The Glitch Report: Should You Worry About iOS 8?

September 30th, 2014

When iOS 7 came out last year, there were major and sometimes controversial changes. The new user interface looked fine for most, but turned off some, particularly if they had vision problems of one sort or another and couldn’t cope with the parallax view and all that zooming. Apple provided a limited set of Accessibility options to adjust some of the interface excesses, but it wasn’t enough. Worse, there were the usual reports of poor battery life and perhaps some Wi-Fi connectivity issues.

This is all-so-predictable with the initial release of a major OS update. But the fixes came relatively fast.

Within days, a 7.0.1 update addressed issues with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s. There were ongoing fixes to improve reliability and the curious symptom of Touch ID losing sensitivity over time. For owners of the oldest supported handset, the iPhone 4, they rightly felt disappointed and some sought ways to downgrade to iOS 6. Performance had taken a major hit.

Now it’s also true that it takes a real powerful Android smartphone to get anything close to a fluid user experience under most conditions. It’s true that flagship models may sport specs, on the surface, which ought to reflect twice the speed of the iPhone, but it doesn’t work that way in the real world. The iPhone 5s, and the new iPhone 6 models are as fast or faster than almost any Android handset. So size doesn’t always matter when it comes to actual performance.

In any case, Apple released more updates to iOS 7, the last being 7.1.2. By the end of the day, the performance hit on the iPhone 4 was reduced to manageable levels for most users. Turn off the zooming effect — as I did with my wife’s third generation iPad — and it all seemed pretty snappy.

Although not all that different visually, iOS 8 has a huge number of changes, and the original release had some irritating bugs. Imagine, for example, users who selected an alternate keyboard finding that keyboard was unselected after entering a passcode. There have also been the usual complaints about poor battery life and Wi-Fi.

None of the iPhones I tried under iOS 8 had battery problems, although I wasn’t crazy about Wi-Fi performance on an iPhone 6 that I briefly tested. But the most irritating problem was the short-lived 8.0.1 update. If you had a spanking new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, you’d lose the carrier connection and support for Touch ID.

Despite a report from Consumer Reports — which I hope they’ve since corrected — that Apple took several hours to withdraw the flawed update, it really happened in a little over an hour. Apple also provided instructions on how to restore the estimated 40,000 handsets impacted by the problem. 8.0.2 came out the very next day, but some suggest the problems weren’t fixed.

I’m talking through my hat here, because I didn’t have any of these problems, but I think restoring the phone, or following Apple’s instructions to return to 8.0, would probably get the affected units fully functional. The 8.0.2 update seems safe enough, despite the reports of some remaining issues.

Although the stats vary, at least 40-50% of iOS users have upgraded to iOS 8. If you have an iPhone 6 or the 6 Plus you have no choice, but nothing forces you to upgrade an earlier model if you still feel it might be too shaky for you.

You might even think twice about an iPhone 4s, since there is a measurable performance hit. One estimate, from Ars Technica, listed app launch times from a quarter of a second to a full second slower. That’s not such a huge deal, but it may mean the difference between snappy and not-so-snappy for some of you. So maybe you want to see if Apple can up the performance a bit going forward. You know for sure that iOS 9 will not support that handset.

For the rest of you, if you haven’t upgraded already, I suppose you can wait for an 8.0.3 or an 8.1 — whichever arrives in the near future — before taking the plunge. The first 8.1 beta has reached developers, and it’s a sure thing there will be an update when the next generation iPads arrive, which is expected some time in mid or late October. There might be other fixes before then.

Regardless of your decision, don’t pay much attention to the fact that the iOS 8 adoption rate is noticeably lower than iOS 7. Aside from losing support for older hardware, doing an in-device update may be difficult for some of you. That’s because the estimated 1.1GB file requires several times that much space for expanding the installation file and performing update chores. If you have a 16GB handset, that requirement may be a bit too much, and it was surely off-putting for some. It’s recommended you use iTunes instead. Regardless, the adoption rate isn’t expected to match iOS 7’s 91%. Well, perhaps if sales of the iPhone 6 are higher than expected, which will compensate.

Besides, if you don’t see any advantage to iOS 8, don’t bother with it. At least you have a choice, unlike most Android customers who seldom get access to any OS update, even if it contains a critical performance and security fix.

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