iOS 16 off to a slow start? Don't be ridiculous

Apple iPhone 14 Pro home screen
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Change is hard. Just ask iOS 16, Apple's latest mobile platform that brings a world of change to iPhones and ships with the iPhone 14 lineup. It alters, among other things, the Lock Screen, notifications, battery indications, and how we message each other.

For some, these changes are like, "Yes! Finally! Bring it." Others, though, might be reticent. They like iOS 15 on their iPhone 13, iPhone 12, iPhone 11, iPhone X, even their iPhone SE and iPhone 8. Messing with things, like putting a search button at the bottom of the home screen, seems like too much.

Personally, I know people like this. My wife is this kind of long-time iPhone user. Whenever Apple launches a new version of iOS, count her iPhone as among the last to upgrade, and that's even with being married to me, someone who makes their living explaining new technology like iOS 16.

There are, at least according to a new study from data analytics company Mixpanel, possibly a lot of people like my wife, and maybe more of them than normal for iOS 16.

According to its study, iOS 16 has already been downloaded by 22.1% of iPhone users (at least those who can actually use it). To me that sounds brilliant. Almost one-quarter of what's around a billion people downloaded, installed, and are now running iOS 16 and its gorgeous lockscreens.

Well done, Apple.


But wait. Mixpanel says the news isn't necessarily as good as you think. You see, according to their data, iOS 14 was installed by 30.7% of iPhone users by Sept 23rd, 2020 (not quite a week after rollout). Last year, iOS 15 was installed by 16.87% by September 27, 2021, a week after launch.

Seven days in, iOS 16 is actually on a faster adoption track than iOS 15, but significantly slower than iOS 14. What does this even mean?

Nothing, really.

First, Mixpanel is likely getting data from a set of devices contacting their analytics system. It can see what kind of device is talking to the system and, it seems, the platform the phone is running. It's a sampling that may or may not be representative of the broader iPhone userbase. 

Assuming the data does show us something, fluctuations and even temporary slowdowns in adoption can be normal and are only worrisome if prolonged. With Apple and iOS, it's almost a lock that 90% or more of iPhone owners will eventually be on the same platform (read "iOS 16"). This is because there is no other option. Apple controls the platform pipeline for all its phones and the longer you hold out - and hold onto last year's (or older) OS - the more you find that your phone and favorite apps stop working at peak performance.

The iPhone 14 effect

Mixpanel's iOS 16 download stats could flatten or remain lower for another reason, like more people buying an iPhone 14. If they do so, there's no need for downloads and upgrades. All the new phones ship with iOS 16 pre-installed, and usually with the latest build - Apple is that fast.

It can be fun to look for signs of trouble in Apple paradise. People enjoy dunking or trying to dunk on popular products and successful companies. Of course, Apple doesn't care or need to pay attention to this.

There will be people who hold off updating because iOS 16 changes too much but trust me they (even my wife) will come around, start using iOS 16, and eventually come to appreciate – even love – it.

And they'll keep right on doing so until 2023, when iOS 17 comes around and they have to make the hard choice and Mixpanel has another set of download statistics to share.

If you want a better understanding of iOS 16 and the iPhone 14 as a package, read my iPhone 14 Pro review.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.