Each September, Apple releases a new version of iOS to a chorus of cheers from the average user, and a series of frustrated blog posts by the more technically-inclined. Every crash, sync failure, or edge case is held aloft as evidence of Apple's slow decline into irrelevancy. Jokes reference Marco Arment's (since-retracted) post on the increase in weird bugs in Apple's software. Screenshots abound of weird behavior. Sarcastic tweets are retweeted, quote tweeted, debated, and debunked. Flame wars spread across the internet, as people either argue that Apple and its products are in a decline akin to the Roman Empire after the sack of Rome or vehemently deny there's a problem like Neville Chamberlain in 1938.
Those who argue that there are far more shipped bugs in Apple's (or anyone else's) software aren't wrong. It's an inevitable result of the tremendous increases in what is possible on iOS over the past decade. 10 years ago, iPhone OS 1.1 had just arrived, bringing with it the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. Today, we're awaiting the launch of iOS 10.1, which will let the iPhone use a 3D map of the world to simulate the effect of a much bigger lens. With increased software complexity comes an increased potential for bugs, and makes each user's experience more unique. With no two people using their phone in exactly the same way, Apple's now building an OS for one billion different edge cases. It's inevitable that each one of that billion users will hit some untested, undocumented behavior that just doesn't work right.
It's not Apple's fault that iOS has gotten this elaborate, it's that we wanted it to be. From the very early days, we — the tech-y users, the developers, the fanboys — wanted more. Even features like copy and paste were added at the behest of users, leading slowly, inexorably to the intricacy found in iOS 10. Add to this the pressure caused by the millions of non-tech-obsessed folks who use iOS devices as their only computer, and it's a recipe not for disaster, but for imperfection. This isn't necessarily a problem, even, as iOS has become a full-fledged computing platform in its own right, with all the great and terrible things that label implies. So remember, the next time some widget acts wonky, or a notification behaves oddly — we asked for this.