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.
[ The best new features in iOS 7. | Bob Violino and Robert Scheier show how businesses today are successfully taking advantage of mobile tech, in InfoWorld's Mobile Enablement Digital Spotlight PDF special report. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobilize newsletter. ]
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.