Apple's Craig Federighi Explains Why iOS Auto-Updates Often Arrive Several Weeks Late

When it comes to downloading iOS software updates, Apple users can be reasonably divided into two camps: Those who manually seek out updates the moment Apple releases them, and those who are happy to let their device's Automatic Updates feature take care of everything in the background with minimal input on their part.
auto updates

While it's generally acknowledged that manually tapping into Settings -> General -> Software Update is the faster option, Apple has never really explained why auto-updates tend to come through to users sometimes days or even weeks later – until now.

Interested iPhone user Mateusz Buda put this question in an email to Craig Federighi, Apple's senior VP of software engineering. In the email, Buda explained that he had turned on auto-updates, and yet after two weeks since the public release of iOS 15.4 he still hadn't received an update notification. "What conditions must be met for this function to work?" Buda asked. To his surprise, Federighi responded and was happy to explain.

Hi Mateusz,

We incrementally rollout new iOS updates by first making them available for those that explicitly seek them out in Settings, and then 1-4 weeks later (after we've received feedback on the update) ramp up to rolling out devices with auto-update enabled.

Hope that helps!

- craig

Given the number of iPhones and iPads in the world, it's not hugely surprising to hear that Apple's software update strategy proceeds in a staged rollout. By implementing an intentional delay of between 1-4 weeks for users with auto-updates turned on, Apple adds a level of protection for its servers so they aren't easily overloaded when a new version of iOS is released.

Still, it's interesting to learn that Apple also considers its auto-update feature to be a safeguard when things go wrong: If early adopters report serious bugs with the software, Apple still has a window of opportunity to resolve any server-side issues or pull the update entirely before the wider user base has automatically downloaded it.

In a somewhat related point, made by several Redditors, Apple hasn't explained why some app auto-updates are also sometimes very late to be delivered to users, but perhaps the reasoning is the same: Server protection and an ability to action feedback before a wider rollout is complete.

Top Rated Comments

idmean Avatar
27 months ago

So in other words let the Guinea pig early adopters beta test the rollout “release” before Apple pushed it to the broader ecosystem. Forget iOS, Why is Monterey seemingly so buggy ??
These comments are so boringly predictable.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
27 months ago
I thought this was about "App" updates which has never worked for me either
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chucker23n1 Avatar
27 months ago

Still, it's interesting to learn that Apple also considers its auto-update feature to be a safeguard when things go wrong: If early adopters report serious bugs with the software, Apple still has a window of opportunity to resolve any server-side issues or pull the update entirely before the wider user base has automatically downloaded it.
This isn't very unusual or surprising. In fact, third-party developers can opt in to a similar staggered app release feature. ('https://www.idownloadblog.com/2019/03/21/apple-macos-app-updates-phased-releases/')


a new Phased Release for Automatic Updates feature allows a developer to set their app update to reach one percent of users on day one, increasing from there according to the following schedule:

Day 1—One percent
Day 2—Two percent
Day 3—Five percent
Day 4—Ten percent
Day 5—Twenty percent
Day 6—Fifty percent
Day 7—Hundred percent
This way, developers get several days to see the impact of the update (and, if push comes to shove, pull it): do more crash reports come in? Is aggregate CPU or battery use up? Is more bandwidth being used on their servers? Etc.

For Apple's OS releases, it's basically:

[LIST=1]
* have the thousands of engineers at Apple test it internally
* roll it out to the ~1M third-party developers as a developer beta
* roll it out to AppleSeed (I imagine that's similarly sized)
* roll it out to the ~10M public beta testers
* roll it out, staggered, to the ~1B people of the general public

At any step of the way, they can pull an update. For example, a lot of developer betas never make it to public beta.


