Everyone is naturally excited about the new-shiny-thing that is iOS 7, but there have been some dire warnings from all over the web. Even some of the Apple faithful are calling for readers to avoid iOS 7.0.0 and to wait for 7.0.1 or 7.0.2. Many of you are using your iDevices as your primary production environments, but iOS has conditioned us to just hit the Update All button or even update the whole OS over-the-air. For most users it hasn't been a problem, but this can be quite reckless if you are a content creator.
Developers have had a chance to play with iOS 7 for a while now, so I spoke with them to get their take on the update now that the NDA has lifted.
Prominent Audiobus developer Sebastian Dittmann, has been critical of the new UI in iOS 7 since it was first released to developers. In talking with him he also mentioned how fundamental changes to iOS 7, relating to the UI, will impact apps not prepared for it.
"We've had to fix some bugs with regards to how some button taps are detected, because iOS 7 does something differently. So obviously there are changes in the core OS. If applications haven't been updated for months, chances are they might have issues in iOS 7. If you're only using apps that have been updated in last few days, you should be fine."
DJ Player developer Gábor Szántó was also alarmed by the scope of changes in the UI. He shared some insights into the troubles faced by music app developers with all new versions of iOS, and 7 in particular.
"Every time Apple releases a major iOS version, the developer forums
are full with audio related problems, as Apple actively develops the
audio components and bugs happen.
There is another problem, not audio related but affects almost every
app: the user interface handling is also changed, and not just
graphically/aesthetically, but on the "programming side" as well.
This step is quite big, larger than before.
They introduced larger than usual changes in the API, some of them
need developers to re-think established concepts. For example it
was ordinary to do certain things differently when a new major version
comes out. This time there are so many it's not about
writing different code, but a need to re-think how things should work.
Add these two factors together (UI + audio), and now you see that
audio app developers need to take quality time with the new system."
Jonatan Liljedahl from Kymatica shared this concern about the amount of changes introduced in iOS 7.
"There's so many changes in iOS7, and many apps will break, crash, or just look
weird. Also, there are still bugs in iOS 7.0. Sure, inter-app audio will be cool, but only when we have enough hosts (and nodes) to actually use it."
Fortunately iOS 7 updates for popular music apps have been pouring in, but not everything has received this attention. Even major apps like Animoog have not had patches to specifically address iOS 7.
Many developers have been approaching iOS 7 with caution, such as One Red Dog's Peter Johnson. Peter is keeping all of his already developed apps on the previous versions of XCode, Apple's development environment, that they were originally designed for. This keeps him from being able to use new features in iOS 7, but in Peter's experience it also dramatically cuts down on the random bugs.
"My golden rule: don't develop on betas unless there is a feature of iOS 7 that you really must have. Stick to what is working, update gradually. Some features like inter-app audio might be really sexy, but if it breaks your shit, don't go there.
And if you're relying on your iPad for live gigs to get paid real money by DJ'ing or performing - don't fucking update your live rig just because it looks sexy and new. Lock down app versions and iOS versions and stick to what works."
Other bugs are simply intrinsic to the nature of any major OS release, as Jonatan mentioned earlier. There is often very little developers can do about bugs in the OS itself. Echo Pad developer Christopher Rice wrote in with an iOS 7 bug that will impact many music app fans. This has been confirmed by others I spoke with.
"I found a bug with iOS 7 that affects a lot of music apps, including Echo Pad, Audiobus and pretty much all apps that process live audio input. Apps that do not process live audio such as iElectribe and Figure do not appear to be affected by the bug.
With iOS 7, if the user has headphones plugged into their device and they receive an audio interruption like a phone call, alarm clock or other interruption that shuts down audio, the apps cannot recover their audio session. Some apps will crash, some will just hang, and some will give an error message.
There is no known workaround at the moment, so when this happens the apps must be completely terminated and re-launched in order to work again. Note that in most cases simply closing and re-opening the apps is not enough, you need to remove them from the multitask bar and relaunch the apps.
I will say this is probably the buggiest initial release I've seen from Apple, at least on the iPad. I just don't think it's quite as bad as some users expect.
I actually like iOS 7, and once the bugs are ironed out I think overall CPU performance will be comparable to iOS 6 on most devices."
Secret Base Design's Patrick Madden shares this optimism with a heavy dose of reality, specifically with regards to Audiobus.
"I've been using the iOS 7 beta, and have seen some things that are strange. Sometimes things don't start on the first try -- restarting Audiobus sometimes fixes problems. Sometimes not. There might be some special sauce in which order apps get launched, that we have not figured out yet.
My suspicion is that there are memory issues -- maybe things take more space, or take up space differently, causing some things to break. The under-the-hood changes to Audiobus are probably fairly substantial, and they're splicing on to a new audio infrastructure in iOS 7 -- realistically, I'd be stunned there were no problems.
So -- in terms of advice for users:
- Hold off on updating to iOS 7, if you need to have everything work. There will be people who are willing to experiment -- let them take the risk, and figure out what is working, and what's broken.
- If you update, don't freak out if something breaks. The developers are going to try to fix it as soon as they can.
- Keep in mind that the developers are doing their best, with a rather tricky moving target. There are the changes to iOS (multiple beta versions, some of them really badly broken), updates to the underlying audio system on iOS, changes to the Audiobus app, and changes to the Audiobus app SDK. And about 300 apps that work on Audiobus.
This last point is something I really would like to emphasize. It's astounding how much actually works -- and it's because a lot of developers have been very careful in what they do, and are making a big effort to have things work. I'm sure some stuff will break, and it may be something that a developer has no way of predicting, or preventing. The last thing any of us needs is someone flipping out, and taking a huge dump in the iTunes review for an app."
There is no rush to update, so don't. I'm sure Apple will have most of these issues sorted in the next couple of point releases, over the coming weeks and months. So why take the risk? There is even less reason to update at all now that Apple allows users to download previously compatible versions of apps.
With all that said, the very next thing I'm doing with my day is updating my phone to iOS 7, because I'm a guinea pig. My iPads, my primary music creation devices, are going to stay on 6; at least until there is a jailbreak for iOS 7.x.x. As I've learned from previous iOS updates: By the time the hackers have had their way with it, Apple is typically done with all the major bug fixing and the apps have all been patched. If after all this you still update, at least turn automatic updates off.
Update: If all of these developers weren't enough for you to think twice, Native Instruments just said pretty much the same thing.
Due to the extent and severity of the errors mentioned above, we are advising Native Instruments product users to postpone upgrading their devices to iOS 7 until the issues are resolved. This is extremely important as a device can NOT be downgraded to iOS 6 after upgrading to iOS 7. Native Instruments and Apple are working together to find solutions to these problems as soon as possible. Further announcements will be made as soon as the issues are resolved.