WWDC 2018: Is iOS 12 the fix that iPhone and iPad users are yearning for?

Apple has turned iOS from a sleek, streamlined, easy-to-use operating system into a ghastly horror show. Will iOS 12 be the turning point?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Regular readers are probably getting tired of my rants about how iOS went from being a sleek, streamlined, easy-to-use operating system into the mess that we see today. But some seem to be holding out hope that Apple has finally taken this fact on board and will work to make things better in the upcoming iOS 12 release.

I'm not holding my breath.

See also: What would Steve Jobs think of today's Apple?

So, what's wrong with iOS? Well, here's a quick overview of what I see as having gone wrong:

  • Performance: I would go as far as to say that iOS performance is at its worst. The fact that there are frame drops and stuttering present on brand new hardware is a massive FAIL.
  • Stability: iOS stability isn't the worst I've seen it, but for a premium product that now ships on devices costing more than a thousand dollars, that's not really a glowing recommendation.
  • Bugginess: The number of ways that Apple has dropped the ball on this front in the past few months is just unbelievable.
  • Usability: I remember when Apple cared about usability. As Apple added more and more to iOS, usability rapidly deteriorated.

As the development cycle of iOS 11 comes to a close, we are now getting ready for the unveiling of iOS 12 at WWDC next month. So can Apple turn things around?

After going through countless iOS public beta builds, in great detail, I've lost faith that Apple knows the way forward. iOS now feels like Windows did back in that transitory period between Windows 7 and Windows 10. You can see changes being made, but they feel arbitrary and rather haphazard.

Also: How to watch the Apple WWDC 2018 keynote online

Apple has over the years added countless new features to the core iOS platform that debuted back in 2007 (back then iOS was called iPhone OS), some based on users demanding more (most famously, cut, copy, and paste), others to keep up with Android, and many to push Apple's own agenda forward (think Health app and Apple Music).

A big problem facing Apple is that Microsoft's task of fixing Windows never seemed as huge as the one facing Apple today with iOS. While the Windows user interface went through a bad patch, Window never suffered from the horrendous performance, stability, and bugginess issues that iOS is having (and remember, Apple has total control over the iOS hardware ecosystem, so there's very little excuse for performance and stability issues, but still they plague the platform).

So why do I have so little faith in Apple's ability to fix iOS?

Seven things Apple needs to fix in iOS 12 (but probably won't)

The first reason is that Apple is nowadays continually pushing back products and features -- such as how AirPlay 2 and Messages in iCloud got dropped from iOS 11.3 and are now in the beta for iOS 11.4 -- and this suggests that the company is struggling to keep up with the aggressive cycle of new products and updates. New features sell, while fixing bugs and stability issues don't (well, at the very least, it doesn't give Apple a bullet point it can put on the box). But shoehorning new features into a platform is the perfect recipe for ending up with a mess.

What iOS needs is a radical overhaul, but radical operating system overhauls are unpopular and also take a huge chunk of resources, and it's clear that over the past decade Apple has shied away from gutting the platform and building a new one around the features people are using in 2018.

So we're stuck with an OS with one foot in 2007, and another in 2018.

I want to believe that at some point Apple will have to give iOS a big revamp, but then I look at the other software that Apple peddles in -- such as macOS or iTunes -- and then I realize that Apple is the king of making incremental tweaks while blindly ignoring the fact that the overall platform has become garbage.

So iOS 12 is likely to just bring more of the same.

However, if Apple is serious about making iOS 12 better, then we should start seeing the fruits of that labor soon. iOS 12 betas will start landing early June following WWDC 2018, and I'm going to be keeping a close eye on things.

And it's going to be a cold, critical eye.

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