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The Pitfalls of Automatic Updates in iOS 7

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.

Reader Comments 31

You mean the option to turn auto update off might NOT be in the final release?! Now that really would piss me off, which isn't easy to do.

Please, oh wizards of smart at Apple, don't do something so incredibly stupid. KEEP THE OPTION!

(Yeah, I know no one at Apple is going to read my little insignificant post, but I doubt they would listen to me even if I camped out in front of their headquarters with a megaphone. That would probably just get me arrested)

July 19, 2013  | person_outline ZenLizard

We could all band together and go South Park on them and take a giant catapult to apple hq to fire our naked bodies at the building in a messy expression of protest. Not sure why I added naked to that sentence. Be thankful I didn't also added "oiled"! :)

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Ism

Would be nice if someone made a time machine app and matching PC/mac software that would automatically take a copy of each new app and store it and then store a copy of each update preferably to a different drive to iTunes

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Bianca

I hope they will continue to have an option to turn off auto-updates. Important apps (like many of my music apps) I hold off on updating until I get an all clear. Or at least any known issue is not something that bothers me. The only times I've done an "Update All" is when I accidentally tap it thinking it is a "Back" button. Thanks for posting this. I'll keep it in mind.

July 19, 2013  | person_outline SSquared

Not being able to turn off automatic updates will only result in a big backlash for Apple, from devs and consumers alike. They can't be THAT dumb, can they?

July 19, 2013  | person_outline ChrisG

This could be the slow death of the ipad as a good music app player,maybe 5 yrs from now there will be a device that is cheaper & better.

July 19, 2013  | person_outline andre

Guys... chill. Please. :)

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Sebastian Dittmann

Thanks for the heads up and good article. Discchord has always been important:)

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Faceman

As soon as I read this article, I decided the iPad was useless and smashed it with a hammer, then ran over it with my car, then, for good measure burned it. I also sold my 13,294 shares of Apple stock.

Actually, I'm not the slightest bit concerned, though if I had a choice
I'd prefer to decide when I update apps instead of it happening automatically.

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Zymos

@Tim Webb, thanks for the heads up.

@andre Death of the iPad? Do me a favour. It is in your interest to know your operating system. Many musicians know the score. I'm running Snow leopard on my mac 10.6.8 cos that OS suits me perfectly.

In as much as I think Apple aren't that stupid not to give the on/off option, this could be good for a lot of people. iPad is used for many other stuff not only for music making. My friend has an iPad 2 and he doesn't know or care about app updates. Seriously. He uses iPad for surfing the net playing music, emails and stuff. My other friend who has an iPhone has never updated any app. With these kinds of users no wonder Apple wants to change how updates are done.

This could also see the rise and rise of iOS blogs and websites as developers try to get their information out there. More traffic to Dischord! That can't be bad for guys like Tim :-)

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Medo

I'm on a limited mobile contract , and save large updates above 200Mb until I have access to a home broadband connection .
This also provides a couple of days buffer for any Bad News regarding the update ....one buggy Beatmaker update was replaced within 24 hours ,that would have been 800Mb of wasted mobile bandwidth with automatic downloading ...No thanks !

July 19, 2013  | person_outline sparkle

I update apps on my Ipad 4.But a system update and an app update are 2 different things.I've been waiting for the next system update.Please tell me that the IPhone is the only Apple device worth updating because that's not right.My Ipad is still running ios6.1.3 and I want answers.

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Andy Marks

The death of iPad? That's either being ridiculously over dramatic or it's wishful thinking. I don't know if or when the iPad will die, but I am certain that it will not be caused by the tiny percentage of people, myself included, who would be seriously annoyed if we lost the ability to wait for scuttlebutt before updating our critical apps.

July 19, 2013  | person_outline ZenLizard

Zymos wrote: "As soon as I read this article, I decided the iPad was useless and smashed it with a hammer, then ran over it with my car, then, for good measure burned it. I also sold my 13,294 shares of Apple stock."

Please, if anyone actually decides to do this, for whatever reason, send your iOS devices to to me instead. I will... umn... do it for you! Yes, so you won't have to... Get your hands dirty! (You know you like clean hands). I will do that labor for you because... I LIKE you.

July 19, 2013  | person_outline ZenLizard

iOS users are a little soap opera dramatic sometimes. I can understand, we got a good thing going on right now, don't wish to lose that. Change is not always " the end " though.

Now does anyone have a catapult or should I start nailing something together? ;)

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Ism

Sorry I didn't think of you first ZL. But I have a whole drawer of the things, I can send you a few if you want. I'll just need your bank account info so I can deduct a mere $2.50 cents for shipping, and they'll be on your way real soon now.

July 19, 2013  | person_outline Zymos

when you're on a public wifi network with no ac power and 50% battery left, murphy's law suggests that's when ios7 will decide that it's convenient for your device to download the 1gb update to garageband.

July 19, 2013  | person_outline a1

They can't leave out the option to turn off automatic updates. They just can't. They'd be setting themselves up for big time fail. I've had maybe a half dozen instances where an update undermined what I was doing, and have since become wary of updating an app right away. Unless Apple plans on thoroughly testing each and every update, omitting the option to turn off automatic updates would be a mistake.

July 20, 2013  | person_outline Jesse

I don't know who sends out the orders that a update is available.But when you update apps that have new features.That can cost money and that can be a big problem.I'm getting tired of these apps that say free but if you want a better version you have to pay money.

July 20, 2013  | person_outline Andy Marks

Thank you Tim and Seb for this interesting post.

Apple always tries to make things easier and better for users (which is good) but there can be some negative side effects sometimes.

The issues Seb has raised are valid and I hope word spreads across the mobile music scene and gets back to Apple. We need to be able to turn off the auto update.

July 20, 2013  | person_outline Simon

I hope they put the option to choose in...but if they don't I would suggest disabling WiFi whilst doing anything really crucial..i.e a live gig..or a studio session..although not the most ideal solution it is a workable option, actually it's a good idea anyway to do this live..unless internet connection is part of the performance....because you'll improve device performance..

July 20, 2013  | person_outline thesoundtestroom

Apple I used to dislike them,always on the the side of the PC in Apple V PC arguments,but since IOS I've finally come to realise,although they are one of the biggest tech company's around and they like to limit the way you use their products they actually like their creative users as much as their not so creative users I mean they went out of their way to buy Logic, Audio could you see Microsoft buying Ableton live I don' think so.
I am not worried I think the option to switch off automatic updates will be there, for their creative users so no naked body's outside HQ necessary "Go Apple Go Apple"

July 20, 2013  | person_outline Multitouch

Andy Marks said: '...But when you update apps that have new features. That can cost money and that can be a big problem. I'm getting tired of these apps that say free but if you want a better version you have to pay.'

A stunning post!
But what are you trying to say? That you never had a problem in your life? That these evil no-good developers should pay for your internet costs?

How dare these people expect you to pay if you want to have a better version of an app?

July 20, 2013  | person_outline synthandson

There are no problems. There are only opportunities... for something to royally screw you over.

— a daily affirmation

Sometimes, when I update an app, monkeys fly out of my butt. Perhaps I will see a doctor about that.

— another... uh... daily affirmation... or something.

July 20, 2013  | person_outline ZenLizard

Not worried here either...

Whatever happens in life there will always be loss, hardware breaks, software fails, updates cause problems - it's like the proverbial spilt milk, no use crying!

Look at it this way, if you go surfing and catch that double overhead right at the peak of green and have the ride of your life - would you mourn the end of the wave? Or swim back out and catch the next one?

Life's like that... Enjoy, backup, try to mitigate, but don't worry too much! If you're reliant on it for a live performance pick an iOS version and app suite you're happy with and treat it like hardware you can't upgrade.

July 20, 2013  | person_outline Baddcr

I domt believe this...but if - you may still run in airplane-mode and switch off sharing internet on wlan and bluetooth and choose in another iTunes if you want to update or update a version and also what to sync with any iTunes host as if you want to sync versions or backup in iCloud...!?

July 20, 2013  | person_outline artiger

I feel like I need to come in here and calm this whole thing down. I included the ambiguous language for the situation because I cannot say for certain what Apple will release in the final version. I have no knowledge of what is going to be in the final iOS 7, and Apple isn't quick to share those sorts of details.

Since this went up I've been hearing from some people close to Apple, who see you all panicking, that there is a 0% chance of them removing the ability to turn off automatic updates. That is obviously just a rumor without Apple's confirmation so I don't want to amend the story with that, but I'll share that with you here.

Tim what are you doing????? We are about 3 posts from breaking out the torches and pitch forks here and storming apple hq! :)

I cannot help but think that this topic kind of took all the energy that should have been centred around the ik rep appearing briefly. I do enjoy a good ik rep roasting, despite not really feeling that much malice towards them myself. Just kinda enjoy the chaos. :D

July 20, 2013  | person_outline Ism

The iOS music community could be forgiven for being paranoid.... Barely 2 years into my own iOS music-making experience, and I have one piece of dedicated hardware already obsolete (an Akai SynthStation 25 keyboard - try connecting it to an iPhone 5...) and another on the cusp of obsolescence (an Alesis iO iPad dock which now requires a $35 Lightning to 30-pin Adapter). Many iOS musicians have been very proactive in adopting new app concepts (virtual MIDI, audio streaming, sound file export/import/sharing etc.) which in various ways help inform app development elsewhere in the iOS ecosystem. If developers and early adopters feel like they are being "used", then I can see why iOS7 might cause some concern. So, options for manually managing app back-ups and updates is essential - like someone else said, when you have limited data plans, or slow connectivity, you don't want your device choking on app upgrades.....

July 21, 2013  | person_outline wharf99

Does anyone have a charger I can borrow?

July 21, 2013  | person_outline Steve Jobs

I thought i had better put this here to give people a look at what ios7 could bring to their device as they could go through months of awkward sluggish problems & thats ipad 4,Kymatica put this out on twitter so i would take this seriously as apple will say its fine & it could be bad & you cant go back to ios6

September 17, 2013  | person_outline important info on ios7

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