack on your lead synth.
I am not even going to elaborate on the possibility of a new version of an app introducing a bug which had slipped through quality control.
Furthermore developers lose a way to communicate with users through update messages.
Developers will have to implement new ways of notifying users of what’s new once they open up an app that has just been updated. The update message will have to be done in a non-annoying way, which might even rule out pop-ups.
Should it be done with notifications? Hard to say, especially since many musicians might only chuckle and press ‘No’ after being asked by their drum machine app if it is allowed to send them important updates about new features. Which, to be honest, is a shame.
So where does that leave us? It seems like backups are going to be even more important in the future and certain new features in iOS 7 should most likely be disabled by musicians. Developers will have to spend more time on figuring out how to communicate that new features have been added to an app. They will have to find out an appropriate way and moment to confront users with that information even though most users will just want to get into using the app right away.
One thing seems certain: blogs like discchord are going to gain even more importance as a channel of communication between developers and users once an update goes live.
I think the moral of the story is that discchord is important and will be even more important in the future. Just to be safe though, let's hope that Apple let's us turn off automatic updates in the final version of iOS 7.