Back in the day when
iPhone OS iOS was still fairly new, we received a fair amount of frequent updates. Not just bug fixes, but feature updates. There would be the March or April preview of a new version of iOS, a June or July release shortly after WWDC, one or two bug fix updates right away, and the big x.1 release with some new feature or significant improvement in the fall when the iPods were updated.
If my memory serves correctly, this trend continued through iOS 4. I remember iOS 4.1 brought HDR images to the Camera app on the iPhone 4. And of course iOS 4.2 brought AirPlay and unified the iPad and iPhone/iPod version numbering. And iOS 4.3 brought better AirPlay, Personal Hotspot on the iPhone 4, and iTunes Home Sharing.
One important thing to remember is we received these fairly frequent updates in a time before delta updates and over-the-air. These were big features and steady bug fix releases that required to to cable to your computer and download the entirety of iOS all over again like a barbarian.
Then iOS 5 came out and brought those delta and over-the-air updates. I thought for sure we'd see even more frequent releases — at least for the bug fixes — now that they could easily be pushed to everyone and would take far less bandwidth.
I was wrong. More or less, the x.1 releases (5.1 and 6.1) were essentially bug fix releases with little to no new features. And we haven't been seeing x.2 releases.
It has seemed these past two years that Apple has done the one big iOS release, and goes a long way between even fixing bugs in it.
One thing I am hoping for in iOS 7, since it is such a drastic change, is that we'll see Apple quicken the pace of improving iOS. I don't want frequent updates and fixes and possibly a new feature here or there for the sake of frequency, but rather to keep Apple on its toes and in the game.
One big release per year may work fine, but keeping the improvements coming between the big releases helps to keep things feeling fresh. I can't imagine Apple implemented these delta and over-the-air updates to just download a gargantuan file once a year and then a couple things here or there in between. That whole system feels like it was made for keeping iOS fresh and at its best.
iOS 7 is a new beginning for just about every aspect of iOS. Refining the details through frequent updates is an old beginning that I hope becomes new again.