What iOS Version Should Developers Target?

 

Abstract

Here’s the punchline: iOS upgrades happen so damn fast that supporting the latest version shouldn’t be based on any complicated analysis of market share; just support the most recent version that you can safely develop on. Analysis done!

iOS 6 update stats

One of the reasons the Apple developer community is so awesome is that there are always fellow developers willing to share and help.

Statistics pages from David Smith and Game4Mob suggest that iOS 6 took less than a week to crack 50% share.

That’s right, the half-life of older iOS versions is a week.

Development Stability

As a general rule, I don’t like to develop for production using a beta SDK. (Things move so fast, though, that I may need to rethink this general rule.)

And I don’t like switching my development environment in the last “crunch time” of a project: keep the builds consistent is my opinion.

What this means, pragmatically, is that in the last month of development, I’m generally not going to update the SDK.

What this implies in turn is that it’s pretty much impossible for me to submit an app that requires a new iOS version until that iOS version has been publicly available for a month.

App Store Review Delays

Let’s not forget the week an app is likely to spend waiting for review. During this time, the rug is being pulled out (“forward”) from under the iOS version marketplace. If you submit an app on Day One of a new iOS version, then by the time it’s available over half of users will be able to run it!

Conclusion

This is amazing. I never collected my thoughts quite this way, but just looking at the raw reality, I have no idea why anyone would spend any time supporting an iOS version older than the current one. The only time it’s even worth a conversation is in the few days immediately following an iOS update, and then the time spent discussing it moves the window past the time where it’s worth caring about.

And although the data behind this post is derived from the first few weeks of iOS 6, each iOS version has penetrated the marketplace faster than earlier versions! This will become more compelling as time goes on.

Bob

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