I always update apps, and so should you

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Last night, I spent the better part of two hours setting up the Galaxy Note 3 review unit that arrived yesterday morning. During that time, I was downloading all the applications that I typically install on a new or freshly restored device.

How many apps, exactly? 71. Yes, there are 71 applications in my must-haves, and many more that I will typically install as I need them. When you have more than 71 applications on your phone, there’s something you can count on happening several times each week: a flood of app updates.

When it rains, it pours.

Our own Stephen Schenck explained last week that over time, he has grown to the point where he ignores said updates. He’s been “burned” enough times by shoddy new app versions that he’s become jaded and wary of new versions of software.

I can’t blame him. I can recall at least a handful of times when some my favorite applications were subjected to updates that were so awful, I can’t begin to fathom how the updates were published in the first place.

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There are few things worse than getting hyped over a new update you’ve been waiting for, only for it to finish installing and for you to come face to face with the force-close popup.

To that end, I’m with Stephen. All applications deserve a rollback feature, where users can re-install older versions or simply uninstall the updates when a new version breaks or effectively ruins everything users loved about the app. For the record, pre-installed applications have this rollback feature. Unfortunately, third-party downloads from Google Play do not.

But Stephen and I aren’t very much alike in how we approach software updates. There’s nothing wrong with that either. To each his own.

The minute I see I have an application that needs to be updated, I bolt directly to the respective application catalog – Windows Phone Store, App Store, or Google Play – and hit the Update All button. In fact, on Android and iOS, I have applications set to automatically update when on Wi-Fi.

I can’t get enough of new software versions, any new features they include, and performance improvements they often bring. Sure, you get burned every now and then – not every application update is perfect or imperative. But the brunt of them are published for a reason.

Each time an important application of mine receives an update, I head straight to the What’s new section in search of some awesome new goodies. Most of the time, there’s nothing terribly interesting in that section, but just because an update isn’t interesting doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be installed.

update-bugiphone-app-updatesGoing through the list of 23 recently updated applications on the Note 3 and the 10 apps updated since October 1 on the iPhone, only one didn’t list some of the most important reasons for software updates: bug fixes, stability improvements, and reliability. Only one out of 33 app updates.

The vast majority of updates are to fix things that are broken, to mend glitches, to patch security holes, and to improve the overall experience within the app. Far more seldom are major, drastic updates that remove awesome features or, likewise, add unwanted features. Developers work hard to provide bug-free software, and many of the applications I use are premium apps. It’s rewarding for the applications I love and pay for to be constantly improved. And as minor as some updates are, I always feel like a child on Christmas morning when my favorite apps get updated.

Albeit a free (and awesome!) service, a recent example of such comes one of my all-time favorite apps: Pocket.

The application has been renowned for its design and how well and eloquently it built on Android’s design guidelines. The app, since its major branding and design change from Read It Later to Pocket last April, has been highly regarded as an example of beautiful – yet simple – interface design.

In its most recent update, the team made one tiny change. In Pocket, the Archive button from the article view has resided in the upper left corner, a place typically reserved for the hamburger (side menu) or Up Button. The team explained how this tiny change led to confusion and frustration: when users would hit the button, it didn’t do what they expected, leading to a “wtf just happened” moment, says Pocket. It didn’t just take them back like it did in most other apps, it closed the article view and archived it, hidden from the standard article view.

The team replaced the Archive button with the standard Up Button, and moved the Archive button mere pixels to the right in the Action Bar. To most, this is a tiny, insignificant change. But it shows true dedication from the Pocket team, insight on real world use cases, and swift action to resolve the issue – no matter how small it may seem.

That tiny, insignificant change, according to the company, “increased the likelihood they [first time users] would continue using Pocket from this point onwards by 23%!”

I do encounter the occasional botched update. We all do. It happens. And not all terrible updates are botched updates. Sometimes companies decide to implement a new UI, and it’s not always better. But I can’t let the one or two rare mishaps overshadow all the awesome, tiny improvements constantly being added to all of my favorite apps.

I update as soon as I get the chance. Always. And even when I get tired of all the new updates (it happens to us all, especially when you never get a break), I update them just to clear the nagging notifications … for peace of mind.

Tell me, readers. Do you readily install updates the moment they hit. Or, like Stephen, are you less enthused about updates, which could bring changes for the worse? Share your sentiments below!

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+