The Numbers are in: iOS 7 Does Not crash More Than iOS 6
The New York Times’ Nick Bilton declared this week on Twitter that “my iPhone running iOS 7 crashes more today than my computer running Windows 95 did 15 years ago.” I can’t speak to Windows 95′s crash rate in 1999, but I can tell you that iOS 7 isn’t crashing more often than its predecessor, iOS 6.
Bilton’s stated experience hasn’t matched my own experience running iOS 7 on an iPhone 4, third-generation iPad, and both generations of the iPad Mini, nor that of the many iOS users I know. But Bilton isn’t the only person complaining about iOS 7 crashes — so I asked the folks at Crittercism to examine their application logs to see what’s the deal.
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Crittercism, which provides application performance management tools, monitors more than 10,000 apps across 800 million-plus users, clocking about 30 billion application loads a month across mobile platforms. It has a very large sample of the iOS world, covering about 7 billion app loads a month, and if there were a big shift in application crashes due to iOS 7, Crittercism would see it. (Apple declined to comment on iOS 7 app crashes, though it has said it is working to fix a rarer, unrelated home-screen crash issue via a future update.)
After running the numbers for InfoWorld, Crittercism found that the current crash rate for iOS 7 applications over the last 30 days is about 1.27 percent, versus a crash rate for iOS 6 of 1.16 percent in September 2013, before iOS 7′s debut and when iOS 6 apps were at their most stable overall. In other words, the rates are basically the same after factoring in relative maturity, says Kalyan Ramanathan, Crittercism’s chief marketing officer.
One theory for the surge in crash complaints has centered around the fact that iOS 7 is a 64-bit operating system, but most iOS devices in use are 32-bit, so their apps run in iOS 7′s 32-bit mode. (Only the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and second-generation iPad Mini use 64-bit A7 processors and can run apps in 64-bit mode.) But Crittercism’s analysis shows that is not likely a factor: The 64-bit iPhone 5s and 32-bit iPhone 5 have nearly identical crash rates, within a hundredth of a percentage of each other.
But Crittercism did find that some apps are more susceptible than others to crashes: Gaming apps in iOS 7 had a crash rate of about 2.47 percent, about double the average for all apps, and media apps (those that play video and audio) had crash rates of about 1.6 percent, whereas other apps — for social media, news, utility, productivity, and so on — had rates equal to or less than the average. Ramanathan theorizes the buffering loads for such content maybe why gaming and media apps are more prone to crashes than other apps.
Why are some people convinced that their iPhones and iPads have become crash magnets? Ramanathan chalks it up to the vagaries of devices and the apps in place. Some people do experience high levels of crashes — and some almost never experience the problem. But the data shows, on average, there is no iOS 7 crash crisis.
In fact, the data shows that iOS 6 is now more likely to suffer app crashes than iOS 7. In the last 30 days, iOS 6′s crash rate has jumped to about 1.68 percent, up from the 1.15 percent measured in September. Ramanathan suspects the reason is that developers have slowed or stopped their iOS 6 app updates, so flaws that were usually fixed through periodic bug fixes now remain unfixed, creating a snowball effect. Crittercism has seen that pattern play out in other iOS version transitions — the regular updates to apps helps keep crashes down, and when those updates slow, the crash rate rises.
Most iOS users are now running iOS 7; various surveys show that between 20 and 30 percent of users are running iOS 6 or an older version, a figure that Crittercism’s database also demonstrates. Developers are focused on iOS 7, especially because Apple has mandated that as of February 1, all App Store submissions (including updates) be optimized for iOS 7 and compiled using the latest version of Xcode 5. There’s even less attention being paid to fixing performance issues in iOS 6 apps that could lead to crashes, Ramathan says.
Although iOS 7 isn’t crashing apps more than iOS 6, Apple fans can’t rest completely easy. iOS apps do crash much more often than Android apps do, Ramathan notes, based on Crittercism’s monitoring of both Android and iOS apps — and superior Android stability been true for quite some time. It’s not clear why, though the fact that Google’s approval process for app updates is minimal, app flaws are likely fixed more quickly, so they have less time to result in crashes, he suspects.