Almost 93 percent of North American iPhone owners run iOS 6, the latest full version of Apple's mobile operating system, according to a study of mobile web traffic. iPhone owners' willingness to update their handsets to the latest version is good news for Apple, which is expected to unveil iOS 7 at WWDC 2013 on Monday night.
Software firms often struggle to persuade their user base to upgrade to a new operating system. Microsoft's users, for instance, are notoriously reluctant to move on: Windows XP, a product from 2001 that's since been superseded by Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, was still the most popular operating system as recently as last August, and even now is on more than a third of PCs.
Phone software is obviously an easier upgrade to sell, since it's a much simpler process for the user, not to mention free. But we all get used to the way things work and are laid out. Just look at the resistance from Facebook users every time that site changes its interface, even if only cosmetically. And Google Android users (who are admittedly sometimes limited by hardware compatibility) are fairly evenly split between the Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread editions.
Apple fans are often initially sceptical about an update. In the case of iOS 6, the much-derided Apple Maps replacing Google Maps was a setback that put a lot of people off. But Google Maps was restored, Apple Maps has been improved, and the user base is now almost entirely on the latest version.
Good news for iOS 7
So why is this such great news for Apple and its upcoming iOS 7 launch? Because it shows that iPhone users are open to the idea of upgrading their software, or Apple is making the upgrade process irresistibly convenient, or a mixture of the two. And if they've migrated to iOS 6, there's a good chance that they'll also move to iOS 7 in time, assuming it's not a stinker.
And having your user base concentrated on your most recent software platform is brilliant for a company, helping it to optimise the user experience, move resources away from supporting outdated editions, and making things easier for third-party developers. Not to mention the users themselves. One of the advantages of Android smartphones is the range of hardware options to suit every user, but the fragmented handset market and numerous software platforms makes things confusing for the uninitiated.
After Sir Jony Ive was giving a larger role in its development, iOS 7 is expected to see significant visual redesigns, making it flatter, cleaner and more aesthetically consistent. To find out what else will change, head back to Macworld.co.uk (or follow us on Twitter) on Monday night, from 6pm UK time.