In an odd break from tradition, Apple appears to already be hard at work on the next three major upgrades to its iOS 8 operating system for iPhones and iPads.
After recently releasing iOS 8 and iOS 8.0.2, Apple is simultaneously working on the next three major updates, iOS 8.1, 8.2, and 8.3, according to a report from 9to5Mac.
The report cites a “developer of a major hardware-connected iOS application” who has shown 9to5Mac their analytics that show Apple devices running iOS 8.1, 8.2, and 8.3 using the application.
In addition to the app’s analytics, 9to5Mac has also published data showing that devices running the three iOS 8 upgrades have visited its own websites in the recent past.
So what’s the big deal?
Usually, when Apple launches a new operating system, it will coincide with the release of the new hardware that will take advantage of it. Apple released iOS 7 in tandem with the iPhone 5S, and iOS 8 alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Apple will then usually follow up with some minor tweaks, such as when Apple released and then had to pull iOS 8.0.1 due to some phone-bricking bugs. These minor releases have always kept things working and updated until Apple could release a significant update, such as iOS 7.1, which introduced CarPlay integration and an updated layout.
Basically, Apple has a track record of tweaking its iOS operating system with minor updates until it can release a major update early in the new year that introduces a key new feature.
This time around, however, Apple seems to be speeding up that process. The question is why.
Nobody knows for sure, but there could be a few possible answers.
The most likely revolves around Apple’s two upcoming product launches.
We already know that Apple will need to significantly update iOS 8 when Apple Pay goes live in October, and another update will be needed once the Apple Watch launches in early 2015. In the meantime, there could be a new 13-inch iPad announced, along with split-screen multitasking for iPads, all of which would require an update. Apple could be branching iOS 8 off to incorporate these new, specific features.
Apple could also simply be ramping up its development cycle for iOS 8, intending to release updates at a faster pace.
Another answer could lie in the fairly buggy launches of iOS 6, iOS 7, and iOS 8, all which included at least one hiccup that could detract from the introduction of new hardware. Apple could be trying to avoid the last-minute nature of software and hardware releases, and perhaps this is a change to that cycle.
Whatever the reason, Apple seems to be making changes to its development practices, and that means we could see some surprises sooner rather than later.