On September 17, 2014, Apple released iOS 8 for existing iPhones and iPads. This software was in beta from June 2014 until its’ release. Although from a user interface perspective, this was a small update, from an architecture perspective, iOS 8 added many new features under the hood. Unfortunately, after using the the release version of the software for nearly a week, it looks like Apple may have released the software before it was actually ready. Overall I am happy with some of the new features, but I cannot help but think that iOS 8 needed at least 2-4 weeks of additional refinement before being released.
The biggest problem that I see was that developers were not able to release versions of their software that took advantage of new iOS 8 features, until iOS 8 was released to the general public. This meant that although a beta of iOS 8 had been available to other developers since June, features like Health Kit integration, notification center widgets, iCloud Drive, and extensions could not be enabled for apps released to the App store until iOS was released on September 17, 2014. Although developers had a method to enlist beta users to test their apps, limited beta test cannot reveal problems as much as a public beta can. The result was that even major developers like DropBox did not have a functioning app available initially, and they had to release multiple fixes within several days of the release of iOS 8.
From my perspective, it appears that Apple knew that it wanted to release new iPhones on a certain day (September 19, 2014), and although the software was not quite ready, it was decided that the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus was too important, so unfinished software was released to the general public.
Within hours of iOS 8 being released, Apple disabled all Health Kit functionality. App developers that had prepared new versions of their software taking advantage of Health Kit were forced to remove their apps, and return to prior functionality. Apple Pay cannot yet be used to make purchases with the new phones, and there has been no mention of Home kit by Apple or any of the partners that were supposed to be able to offer better home automation integration using iOS 8 devices.
I love having Swiftkey and Swype keyboards installed on my iPhone and iPad, but I have found that both keyboards frequently stop functioning. Although there is no mention of a need for a cellular connection or WiFi to use the third-party keyboards, there seems to be an issue when there is not a reliable connection. Even when there is a reliable connection, I frequently find that both Swiftkey and Swype keyboards disappear and I am switched back to the native iOS keyboard without the ability to even manually switch back to Swiftkey or Swype. I also have had multiple occasions when I should have a keyboard available, like when doing a spotlight search or drafting a text message, where I have no keyboard available at all (I simply have a blank screen staring back at me).
With extensions, again my experience has been hit or miss. For example, PDF Converter adds a handy extension to convert photos, webpages, or certain documents to a PDF, but it works some times and other times does absolutely nothing. There also is no way to know exactly which App is an extension and which one is simply an “Open In” option when you are looking at the “Open In” dialog box. Since extensions do something on top of your current app without necessarily making you leave the app you are in, and Open In sends your current document to another app and leaves the app you are using, this is an important area that needs improvement.
Apple’s introduction of iCloud Drive also made no sense. Although users are prompted to update to iCloud Drive when installing iOS 8, it breaks compatibility with iOS 7 devices and applications, and is not compatible with Mac OS X currently. If you don’t update to iCloud Drive, you are unable to use some of Apple’s apps (like Pages and Keynote), and if you do update, some of your third party applications may or may not function properly. Once you update, there is no going back, so if you find an application that currently doesn’t work, you are just out of luck. Although this was promised as a centralized file system all your apps have access to, developers must enable the support, and even after they do, my experience has been that not all apps are seeing all documents saved to iCloud drive.
For some reason, Apple also decided that the Camera roll no longer should be used, and completely changed the Photos App. In the Photos App, you used to have an option in albums called “Camera Roll”. In iOS 8, you no longer have Camera Roll, but instead have something called “Recently Added”. However there is nothing to let you know what “Recently Added” means. From what I can tell, it only includes photos that have been taken within the last 30 days. To see older photos, you have switch over the “Photos” button within the Photos app. The problem with the “Photos” section is that it only allows you to view your photos in “Moments” view. This means that you do not have the option just to see the grid of all your photos any longer. If you are going to change this, why not include “All Photos” in the “Album” section?
Additionally, I have found many quirks that simply make no sense. The Camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus has simply froze on several occasions without allowing me to take a picture. To fix this problem, I have had to force close my Camera app. Actionable notifications are not well thought out. If you have your notifications setup as pop-ups (as I always have done in the past for text messages, phone calls, and voice mail messages so that I don’t miss the notification), if you are in the middle of replying to a text message (using the actionable notification feature), and another notification comes in, your text message reply is lost and you must manually enter the Messages app and restart your reply.
Even as I was preparing this article, I had Dropbox crash on my iPad twice, and my keyboard stop working once. Now my guess is that some of these problems are related to the third party apps as opposed to Apple, other things like Health Kit, Home Kit, iCloud Drive, Photos and the text message reply issue are definitely problems with Apple’s software.
For me, I am a software user that likes to live on the edge, so these problems have not caused me to stop using iOS 8, but I am also the same person that has been using iOS 8 since beta 1. For the every day lawyer using this software in practice, these could be major issues.
To be generous to Apple, the initial release of iOS 8 can only be described as a mess. At best this software in its current form should only be considered a late beta, and not even a release candidate. This is a major blunder for Apple, and I am surprised that it has not resulted in more user complaints. This shows me that Apple has to restructure its beta releases better, and should have actually allowed developers to begin to release apps with iOS 8 functionality before it came out of beta. This would have allowed both the developers and Apple to have fixed problems before the software was made available to all users. Apple should have also released the current version of iOS 8 as a public beta, and allowed anyone willing to freely test the software before releasing the finished version.
My recommendation right now is that the legal community stay away from iOS 8 for the time being. It appears that several of iOS 8’s current issues will be resolved once Apple releases the next version of Mac OS X, which is expected next month. Problems with iCloud Drive and third party apps should also improve with App updates in the intervening period. If you are a new purchaser of an iPhone, you have no choice but to use iOS 8. In that situation, please report your problems to both Apple and developers so that fixes can be issued. I see a lot of potential in iOS 8, and I cannot wait until a stable version is finally available.