It’s standard practice for developers to pause app updates over the December holidays and resume in early January. That was the case for Google this year, but the lack of new iOS releases oddly continued for almost the entire month until app updates resumed yesterday and today.
The lack of updates comes in the context of speculation at the start of the year that Google was not updating its iOS apps to avoid Apple’s App Privacy label. As of December 8, developers are required to list their privacy practices and how they handle data directly on the App Store. However, this was not the case as TechCrunch pointed out how updates for two Google apps (Slides and homework helper Socratic) were released about a week after that deadline.
Google on two occasions — the most recent being yesterday — reiterated that it would add privacy labels to all of its applications as new versions are released. In fact, the company is adding disclosures without app updates, with The Verge noting how the count was up to 12 listings as of Tuesday.
As Google’s iOS apps are updated with new features or to fix bugs, you’ll see updates to our app page listings that include the new App Privacy Details. These labels represent the maximum categories of data that could be collected—meaning if you use every available feature and service in the app.
Google, January 12th
However, Apple’s App Privacy mandate aside, Google’s update cadence has been oddly delayed in 2021. Earlier this month, a former Google employee chimed on Twitter how Google “tends to go into code freeze mid-Dec until first full week of Jan (at least when i was there).” This practice ensures that services remain stable and no updates are pushed out during the holiday period where there might not be many engineers on-hand to fix problems. Other iOS developers (big and small) have returned to their normal cadence, while Android updates resumed early in January.
It took almost three weeks before the first updates were released. Yesterday, the Google Fiber client was the first app to see an update since mid-December. Play Movies & TV followed today, with both seeing “bug fixes and performance improvements.” Google Translate is the latest on Thursday with a bigger release that allows users to “continuously translate someone speaking a different language in near real-time.” First introduced on Android, the feature is ideal for translating lectures and speeches.
Apps like Google (Search) and YouTube that previously saw weekly updates have yet to be refreshed, along with Maps, Gmail, and Photos.
Another example of Google iOS app updates not proceeding in their normal fashion is Chrome. Chrome 88 for Mac/Windows/Linux and Android was released last Tuesday, but that version has yet to arrive on iOS. Usually, Google’s iPhone and iPad browser is updated simultaneously (on a six-week cadence) with the other platforms. Past delays have lasted one or two days, while the only notable exception was due to COVID-19 pushing back the release schedule.
|Desktop release||iOS update||Difference|
|76||July 30, 2019||Jul 30, 2019||None|
|77||Sept 10, 2019||Sep 10, 2019||None|
|78||Oct 22, 2019||Oct 22, 2019||None|
|79||Dec 10, 2019||Dec 10, 2019||None|
|80||Feb 4, 2020||Feb 5, 2020||+1|
|81||Mar 17, 2020||Apr 7, 2020||COVID + delay|
|83||May 19, 2020||May 21, 2020||+2|
|84||Jul 14, 2020||Jul 14, 2020||None|
|85||Aug 25, 2020||Aug 25, 2020||None|
|86||Oct 6, 2020||Sep 30, 2020||-7|
|87||Nov 17, 2020||Nov 18, 2020||+1|
|88||Jan 19, 2021||+9|
For end users, this lull in updates is slowly coming to an end, while they have not missed out on major features due to the lack of new releases. However, as the year ramps up and feature announcements commence, it will be interesting to see when updates return to normal.
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