Maybe it’s just something about the number 13, but it’s shaping up to be a strange year for iOS releases. First there was Apple’s decision to split out the iPad version of the operating system from the iPhone and iPod touch versions, dubbing it “iPadOS” — a reasonable choice considering how far the tablet has been diverging from the smartphone in terms of advanced UI features — then there was the mysterious release of iOS 13.1 betas to testers late last month, weeks before iOS 13.0 was scheduled to see the light of day.
For the first time ever, Apple also declined to make any significant mention of its iOS update during yesterday’s keynote. Granted, Apple did highlight all of the new features back at WWDC in June, but in every other year, it’s provided another recap of what’s coming during its fall iPhone event to help whet people’s appetites prior the wider public release. Of course, Apple has a lot of ground to cover, since this year wasn’t only about new hardware products, but also its new Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ services, so it may have simply been an omission for time, but we also suspect that Apple wanted to avoid trying to explain the weird iOS 13 release cycle.
After the event, Apple’s press release and web site made it clear that iOS 13 would be arriving around the usual time — September 19th, just before the new iPhones land in people’s hands — but also that iOS 13.1 is already scheduled for release less than two weeks later, on September 30th. Further, although iPhones (and the iPod touch) will get their iOS 13 updates next week, iPadOS is being delayed until the later date, suggesting that we probably won’t see an iPadOS 13, but rather a jump straight to 13.1. Not at all coincidentally, this is also the date that the new 10.2-inch iPad is expected to arrive.
During the keynote, Apple did mention a few features, such as Deep Fusion on the iPhone 11 Pro that wouldn’t be coming until “later this year” but didn’t specify any actual release date, leaving us originally to wonder whether this was simply an iOS 13.1 thing, or something that would be held off until later.
Well, it turns out that this feature — and many others promised for iOS 13 — may not actually see the light of day until at least iOS 13.2.
To be fair, this is far from the first time Apple has announced features for a major iOS release, but actually delayed them to a point release. It first happened in a very subtle way in 2015, with Apple Pay and iCloud Photo Library arriving in iOS 8.1, and then again in 2016 with the iPhone’s new Portrait Mode, which was announced alongside on stage alongside the iPhone 7 Plus, but didn’t arrive until iOS 10.1 a few weeks later — and only in “beta” at that point.
Those initial delays were relatively minor, however, focused on one or two features, and usually only resulted in a delay of a few weeks. It became more significant in iOS 11, when the promised Messages in the Cloud feature failed to make an appearance until iOS 11.4, released eight months later. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber pointed out when the first iOS 13.1 beta appeared, major iOS announcements are clearly becoming a “roadmap” for the entire family, not necessarily what’s going to appear in the fall.
Basically, I think we need to get used to WWDC announcements being a roadmap for the next year of OS releases, not a list of what’s going to ship in the initial dot-zero release in the fall.John Gruber, Daring Fireball
“Later This Fall”
This year, however, it looks like there will be a lot of features that Apple is pushing out not only beyond iOS 13.0, but even beyond iOS 13.1. In fact, Frederico Viticci of MacStories has published a list, noting many features that were announced at WWDC that won’t be making it into the final iOS 13.0 or 13.1 releases.
Some of these features were found in the early iOS 13.0 betas before being pulled, with some not even making it as far as the first public beta. These include things like audio sharing, announcing messages via AirPods, and Screen Time communication limits, all of which have been missing in action since at least July.
iCloud Drive folder sharing is a feature that Apple had to reverse direction on last month, after developers and public beta testers discovered that they had actually lost data in iCloud. The feature clearly wasn’t ready for prime time, and also resulted in some debate as to whether Apple should be treating iCloud itself as a “beta” platform.
Others, like HomeKit secure video and routers, are going to require new products to support these features anyway, so it’s unlikely their absence will be felt in the near term. However, it seems that Apple has pulled back on all of its HomeKit improvements — other than simple UI changes in the Home app — as the support for incorporating HomeKit and AirPlay 2 in scenes and automations also won’t be coming until later on either.
It also looks like Apple has delayed most of the HomePod’s marquee new features for later this fall as well. According to Apple’s updated HomePod page, the new radio stations feature will be available on September 30th, likely as part of the iOS 13.1 release, but everything else that’s coming — multi-user voice recognition, handoff support, and an ambient noise feature — won’t be arriving until sometime later this year.
Although some will surely be disappointed in having to wait for some of these features, there’s enough already coming in iOS 13 (and iOS 13.1) to make for some pretty significant releases, and it’s hard to argue that having a stable iOS 13 release isn’t far more important than packing it with features that may not yet be ready for prime time.