I was surprised when Apple announced iPhone OS 4.0 (now, iOS 4) five days after the iPad launch. Tons of juicy features were immediately not available on their newest device. In that announcement, it was also evident that Apple was still very much in an experimental phase with the iAd, a release first and iterate later mentality. That philosophy is currently much stronger than it has historically been due to the hotly contested mobile market and Apple wanting to maintain its position.
Now, the iPad has not been out for three months and here comes the iPhone 4, which includes those new iOS 4 features plus double the RAM and Retina Display. According to pundits like MG Siegler, the Retina Display, “completely blows away the screen of the iPad.” In that same piece, he writes:
Here’s why this really matters for Apple: the iPhone 4 likely points to the updates coming to the iPad in the not-too-distant future. Are there any doubts that the Retina Display and twice the RAM will make its way to that device? So why would you buy the iPad now if the device might get these updates in say, January?
As mentioned before, it is the Apple way to push out regular product and software updates but they seem to be adhering to an even more rapid schedule than usual. Clearly they want to be the continued leaders in the wild west of the mobile frontier but it seems they are now doing so at the expense of confusing consumers and frustrating developers.
Think about it, consumers literally will have an inferior operating system (iPhone OS 3.2) and hardware (256 MB RAM) for a device — the iPad — that is less than three months old. While iOS developers are not dealing with the same extent of fragmentation as Google’s Android platform, things are surely getting much more complicated than even just six months ago. For example, read Neven Mrgan’s All the sizes of iOS app icons, which details the up to nine versions of icons that need to be created if you release an app across all iOS devices.
I know that Apple is working fast and furious towards consolidating the iPhone and iPad onto a single operating system (iOS 4.1?), which should happen in the Fall. Generally, Apple’s approach to the market is still more structured than their largest competitor — Google — because they rigorously control the hardware. But they currently seem driven more by innovation and being first than by consistency and a methodical approach to releasing their hardware and software updates.
Personally, I am willing and able to endure these deviations but there are growing rumblings by consumers and developers. Hopefully, the release of the iOS for the iPad will see a partial end to the small amount of fragmentation beginning to show itself. That won’t really happen though until the iPhone and iPad once again share similar hardware specifications and the majority of the older generation devices are retired. See you in 2012.