16 August, 2013

iOS 7 Beta 6: "Patch Thursday" = Last Beta

Since most previous iOS 7 betas have been released on either Mondays or Tuesdays, Beta 6 caught us off guard. A curveball indeed, what's also odd about it is... It's only a 13.5MB download.

What's worth noting about the 13.5MB, however: It contains nothing in the way of new features. However, it contains something else: A landslide of bug fixes. How many we looking at? At least 20... and counting (Update: Full change log reveals — at least from what I have seen on BGR — that there's only 3 stock apps remaining with "known issues", everything else having been fixed).

What makes this significant is the history of how iOS beta releases have always ticked in the past: Usually when Beta 1 releases are put out, they're not feature-complete. Even though most of the features are in place, based on developer input — as well as the input that developers get from the users (like me... well, long story short my payment on this site actually just finished processing this morning) who get their UDIDs registered through other users who have developer accounts — new features and UI tweaks do get pushed as the beta releases progress.

"Patch day" iOS beta releases, on the other hand, are very typical of final beta releases... of all previous versions of iOS this far. That's true of software development in general: New features always tend to introduce new bugs. So, even though developers have tons in the way of feature requests, when software is developed at a beta-quality pace, bugs can always creep into the user experience. So, if developers think they have all the features they need — which, in Beta 5, developer (and user) input calmed down tremendously — bug fixes quickly become the next urgent priority, since we all know bugs can, if not ironed out shortly before release, really ruin the final product.

Does this mean Beta 6 is the last beta before the final version comes out? It seems highly likely. Even though the pundits may argue that it seems too early from a final beta, the onslaught of bug fixes with the OS being feature-complete otherwise indicates that Beta 6 — like the final betas of all previous versions of iOS — is indeed the final beta of iOS 7, and the GM could therefore come any day now.

Of course, with that said, the final release should come a week or two after the GM, and what's 4 weeks from today? In fact, none other than two days after the rumored iPhone 5S/5C announcement: September 12. So, that's what I'm betting on for public availability... and as for the release to partners and/or developers, August 29 and September 5 (that is, two weeks and one week before the final release, respectively) seem like good bets.