iOS 8 iPhone 6 gold

Not one, not two, but three major updates to iOS 8 — iOS 8.1, iOS 8.2 and iOS 8.3 — are in tow for 2015, perhaps signaling that Apple is speeding up its iOS development process, Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac reported Monday.

This would represent a break from Apple’s practice of releasing a major new iOS version each Fall, followed-up by a substantial update early in the following year.

Gurman was able to confirm the three upcoming iOS 8 releases via “a developer of a major hardware-connected iOS application” who shared with him their analytics, in addition to traces of iOS 8.1, iOS 8.2 and iOS 8.3 spotted in Google Analytics for 9to5Mac.com.

Apple typically starts work on an iOS update before a major version goes public.

For instance, the Cupertino firm released a Gold Master version of iOS 8 (in most instances, a Gold Master is the same as the shipping version) on September 9, eight days ahead of the software’s September 17 public release.

As soon as it released the GM and started preloading it on iPhones being manufactured, Apple started work on the next iOS 8 bug-fix update. Normally, Apple would be now developing iOS 8.1 and iOS 9.0 in parallel.

But the fact that three significant follow-ups to iOS 8 are in concurrent development might indicate that the firm “is moving away from annual iOS releases in the fall that are tied to hardware,” Gurman speculated.

Another possibility: Apple is readying new hardware outside the usual Fall release schedule. For instance, a 12.9-inch iPad Pro is said to release in early-2015.

As that device is rumored to feature a split-screen multitasking mode, a major update to iOS 8 would be needed to support the feature.

Other features that didn’t make it into the initial iOS 8 release that should go live in iOS 8.1: an improved Maps app with public transit directions and a car-finding feature, a standalone iTunes Radio app, native TextEdit and Preview apps and more.

Last year, iOS 7 debuted in Fall and was followed by the major iOS 7.1 update with CarPlay and other improvements in March of 2014. Similarly, iOS 6 launched in September 2012 and was updated to iOS 6.1 in January the following year.

At any rate, Apple may be planning to release major iOS 8 feature updates throughout 2015 in anticipation of iOS 9.0 in September 2015.

[9to5Mac]