The new version of iOS is the strongest sign yet that Apple finally believes the customer is always right

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  • iOS 12, the newest version of Apple’s operating system for iPhone and iPad, doesn’t have many flashy new features.
  • Instead, it focuses on improving reliability and performance for the devices people already own.
  • That’s what most users have been asking for.
  • It shows that Apple is ready to acknowledge the adage that the customer is always right.

For most people, there’s only one feature in the latest version of iOS that matters: a big bump in performance.

When iOS 12 officially launches this fall, devices that came out in 2015 will see apps open 40% faster, according to Apple. The keyboard shouldn’t lag. And you shouldn’t miss getting the perfect photo, because the camera is faster, too.

Sure, the software contains 3D emoji and improvements to facial recognition. For the most part, though, Apple gave its users what it wanted: the iPhones they already have but faster, cleaner, and tighter.

It’s a stability update, in other words – cleaning up all the gunk underneath the hood. That said, if only Apple could improve battery life with a software update … but I digress.

This is what Apple should be doing with iOS, which is used by almost 1 billion people every day. Apple doesn’t need to come out with new software that reinvents how to use an iPhone – it should listen to people’s gripes and fix them.

In fact, with the iPhone, Apple now seems to be taking a different tack. Before, it used to center big updates on tentpoles, the big features that look great onstage or in an advertisement. But now it seems as if Apple is spending a lot of time fixing everyday issues that average users care about.

It’s not just performance. Rather than ignore the prevalent idea that we’re too glued to our phones, Apple gave users tools to restrict their own use. Instead of trying to build a platform and introducing a giant new framework for developers to tap into Siri, it gave users so-called shortcuts designed to make the voice assistant more useful to them.

It’s a trend the longtime Apple analyst Gene Munster noted early this month after iOS 12 was introduced at Apple’s developer conference: Apple is acknowledging the adage that the customer is always right. Munster said:

“There were more new features for users than there were new tools for developers: screen time limits, monitoring, and reports, grouped notifications, Do Not Disturb at bedtime, Siri shortcuts, new Safari privacy features, performance improvements for previous generation iPhones, and even third-party navigation apps on CarPlay. Apple is forgoing near-term benefits for developers and themselves in favour of a better user experience.”

In fact, by taking a year and just nailing down the features users have asked for, Apple could be setting itself up for a software update that is remembered fondly for years to come.

Apple has released big software updates in the past that have shied away from fancy features in favour of basics like, well, not crashing. The most notable is OS X Snow Leopard, which was released for Macs in 2009. It didn’t have a lot of new components. But it never crashed, it ran quickly, and it was familiar to anyone who had used a Mac before.

It was refined, its improvements subtle. And critics at the time panned it. Walt Mossberg, writing for The Wall Street Journal, said “it isn’t a big breakthrough for average users,” for example.

In the years since, though, Snow Leopard has gained a cult following. The Apple blog 9to5Mac even published a piece earlier this year saying the nearly decade-old update had become “synonymous with reliability” and had gained “mythological status in the Apple community.”

Apple’s next iOS update after this one may have big changes, like a redesigned home screen, according to Bloomberg. With change comes the possibility of new bugs or user interfaces that don’t make sense and need improvement. For now, Apple’s up-to-date operating system is going to be secure, stable, and familiar.

For a lot of users, that’s what matters – not new Animoji or an improved stocks app or any of the other changes in iOS 12. Now, if we can only get a built-in keyboard that can search emoji.

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