So in other words let the Guinea pig early adopters beta test the rollout “release” before Apple pushed it to the broader ecosystem. Forget iOS, Why is Monterey seemingly so buggy ??
I mean, if you want to look at it like that, yes. Early adopters are more likely to face serious bugs than late adopters. That… really isn't shocking, though. You don't have to be an early adopter if you don't want to.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jprmercado Avatar
27 months ago
Interesting. I’d have thought that people who turn on automatic updates are the ones who would want the updates to be applied as soon as possible.

I turn off automatic updates because I want to be able to decide when I want to update, especially for major releases. [I typically update right away for minor releases, though.]

But the phased rollout does make sense from a capacity management and quality control standpoint.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MedRed Avatar
27 months ago

So in other words let the Guinea pig early adopters beta test the rollout “release” before Apple pushed it to the broader ecosystem. Forget iOS, Why is Monterey seemingly so buggy ??
No. You realize that there's the whole beta program that the "guinea pig early adopters" beta test new releases well before the final release update is rolled out to the masses...right?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
senttoschool Avatar
27 months ago
This makes perfect sense. You can test as much as you want, but for a piece of software as complicated as iOS, real world users will still find bugs. If it's a breaking bug, at least you haven't pushed it to most people yet.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

maxresdefault

Apple Announces 'Let Loose' Event on May 7 Amid Rumors of New iPads

Tuesday April 23, 2024 7:11 am PDT by
Apple has announced it will be holding a special event on Tuesday, May 7 at 7 a.m. Pacific Time (10 a.m. Eastern Time), with a live stream to be available on Apple.com and on YouTube as usual. The event invitation has a tagline of "Let Loose" and shows an artistic render of an Apple Pencil, suggesting that iPads will be a focus of the event. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more ...
iPhone 15 Pro FineWoven

Apple Reportedly Stops Production of FineWoven Accessories

Sunday April 21, 2024 6:03 am PDT by
Apple has stopped production of FineWoven accessories, according to the Apple leaker and prototype collector known as "Kosutami." In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Kosutami explained that Apple has stopped production of FineWoven accessories due to its poor durability. The company may move to another non-leather material for its premium accessories in the future. Kosutami has revealed...
Apple Vision Pro Dual Loop Band Orange Feature 2

Apple Cuts Vision Pro Shipments as Demand Falls 'Sharply Beyond Expectations'

Tuesday April 23, 2024 9:44 am PDT by
Apple has dropped the number of Vision Pro units that it plans to ship in 2024, going from an expected 700 to 800k units to just 400k to 450k units, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Orders have been scaled back before the Vision Pro has launched in markets outside of the United States, which Kuo says is a sign that demand in the U.S. has "fallen sharply beyond expectations." As a...
iOS 17 All New Features Thumb

iOS 17.5 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Sunday April 21, 2024 3:00 am PDT by
The upcoming iOS 17.5 update for the iPhone includes only a few new user-facing features, but hidden code changes reveal some additional possibilities. Below, we have recapped everything new in the iOS 17.5 and iPadOS 17.5 beta so far. Web Distribution Starting with the second beta of iOS 17.5, eligible developers are able to distribute their iOS apps to iPhone users located in the EU...
iPad And Calculator App Feature

Apple Finally Plans to Release a Calculator App for iPad Later This Year

Tuesday April 23, 2024 9:08 am PDT by
Apple is finally planning a Calculator app for the iPad, over 14 years after launching the device, according to a source familiar with the matter. iPadOS 18 will include a built-in Calculator app for all iPad models that are compatible with the software update, which is expected to be unveiled during the opening keynote of Apple's annual developers conference WWDC on June 10. The lack of ...
Provenance Emulator

PlayStation and SEGA Emulator for iPhone and Apple TV Coming to App Store [Updated]

Friday April 19, 2024 8:29 am PDT by
The lead developer of the multi-emulator app Provenance has told iMore that his team is working towards releasing the app on the App Store, but he did not provide a timeframe. Provenance is a frontend for many existing emulators, and it would allow iPhone and Apple TV users to emulate games released for a wide variety of classic game consoles, including the original PlayStation, SEGA Genesis,...