One app tester is advising users to think twice about updating their iPhones to use the new latest and greatest iPhone operating system, iOS 7. The new operating system may crash users’ favorite apps, at least until these apps are rewritten and updated to be supported by the new version of iOS.

Apple has sometimes blundered (think Apple Maps), but the problem with the latest iOS release is not really a mistake on Apple’s part. Instead, it points out one of the fundamental challenges of technology progress: How do designers introduce more advanced technology and still make it work hand in hand with existing older technology?

“Misunderstanding and Frustration”

As Julie Bort reports at Business Insider, via Slate, app testing firm uTest, a specialist in crowdsourced testing of smartphone apps, is warning iPhone users to be wary of upgrading their devices to the new iOS 7 operating system.

According to Matt Johnston of uTest, its customers are reporting that “90% of iOS apps tested for [the] first time are having trouble.” Johnston goes on to note that apps are running into problems in about twice as many areas as is typical for a new operating system. Moreover, app developers are having to go through three or four tries before fixing their apps so that they work when running on iOS 7.

These problems are not just minor glitches, but include outright crashing apps or mis-sized fonts that cut off text, making the app effectively non-usable.

The Good News Is the Bad News

The irony? The app problems confirm that iOS 7 is not a mere tweak to iOS, but exactly what Apple promised it would be: a major technology upgrade to its mobile operating system. The immediate problem is that many app developers did not take Apple at its word. Says Johnston of a couple of major developers he talked to, “they said they didn’t think it will [be] that big a deal.”

One leading complication is that iOS 7 uses the “swipe-up” functionality for its new Command Center. Which means that apps that relied on swipe-up will have to find some other gesture action to take its place.

The broader challenge is characteristic of nearly all technology upgrades. Few new technologies operate in isolation. Most of them must interface with older, existing technology.

This is particularly true of computer software, and it has bedeviled programmers from the dawn of the computer era. Users want new operating systems to be “backward compatible” with their existing applications. Which can limit the full use of newer, more powerful technology.

The good news for iPhone users? The app problem should be largely resolved in a few weeks. Until then, some users may want to hold off on upgrading to iOS 7.

Image courtesy of Flickr




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