Hands on with early iOS 8 Beta Releases

It shows promise; but it’s REALLY buggy…

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I’ve been using iOS 8 Beta 1 for the past couple of weeks and I have to say that I like what I see, but it’s so buggy that it’s hard to really evaluate. Items that you thought would be solid – core apps like Mail and Music, for example – are just north of a train wreck. While this is to be expected in a beta release – especially in an early beta release – it does provide a bit of insight on what Apple is doing.

Based on every issue that I’ve bumped into so far, it’s clear to me that Apple is refining and optimizing code. iOS 7 introduced a lot of new interface options and changes to iOS; and it was the first real rearchitecting of Apple’s mobile OS since it was introduced in 2007. By that point, the OS was tired, long in the tooth and in need of a facelift, despite what everyone – me included – said about the redesign. Yes. It was difficult to get used to, but now that I’m used to it, it feels better than the old, skewmorphic look and feel of iOS 6 and earlier.

With iOS 8, Apple is following its old mantra – evolution, not revolution (again, they caused a revolution last time with iOS 7). Most of the changes will be under the hood, and users won’t see them. I can see evidence of this in the fact that apps that are core to what the iPhone does – like Mail, Music…Settings (yes, even Settings) – often force quit or hard reset the device.

I’ve encountered the following bugs in these programs throughout Beta 1. While this isn’t a complete or exhaustive list, these are the ones that keep me up at night…:
Mail won’t let you multi-delete more than three emails at a time. The app force quits.
Music won’t track back one song after it has moved to the next song in a playlist (so you can’t play the last song over again. Once is all you get.)
Songs often recycle quickly in large playlists when Shuffle is selected as the play method
Badge icon counts often do not reflect the correct number of alerts
The phone app ends the call if you try to take a screen shot of an active call
Settings often force quits when trying to work with Bluetooth settings (there are also multiple problems with the Bluetooth stack when it comes to pairing, playing Bluetooth audio and transferring data via BT-LE)

Because there are bugs in these core apps, it’s clear to me that Apple is optimizing core services as well as code in these core apps (to work with the optimized, core services), too. It’s the only explanation that makes sense. There are also a number of third party apps that just refuse to run or run correctly in iOS 8 Beta 1; but that’s also to be expected.

While preparing this article, Apple released iOS 8 Beta 2. I’ve downloaded the new OS, but haven’t had a chance to install it yet. While I’m certain that Apple is working on insuring that users can upgrade with settings and apps in place, it’s clear based on what I found in Beta 1 (I upgraded with apps and settings in place), that it might be a better idea to set up early beta releases of iOS 8 as a new iPhone rather than restoring the device from a backup. Bringing older settings and plist files into the device configuration may be the cause for some of the issues I am experiencing at this time. It’s likely a better idea for me to set it up as a new device between now and the release of Beta 4 (provided Apple drops a Beta 4 version before seeding the Gold Master to its developer partners).

The release documents for Beta 2 indicate that it provides some bug fixes as well as providing other small changes and enhancements, including the QuickType keyboard for iPad. This new release also has a major update to Apple’s Podcasts app. It’s now part of the base OS installation; and like iBooks, also can’t be removed. Apple also added a couple nice changes to Safari for iOS that prevents ads from automatically redirecting users to the App Store without any interaction; and users can now quickly add a site to Shared Links, or save a bookmark by tapping and holding on the Bookmarks button in the browser.

Other bug fixes of note include fixes to the screen brightness slider. It actually works now; and adding third party keyboards won’t force quit Settings like it did in Beta 1. As far as my Bluetooth issues… I’m going to have to wait and see how things go. There wasn’t a lot of information in the Beta 2 release notes related to anything specific that I was bumping into related to Bluetooth. However, Apple is still listing a number of known issues with core Bluetooth services, so I’m not holding my breath. Apple will likely tweak and make changes to the Bluetooth stack throughout the Beta Period. As Pebble and other fitness devices – including Apple’s (still) rumored iWatch – (will) make active use of BT-LE, I would expect fixes, improvements and changes to this key piece of core code throughout the development cycle.

iOS 8 Beta 2 also comes with a number of bug fixes. For example, the new beta release ensures that the screen brightness slider in Settings now actually works, and also prevents crashes when adding a third-party keyboard. I have no idea if Apple did anything to address the poor battery life performance that’s been reported with Beta 1.

However, I would expect Apple to address this – at least in part – in the next Beta release. Apple usually has a two week development cycle with its mobile OS Betas (it was 15 days between the releases of Beta 1 and Beta 2), so I would expect another release before the Independence Day Holiday here in the States on July 4th (but that’s based on past performance, so don’t shoot the messenger, if it doesn’t happen).

I’ll have other reports on iOS and Yosemite as Apple takes us through their Beta and development cycles prior to release of both. Look for updated information on these in the weeks to come. I’ll also have a more formal review of each after the GM version of both is released.

Do you have any questions about iOS 8 (or Yosemite)? Let me know in the discussion section, below and I’ll do my best to answer your questions either in-line or in a separate article.

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  • cgavula

    Keep in mind – these are developer betas, not public betas. Still – there are a lot of bugs.

  • abhilashthakur

    i want to use ios 8 on my iPhone

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