The report by Scott Martin and Alistair Barr, writing for USA Today, described Apple's iOS 7 as "fast becoming its most troubled mobile operating system update," under a headline "Apple loses some of its magic touch with iOS 7."
The report alluded to reports of a "list of bugs and flaws" in the company's support discussion boards, but made no attempt to quantify or qualify the scope and severity any of those issues.
Instead, the story's premise relied almost entirely upon on a quote from Raluca Budiu, a senior researcher at Nielsen Norman Group, who was cited as saying, "it's Apple's most problematic operating system launch so far."
Another fact USA Today did not include: the primary source of the story, Nielsen Norman Group, is a consulting firm that counts Google, Samsung and other Android licensees among its clients, but not Apple. The source would therefore seem to have obligation to support its "problematic" claims with some sort of actual data, rather than just a personal anecdote that Budiu provided about her own experience.
iOS vs the other OS
The only comparisons Budiu offered between iOS 7 and other software launches was what the report described as "Microsoft's legendarily troubled OS upgrades, such as Vista in early 2007," adding that Budiu also said that "Microsoft's more recent Windows 8 launch was also more problematic."
The primary source of the story, Nielsen Norman Group, is a consulting firm that counts Google, Samsung and other Android licensees among its clients
Unsurprisingly, Samsung and Google did not pay Nielsen Norman Group to detail the problems in Android, a more obvious comparison to make with iOS.
Nobody has attempted to quantify the "bugs per user" or "flaws per OS release" of mobile operating systems, but overall user satisfaction rankings provide some glimpse at what those figures might look like, were there some desire to report actual facts rather pen a national news article about a hunch regarding a loss of "magic."
"Apple has already released iOS 7 updates to fix some problems, including a bug that allowed people to bypass the Lock screen passcode," the report stated, without noting that, in contrast, Google hasn't even attempted to update the hundreds of millions of Android phones with serious, known security errors.
Even Google's own Android devices, such as the Nexus 7 mini-tablet, suffered for a year before getting a software fix for serious problems that rendered the device essentially unusable for large numbers of buyers.
Dustin Early of the fan site AndroidAndMe complained this summer, "I can't find one person who has been using the Nexus 7 for an extended period of time, and hasn't seen a massive downgrade in performance."
The biggest, fastest OS launch ever
Beyond consulting firms saying what they are paid to say, there's another reason why iOS 7 is making national headlines about scattered reports of bugs while Google is given a pass for rarely or not ever fixing serious, well known problems: Apple actually updates its iOS customers, hundreds of millions of them at once.
It's hard to quantify the precise impact that upgrading to iOS 7 is having for end users because it is now by far the world's largest installed mobile operating system. Additionally, a serious problem for one user might be an isolated issue. Scouring support forums or Twitter or fielding calls from consultants paid by Apple's competitors won't necessarily reflect reality.
USA Today did, in its 18th paragraph of the story on the "troubled" iOS 7, cite Apple's Trudy Miller in providing one data point for its iOS 7 article, "we are aware of an issue that affects a fraction of a percent of our iMessage users, and we will have a fix available in an upcoming software update. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes impacted users."
Apple hasn't yet updated its own statistics of iOS versions across the installed base, but according to Mixpanel, iOS 7 has reached 71 percent penetration in just 27 days, compared to last year's iOS 6, which was at 61 percent after its first month.
This summer, Flurry reported a population of 510 million active iOS devices, compared to 564 million active Android users of apps. That suggests that Apple has deployed somewhere over 360 million copies of IOS 7. In contrast, Google's latest Android 4.3 was released months before iOS 7, but the company only reports that 1.5 percent of its app-using customers have it, somewhere around 8.5 million users.
It's not surprising that there's more news about issues with Apple's latest iOS 7 because there are more than 3,000 times as many people who have installed it and are using it compared to the latest release of Android. In fact, it appears that there are already nearly as many people on iOS 7 as there are on any version of Android 4.x, which was first released two years ago.
Back then, Apple was introducing iPhone 4S and had just launched iOS 5. It has since deployed hundreds of millions of copies of two major version updates to iOS, ten minor updates and additional security patches to its customers. Google and its partners have only issued rare updates of Android to buyers of brand new devices.
This summer, Computerworld observed in regard to a major security flaw discovered among nearly all Android devices, "the slow distribution of patches in the Android ecosystem has long been criticized by both security researchers and Android users," adding, "mobile security firm Duo Security estimated last September, based on statistics gathered through its X-Ray Android vulnerability assessment app, that more than half of Android devices are vulnerable to at least one of the known Android security flaws."