Should you update your iPhone to iOS 8?

iOS 8
iPhones running iOS 8

Just this week Apple released the latest version of their operating system for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. It’s called iOS 8, and it’s a free upgrade for Apple users. Last year’s iOS 7 included visual changes to almost everything; it took a while to get used to. This year’s update looks very similar to iOS 7 and is more of a refinement, adding various features that most people will find useful.

If you’re an avid iPhone user, you’ve probably already upgraded. If you have an iDevice and aren’t sure if or how to upgrade to the newest operating system, I’ll help you out.

CAN you upgrade?

Apple’s official iOS 8 website says eligible devices are the following: iPhone 4S and later, iPad 2 and later, and iPod Touch 5th gen. and later. The biggest missing name from their last update is the iPhone 4, so if that’s your phone you won’t be able to get the newest update[1].

SHOULD you upgrade?

Every time Apple (or similar companies) update their operating systems, the new versions are typically designed to work best on the newest, most powerful hardware available (in this case, the newly announced iPhone 6). So this means that older phones, computers, etc. will run a little more slowly when upgraded to the latest system[2]. This is probably the main reason iPhone 4 and the original iPad aren’t included in this update.

If you have an iPhone 5, 5C, or 5S, any possible slowdown will be tiny, if not imperceptible. I’d say definitely upgrade. If you have the iPhone 5S, you’ll have the option to use the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to log in to all kinds of apps — one of my favorite new features.

Any of the iPads after iPad 2 (such as Air or Mini) should also handle the upgrade without a problem. Definitely upgrade. If your device is one of these, feel free to skip to the next section.

But the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 will run more slowly on iOS 8, and probably noticeably so. Ars Technica has written a couple of good articles detailing what to expect if you upgrade your iPhone 4S or iPad 2.

I happen to use both these devices. I’ve already upgraded my iPhone 4S, and I think I notice various animations being a bit slower (so I actually turned some of them off to help a bit). However, to me the additional features and functions that were added made the upgrade worth the (at times) slower operation.

Another consideration: this is the smallest screen size Apple still sells, and some new features mean you’ll see even less on the screen than before when the keyboard is up.

I’m doubtful I’ll upgrade our iPad 2 to iOS 8. We most often use it for reading books or checking email. I rarely use it for messaging or other uses where new features seem really promising. I’m happy with the way iOS7 works with the ways we use it, and it seems a safe bet that it will also be noticeably slower with iOS 8. Based the Ars Technica article I mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend iPad 2 owners upgrade.

HOW do you upgrade?

Chris Breen of MacWorld wrote a step-by-step guide I highly recommend. I’ll give you the summary version.

First, back up your device. You can either do it on your computer with iTunes or back up to iCloud through Wi-Fi. The iOS 8 install shouldn’t erase anything, but things go wrong now and then. It’s always a good idea to back up your data.

To download the update and install it, you have two options. Download it wirelessly via the Settings app on your device, or plug the device into your computer with the USB cable and upgrade in iTunes.

The simpler way is probably from the Settings app, but if you have limited space on your device, you’ll want to do the install via iTunes. The installation file that’s temporarily downloaded can be several gigabytes in size.

I recommend starting this before you go to bed, because the installation file can take a long time to download depending on your Internet speed. Once it’s downloaded, it may take up to another hour to actually complete the installation.

Once complete, you’ll have to go answer a couple setup questions. For reasons explained here, if you also use a Mac and store files in iCloud, I’d choose “Not Now” when you’re asked if you want to upgrade to iCloud Drive. Do that once the new Mac operating system comes out in a month or two.

And that’s it! If you’re upgrading to iOS 8, enjoy the new features. Again, you can learn more about what’s new here and here.

Have you updated to iOS 8? What do you like or dislike so far?

I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a question or comment about anything below.

1 – Frankly, iOS 8 would probably run so slowly on the iPhone 4 that you wouldn’t want to upgrade anyway.

2 – For the same reason, certain new features in any new operating system won’t work on older devices, even if they’re fast enough to run it without any problem.

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