An iOS 7 Clear Out

With iOS 7 coming out in a few months we app developers are starting to look at what is required to update our apps (or client apps) to make them compatible with iOS 7.

Unlike with iOS 5 to iOS 6 where often virtually no work was required, the answer this time is: potentially quite a lot needs to be done, and at least every app icon needs touched if nothing else.

There are various levels of “broken” at the moment with iOS 7 compatibility: There are apps that do not run at all on iOS 7, that crash on startup (like, ironically as I am typing this on the desktop version - iA Writer, or Skype); There are apps that display broken content or no content (like Clear the todo app that I use); and there are apps that are a little bit strange looking but function well (like Twitterrific). Not a single third-party app on my iOS 7 phone today is working perfectly - which is fine, I don’t expect them to be right now, but it illustrates the scale of the work involved over the next few months.

I picked on four high-profile apps there as they will all definitely be fixed by the time iOS 7 is released to the public. But they will take a different amount of work to fix them up.

Apps like the ones mentioned above are owned and maintained by people who are passionate about their apps and will make them look great and work well, but what about the apps that are not so loved? The apps that were written by an agency on behalf of a client and have never been touched since version 1.0 for example? There are a lot of these and they will also need to be updated.

There are a couple of main problems with these apps: The client may not want to pay to have the app updated, and the agency may not have time to update the code even if the client requests it. I don’t know any app development agencies who have a lot of time on their hands right now, and three or four years worth of clients needing their apps updated within the same three month period is a tall order!

So I think third-party apps are going to be in for a bit of a rough ride with iOS 7, at least initially. And I think this is a great opportunity for a cleanup.

Let’s take the example of an app that the company does not want to pay to update (either internally or by paying an agency to do it) - they may not even have updated it for the 4 inch screen on the iPhone 5 yet! I’m going to call out the Sky Sports Football app here. Sky are a big, profitable, company. (I know this, I used to work there) They have the resources to make this app look great on the iPhone 5 but they have chosen not to - the app is still “letterboxed”. I say if they take the same approach with iOS 7 the app should be out of the App Store. In other words it’s time for some App Store house keeping.

How could this be done?

1) Any app that is not specifically updated for iOS 7* cannot be installed on an iOS 7 device. Allowing the apps to simply fade in to history.

2) Apple could remove any app from the store that is not updated within a certain time period - say from the date we can submit iOS 7 apps (probably around the start of September) until Dec 31. So on Jan 1 - there is a big purge of apps.

Personally I would go for the first option, and I hope Apple do that (although I doubt it will happen). And I say that knowing that some apps I have written would be caught in this trap and disappear, so be it.

Finally even if Apple are not enforcing a rule like this users will start to do it themselves - they will simply ignore apps that don’t keep up with the technology that they are using, and rightly so.

I’d love to know what other developers and users think about this - get in touch on twitter if you have any comments, or even better write a blog post with your thoughts!

* there is a very easy way for Apple to know if this has happened - icon size.