I bought an iPhone a few months ago. It was a difficult decision, weighing the sheer beauty of the device versus its commandeering popularity. Having always resisted spending too much time on it, I never bothered searching out and finding interesting and useful applications. I did end up installing one game though, Scrabble, and have become quite attached to it. The other day I initiated a routine App update, let the updates install, and launched Scrabble.

Same splash screen as always, then, wait….nothing?

Just a black screen. I waited for a couple seconds and clicked the home button. Tried again. Same thing.

I must say that my experience on the device has been pretty great thus far. Beyond some annoying service interruptions here and there, everything of significance has worked quite well. Undoubtedly other, more enthusiastic users haven’t had the same experience, but this was a first for me.

Immediately I thought, crap, why do I bother downloading these updates? Everything works great, what’s the point? What’s in it for me?

Well, not a lot, really. I suppose it depends on the user, but if I download an app and it does exactly what I expect it to, I don’t think about changing it. Updates are just pushed down from the developers to provide new features, bug fixes, or, (unfortunately) advertising.

Not to say that perfection should be expected from version 1.0. This would be near impossible in any app with enough complexity. Bugs occur and need to be fixed. But what happens when users download these routine updates which render their applications unusable? Naturally, they stop trusting them, and with enough annoyance, stop bothering completely.

This is unfortunate for both users and other developers, rendering a useful feature less so. Yet software is increasingly deployed more or less automatically, rarely requiring more than a simple user click. The day of the shrink-wrapped software is past.

Don’t pollute the ecosystem! Think about, really, how vital is this new software update? How well has it been tested on each platform? How will it affect the user experience? And damnit, Scrabble, what am I going to do on the bus now?