Applying Software Updates: A Low-Stakes Version of Russian Roulette?
The release of software updates for electronic devices is often met with equal parts excitement and trepidation. On one hand, updates promise to bring new features and improve functionality, but on the other, there is always the chance that the update will leave your device worse off than before. This was the case for iPhone 4 owners when iOS 7 essentially made their functioning devices slower than old ketchup, and now with iOS 8, no iPhone is safe from the numerous flaws and bugs present in this year’s iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system.
As an owner of the iPhone 4S, I was reluctant to download iOS 8, especially after witnessing what happened with iOS 7. Right now, I’m relieved that I had the foresight to stick with iOS 7, as the performance of my phone would most likely deteriorate if I were to upgrade to iOS 8.1. Unfortunately, the same can be said for all iPhone models that are not the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.
There are several reasons why applying software updates can be risky business, but the following are perhaps the most compelling:
1. It slows down your device.
iOS 7 pushed the then-two-year-old iPhone 4S to its limits, and the latest update only serves to throw it off the proverbial cliff. While some may argue that their iPhones run fine after upgrading to iOS 8, this is most likely due to buyer’s remorse as no one wants to admit that they downloaded an update that essentially put their phone on its last legs. The facts reveal the truth: a .89 second difference in opening Safari might not seem like much on paper, but that difference accumulates over time, and with regular use, your once snappy device will start to feel like it’s chugging along for dear life.
The reason why this happens is that Apple is doing the best they can to apply the latest updates to old technology, but they are doing so in a poorly executed manner. With proper optimizations, iOS 8 could run just fine on the 4S, as its dual-core processor and graphics processing unit are not too shabby even by today’s standards. It is possible that Apple will release an update in the future that applies these optimizations, but until then, it is best to stick with iOS 7 or even 6 if you own a 4S.
2. It is designed for iPhone 6’s larger screen.
The two new iPhones, at 4.7″ and 5.5″, have significantly larger screens than previous models, and iOS 8 is designed with those larger screens in mind. This means that iPhone 4S, 5, and 5S owners will experience problems due to the fact that they are equipped with smaller screens. The screen is more cramped on older iPhones, thanks to both the new notification system and the way that apps are programmed to be used with the larger screen on the iPhone 6. On the 4S, the new keyboard makes things nearly unusable in some instances, and users have reported instances of it disappearing entirely within apps.
3. It requires an obscene amount of free space to install.
Even if you wanted to upgrade to iOS 8, it is nearly impossible to do so unless you first delete nearly everything you have on your phone. If you have a 32GB or 64GB model, you will be fine. If you own a 16GB model, you will probably be able to scrape together enough space to install the update, although just barely. You can download the update through iTunes, but even then, you will need at least a gigabyte of free space, which would still be quite an accomplishment these days on the 8GB models.
4. It might ruin your iPhone’s ability to use Wi-Fi.
Although this has been an issue with previous iOS updates, it seems to be more prevalent with iOS 8. Many iPhone owners have experienced Wi-Fi issues after updating their phones, ranging from not being able to connect to any Wi-Fi to cases where they can connect, but the connection is so slow that it might as well be useless.
5. Battery life may take a hit.
One of the major new features of iOS 8 is the implementation of a “Battery Usage” monitor that lets you see what is eating up your battery. Ironically, what eats up the most battery is the very update that gives you the battery monitor. Apple forums have already been talking about this issue, and it seems to be affecting not only older models but the iPhone 6 as well. This reveals that there are problems inherent to the operating system itself that are causing the battery to drain far faster than usual.
Apple is likely to release some sort of update that fixes or at least addresses these issues, but it would have been nice if they had ironed out these things before deciding to release a buggy update to millions of iPhone owners. Software updates are always a bit of a crapshoot, at least initially, so it is best to not take any chances. If you own a 5, 5C, or 5S, wait until Apple releases an update that fixes the major bugs and issues. If you own a 4S, stick with iOS 7.1.2, as trying to force iOS 8 on your device won’t do it much good performance-wise anyways. If you have an iPhone 6, you can weather the storm, as your phone does not suffer from some of the problems listed above.
In conclusion, applying software updates can be risky business, as it may leave your device worse off than before. In the case of iOS 8, it is best to wait until Apple releases a stable update that fixes the major bugs and issues before upgrading your device. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry.