Apple update icon

IOS updates are common. Its automated, easy and can even be set to happen after hours. We get new features, new bug fixes and it seems like convenient progress. When the phone can'd handle the new IOS, it just stops updating. However there are a few things you may not know.

  • You can't go back.
    If you decide that the new IOS isnt for you, restoring the previous IOS is no easy task.
    That is even if you decide to do a full backup in iTunes or iCloud. That only includes data.
    Things like messages, photos, and your various application specific settings. Not the IOS.
    It is possible to restore a previous IOS, but only if you have backed up the encrypted key
    that was issued by the Apple authentication server that approves the IOS for installation.
    The convenience that Apple devices offer comes with a downside. If your new upgrade is
    slow or you just dont like the features, that may be too bad. You cant go back. Even while
    the upgrade is relatively fresh, restoring the old IOS is not an option.

  • The IOS is downloaded in the background.
    This may not be an issue, but if like many users, you "max out" your phone's storage,
    then the added 1.5 GB that represents the new IOS upgrade in case you approve it is
    just taking up space. You can delete this, which will free up the space. However Apple
    don't allow you to turn off the automatic downloading of the IOS for future upgrades.
    Instead, like some sort of nagware, they will try to force that upon you again and again.
    If data or space is an issue for you, then we have a problem.

  • If you don't upgrade, your old apps may not work.
    Sadly, a lot of apps have limited backward compatibility. Certain games wont work
    without a certain IOS version in place. That means that your old iPhone, and iPads
    will just not support new games. They may be perfectly usable devices but they
    wont run the new IOS and nor will many applications. Roll the clock forward and
    the number of unsupported apps grows. This is especially true of cloud based games
    and/or apps. If you dont have a newer version, say goodbye to all of that. Whatsapp
    for example just wont run on many old iPhones.

  • Is it really fully automated and foolproof?
    No. While the IOS upgrade itself checks things like is there enough power, and/or
    is there enough space, it does not do a comprehensive check of all your apps. You
    wont know if they work on the new platform or not. Typically developers will release
    new versions of their applications before the new IOS and these can be downloaded
    from the store. Make sure that you have internet access when you do the upgrade
    since its likely that a few additional app upgrades are suddenly required.
  • It is all good news?
    No. Additional features are usually designed to run best on the latest devices.
    Bear in mind that a brand new iPhone will run the same IOS as your four year
    old device. Your old device has slower hardware. To mitigate for this, Apple will
    turn off features to allow the older devices to work at an acceptable speed. This is not
    a foolproof process though and it means that you have to rely on their judgement
    to get a usable experience. You can of course turn off some features yourself, to
    gain a bit more speed on older devices. Things like animated backgrounds, siri
    monitoring, background apps and some new defaults can cause issues. In some
    recent updates Apple thought it was a good idea to use 3G data to "assist" local
    wifi speeds. This was great in regions where 3G data was free, but they just assumed
    that it would be a great default for everyone. Which was unwelcome news for
    people in places were you pay heavily for mobile data.


That's the roundup of what you need to know. Tackle those upgrades with some caution.
If you are an early adopter and just love new features, at least prepare to spend time checking
on the new features before you just "keep calm and carry on".

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