Apple’s unexciting 2021 Mac and iPhone software prove it should take a break from annual OS updates


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Apple’s fall software updates, iOS 15 and macOS Monterey, are officially out in the world for everyone. But Apple’s latest software has arrived with more of a whimper than a bang; the two updates aren’t so much bad as they are boring. Which has me wondering: why is Apple still clinging to its annual release schedule at all?

© Photo by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge

There are two problems that Apple’s annual cadence causes. The first, as is the case this year, is that iOS and macOS are increasingly mature operating systems with fewer issues to fix or missing features to add. Which, in turn, means that there are fewer opportunities for sweeping upgrades like there were in the early days when the iPhone getting copy and paste support was headline news. Short of Apple changing its mind about how its operating systems and the rules that govern it work — like when it allowed for third-party email and browser apps in iOS 14 — there’s just less room for big additions.


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Second is the fact that — because Apple silos off virtually all its updates, big or small, to help pad out the “big” iOS release — smaller but useful quality of life improvements often get stuck waiting around months for the fall cycle to line up.

Take iOS 15, which added a grid view and the ability to blur a background in FaceTime, core features that have already been a key part of Zoom and Google Meet’s toolkits for making larger virtual conversations more organized. Neither appears to be the kind of earth-shattering, OS-level feature that would require waiting for a new version of iOS, but Apple saved the updates to be part of iOS 15 anyway, despite the fact that they undoubtedly would have been more useful during the height of the pandemic when video chatting was more heavily in need.

Apple has, in fairness, already started to trend away from its one-and-done updates, if only because it’s missed its self-imposed deadlines multiple times. Major features for iOS and macOS like SharePlay or Universal Control have been delayed from the initial dot-zero builds for more development time. Point releases have gotten more and more important, too, used to debut new…