Updates to the operating system are meant to improve performance and add new features. As a bonus, they add a fresh dose of the ‘feel good’ factor to your smartphone or tablet. However, from the experience with recent OS updates, things aren’t going swimmingly well for either Apple or Google. Is this a case of inadequate testing before the software is rolled out to the public? Or, this is perhaps very smartly planned obsolescence, forcing users to upgrade to a newer device?

Google’s Android Lollipop update started rolling out for Nexus 5 smartphones a couple of weeks back, but things became pear shaped immediately. Users complained that the phones had slowed down to a crawl and some apps weren’t working. The rollout was halted temporarily, but for those devices that the buggy software had already been installed on, there was no going back. The geeks will find ways of rooting the OS and installing customizations to make the phone usable again. But, that wouldn’t work for a majority of users, would it?

The point is very simple – if my mom’s tablet doesn’t work properly after she tapped on the ‘install software update’ notification, she’d be very cross. And after getting someone to look at it, she’ll demand to know the reason for the issue. And since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, she’ll probably never update the software on any other device she uses.

Apple isn’t doing a much better job at it either.

I was personally at the receiving end, when the iOS 7.1 update rolled out in March this year. My iPhone 5 was running well with the iOS 7.0.6 version. An improvement over iOS 6 in general, iOS 7 felt slicker, smoother and visually more appealing. However, when the 7.1 update was installed, things inexplicably turned pear shaped. Battery discharge was rapid. A phone is pretty much useless if the battery discharges at 1% every two minutes when the display is on. Multiple troubleshooting steps were done, without success. The phone was restored to factory settings and set up again, but no luck. Service people expressed helplessness, leaving me no option but to move on.

The subsequent iOS 8 update is also riddled with bugs and performance issues, which have not spared even the latest generation iPhones – the 6 and 6 Plus. The iOS 8.1.1 attempts to improve performance on old hardware, but the results have not been pretty.

With such botched up software updates, tech companies run the risk of alienating users - once bitten, twice shy. The current user base isn’t always shy about switching allegiances, and moving to another platform. If an iPhone doesn’t work well for someone, they’ll switch to Android at the drop of a hat, and vice-versa. Companies should be more worried about the subsequent word of mouth publicity.

The answer to this conundrum is simple – companies, test the software properly on all compatible hardware, before asking people to download it. There is definite pressure to roll-out the very latest OS and updates to all phones at the drop of a hat. But, companies could do well to not get hustled by the geeks who spew venom on online forums. Also, while the more vocal geek user base may bay for blood, the silent user base actually doesn’t bother about instant updates. At the moment, it is a very bleak scenario, but something needs to give, and quickly too. For the time being, ignore the update notification, and hold off on installing that new software. But, if this is Apple’s way of telling me that they need to sell me a new iPhone, sorry, I ain’t buying it.

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