Users wary of the problems Apple inadvertently wrought on their iPhones over the past few weeks should brace themselves. iOS 8.1, the next software update for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches, looks be moving to the launchpad next.
See also: Apple Really Needs To Get It Together
The 8.1 update, expected within days of Apple’s October 16 press event, isn’t just another collection of bug fixes—welcome though those will be for many. iOS 8.1 will almost certainly debut Apple Pay, Apple’s highly anticipated mobile payments system.
Designed to turn iPhones and Apple Watches into wallets that can pay for things in stores, Apple Pay has the potential to be a revolutionary change, not least because despite lots of effort, no other company has cracked the mobile-payment nut quite yet.
But it’s also a nerve-wracking proposition, since the new payment system will be arriving on the heels of the company’s boldest, and perhaps buggiest, software to date. Only the stakes are going to be a lot higher for people who are trusting Apple with their cash and credit balances.
Who Might Really Pay For Apple Pay
So far, iOS 8 has wreaked havoc on many unsuspecting iPhone users. For some, problems like lost cellular connectivity and drained batteries overshadowed the benefits of smarter notifications and better location controls.
The biggest setback was iOS 8.0.1, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it software update intended to support Apple’s HealthKit, a software system for storing health and fitness data. Instead, it hobbled devices, forcing Apple to pull it down and rush version 8.0.2 out the door—which some say is no panacea.
With any luck, iOS 8.1 will solve many of the remaining problems. But it may could also introduce new ones, given the complexity of the Apple Pay system that looks likely to debut in 8.1.
Externally, Apple has been readying outside partners—from banks and credit card companies to retailers—in preparation for the launch. Internally, it has built a credit-card management and transaction system out of iTunes accounts, its Passbook app, and two specific hardware components: the iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner and Near Field Communication (NFC) chips.
With all those pieces coordinated in an intricate dance, Apple Pay will store your credit card info, pull it up when need be, identify you and send transaction details when it registers a physical tap on an in-store terminal.
This one-finger, one-tap scenario is the convenience and—let’s face it—fun of this system. The idea is to make mobile payments so simple for consumers that everyone will want to use it.
But as Steve Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex.” It takes a lot to make Apple Pay seem easy. And if we’ve learned anything about complex systems, it’s that every interaction of their moving parts is vulnerable to malfunction, error or just plain unexpected behavior.
We might not even be raising this point were it not for Apple’s surprisingly ham-handed rollout of iOS 8. Software updates should follow a sort of tech version of the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. And that’s not what Apple has delivered to its customers this round.
So, fingers crossed that Apple Pay works the way it’s supposed to, and doesn’t break anything else.
The Software Update Conundrum
Apple Pay isn’t the only passenger on board iOS 8.1. The change logs in the developer version point to the return of the much-missed Camera Roll—the iPhone photo folder inexplicably nixed last month.
Additionally, Apple may deliver functional Continuity features, which tie iPhones and Macs together more closely. Signs of Continuity for iMessages were spotted in the iOS 8.1 beta software, and the Mac OS X version required to make it work—named Yosemite—appears to be close to its final stages now too.
Mostly, though, it may be the bug fixes that pull people in. So if your phone is riddled with problems—like vexing keyboard glitches, strange screen rotation behavior and fundamental issues that mess with your phone’s functionality—you might find jumping in worth it.
Apple may also decide to patch the recently discovered SSL vulnerability, which can put browsing on supposedly secure websites at risk. This would strengthen the case for grabbing iOS 8.1.
But if not, and your phone works fine, consider waiting. Why risk problems when you can let the early adopters stumble into the minefield first?
Lead image by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite