Last year was quite unusual for Apple’s mobile operating systems, iOS and iPadOS. For the first time since the author started writing annual reviews, they had to publish a review without the iPad part. This was due to the mess Apple found itself in with Stage Manager for iPadOS 16, which had a half-baked, embarrassing debut. Thankfully, Apple listened to feedback and fixed the most glaring issues in iPadOS 17.
However, the past 12 months have been different in the world of iOS and iPadOS for reasons beyond the Stage Manager debacle. After the launch of iOS 16 with its Lock Screen widgets, the entire Apple community seemed to be focused on one product for the next six months: the headset, later known as the Vision Pro. Anticipation for this new hardware product and its associated software platform overshadowed other platforms leading up to WWDC 2023.
The author was lucky enough to try the Vision Pro at Apple Park, and they described the experience as mind-blowing. Apple had been working on visionOS and Vision Pro for years, and the excitement was justified. This context is important because it explains what’s happening with iOS and iPadOS 17 this year.
Both operating systems are grab-bag style updates with a collection of welcome enhancements to different areas of the user experience. They don’t have any industry-defining, obvious tentpole features like in previous years, most likely because Apple didn’t have time to deliver big, vision-altering upgrades on the iPhone this year. Instead, the focus was on the development of visionOS and the Vision Pro.
While iOS and iPadOS 17 may not have standout features, they are still fun and interesting to cover. iPadOS, in particular, received fewer development resources, but it mostly focuses on fixing Stage Manager and improving widgets.
The author goes on to mention that they have created exclusive extras for their Club MacStories members, including an interactive EPUB version of the review, a special issue of MacStories Weekly with behind-the-scenes content, and a special segment of AppStories+ about the review’s workflow. They are also releasing two new Obsidian plugins for Club MacStories+ and Premier members.
In conclusion, while last year may have been different and lacking in major updates for iOS and iPadOS, the overall experience is still enjoyable and worth exploring. The focus on the Vision Pro and visionOS shows the innovative direction Apple is heading in, and it will be interesting to see how it impacts future iterations of the mobile operating systems.