Apple will take a page out of Google’s software update playbook with iOS and iPadOS: separate security and OS updates.
The Cupertino, California-based tech company confirmed the change to how it handles updates on the iOS 15 preview page. Under the ‘Settings’ section, the preview page notes that users will be able to choose between updating to iOS 15 when it arrives this fall or sticking with iOS 14. While customers have always had a choice to upgrade or not, this time Apple says it will deliver “important security updates” to iOS 14 until users are ready to update to iOS 15:
“iOS now offers a choice between two software update versions in the Settings app. You can update to the latest version of iOS 15 as soon as it’s released for the latest features and most complete set of security updates. Or continue on iOS 14 and still get important security updates until you’re ready to upgrade to the next major version.”
A similar message appears on the iPadOS 15 preview page. It’s a significant change that means people wary of breaking something by updating can stick with the older and likely more stable software until they’re ready to update without missing out on any security updates. In the past, people who opted to stay on older versions of iOS were left vulnerable thanks to possibly unpatched security flaws.
While the change is nice, it remains to be seen if Apple uses it to push out security updates at a faster pace. Google adopted a two-tier approach to software updates on Android years ago mostly because of fragmentation. By splitting OS upgrades and security updates, Google and Android manufacturers could get critical security patches to users faster.
Now, Google rolls out monthly security patches. While not every Android phone gets a monthly security update — some manufacturers will bundle several months together and deliver them all at once — it generally allows Android users to get critical updates quickly.
Hopefully Apple offers more regular security updates and improves the iOS update experience too
It’d be great to see Apple adopt a similar strategy with rapid security patches alongside slower feature upgrades. At the same time, I hope Apple takes time to improve the update experience on iOS. Most Android updates are fairly simple thanks to ‘seamless updates,’ a feature that stores two copies of Android on a device — ‘A’ and ‘B’ partitions.
Android will run on the A partition and, when an update is available, download and apply it to the B partition. Then, users just reboot the phone. When it starts back up, it loads the updated B partition, which becomes the new primary partition. Not only does this speed things up, but it offers a fallback if something goes wrong after an update.
Plus, it makes updates less interruptive, unlike on iOS where you have to download the update and restart the phone and wait while it applies the changes.