Apple's iOS 6, Automatic Downloads, & The Magazine

iOS 6 became available a few weeks ago and it, like all iOS recent iOS releases, dropped support for older devices. Software moves forward, but shipped hardware doesn't. But iOS 6 has dropped product lines asymmetrically, supporting the iPhone 3GS but not the original iPad.

The iPad was the first significant broadening of the iOS ecosystem, and it made the case that Apple was on to something in the Post-PC world. It was the first device to sport Apple's custom A-series SoC, while the 3GS ran on a PowerVR something or other. The iPad was the fist modern iOS device. The 3GS is smaller, less powerful, less capable, and older. The 3GS was another iPhone, while the iPad was something more.

The naive would assume the newer device would be supported by the new OS, but that's not the case. The iPad is left behind. Eventually apps will only support iOS 6 and newer, but I assumed that my iPad would still run the current generation of apps for the foreseeable future. At least until the next iPad comes out. Today I was shown to be mistaken.

Marco Arment has been hinting at his new app for the past couple of weeks (or more accurately, not-hinting). The Magazine was released today, and I went to download it and try it out. You might want to do that too. I opened iTunes on my MacBook Pro and downloaded the app. I've got Automatic Downloads turned on across my devices, so the app started to download on my iPhone, iMac, and iPad. Marco recommends that The Magazine be read on the iPad, so I grabbed mine. The installation was stuck about 75% of the way through. I paused the installation and restarted it. The binary downloaded, began installation, and froze. I deleted the app and went to re-download it from my purchases. The store then prompted me that The Magazine requires iOS 6.

That's about the worst user experience possible.

Automatic Downloads doesn't check to see if your device is supported before attempting to install apps. That's an egregious oversight. Apple needs to check that the device is supported by the app it's trying to download. Users don't know what the should do with a half-finished install, and they'll be hugely frustrated that the app won't work. They'll leave a 1 star review for a problem the developer can't fix. "Delete my app and then give up," is the best a developer can do. "Buy a new device," doesn't do much to help Apple's perception. It's a problem that needs to be fixed.

I'll be keeping my iPad and reading The Magazine on my iPhone. I'll most likely upgrade to the latest iPad in the Spring. Until then Marco's got a publication to sell, Apple's got something to fix, and I've got four new articles to read on a 3.5" screen.