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iOS 9: The Double Install!

So as advertised, Apple released iOS 9 around the world on Wednesday. The promised WatchOS 2 update was delayed due to a last-minute bug, which is a refreshing change. In the past, Apple has released updates that needed additional updates to fix problems, so I’m hopeful.

In any case, iOS 9 arrived with the usual download glitches, no doubt because Apple’s servers were slammed, at least during the early hours. But it was enough to inspire some glaring headlines from certain tech-related sites. Problems such of these are temporary, however, and are soon resolved. It shouldn’t be so hard to get that update now.

Indeed, it should be easier than iOS 8, because Apple slimmed \ the update file to about a third of its former size, meaning those with space-challenged iOS gear, such as an iPhone or iPad with 16GB storage, should be able to install the update without having to tether their gear to a Mac or a PC running iTunes. Apple also has a scheme to temporarily delete some apps until iOS 9 is installed, and restore them with your settings intent after installation.

I tested the installation on three products — and iPhone 6, and iPhone 5c, and an iPad Air 2. All three were running the iOS 9 GM seed bearing build number 13A340. But the release is 13A344, so I had to download two updates on the iPhone 6 and iPad to bring them current. Curious that it went through such a process, but it was essentially seamless, so there’s nothing to complain about. In contrast, our iPhone 5c managed the task with a single update process.

Apple also left iOS 9 compatible with the same hardware that supported iOS 8. But that doesn’t mean performance is identical. One report I read compared iOS 8.4.1 to iOS 9.0, using an iPhone 4s as the test platform. That’s the oldest iPhone supported and, as you might expect, performance was mostly similar although measurably slower for boot times. But even a fraction of a second can mean a lot when performance is a tad slow already.

Perhaps future updates of iOS 9 will improve matters. That happened with older hardware on previous iOS versions. But right now I expect Apple wanted to get the release out in good form for more recent hardware and, obviously, in advance of the shipment of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

For the most part, the beta experience was fairly smooth for me. With the release came a couple of dozen app updates, largely to support iOS 9’s new features, or just to function properly. There are two apps that appear to spontaneously quit seconds after launch. One is for the Washington Post, and the other Speed TestX, an Internet benchmarking tool. I’m optimistic that both will be fixed in short order, particularly the Washington Post since they want you to subscribe to their digital service after you’ve read a small number of articles.

Otherwise, the experience has been quite favorable. The new system font, San Francisco, provides a clearer and more readable display, particularly in smaller sizes. The same is true for OS X El Capitan. Performance doesn’t seem altogether different on the iPhones and the iPad, but I haven’t had a chance to check into the claims of up to one hour’s additional battery life. It does seem long enough, however, so I’m not complaining.

Now iOS 9 is supposed to be largely a bug fix update, but that’s not quite true. I’ve seen lists of roughly 90 new or enhanced features, more or less, which is nothing to complain about. That is more than the competition usually offers for a new release. Where it becomes most significant, though, is for those using recent iPads, where there is real multitasking. With an iPad Air 2, you can run two apps side by side, similar to the way it’s done with Windows. That makes Apple’s tablet far more suited to doing real productive work.

Now I realize the critics have pointed out that some iOS 9 features are already available on other gear, but being available and actually working property are quite different. At the same time, Windows 10 and recent versions of Google’s Android have “borrowed” some features from Apple. So it goes both ways, but that’s not something that is necessarily covered quite as much. It seems that Apple’s copying machines are more visible.

Ahead of iOS 9’s release, iOS 8 adoption hit 87% at Apple. This is a tad less than iOS 7, which went past 90%. In the scheme of things, it’s not that significant. Don’t forget the difficulties some had installing iOS 8, particularly when their gear wasn’t syncing with iTunes on a Mac or a PC. The file was slimmed over time, so it got better, but there are probably some who just decided not to bother. At least going to iOS 9 will not be fraught with such problems.

So far, there have been no show stoppers either, although an iOS 9.1 is already available to developers and public beta testers. So whatever is wrong will likely be addressed within a few weeks. But if any serious bugs reveal themselves, you can bet there will be plenty of publicity.

My upgrade advice is the same as previous releases. Best to back up your stuff before running the update. And if you’re in no rush, stay attuned to your favorite tech sites to see if there are any “point-zero” glitches that may impact you before you proceed. I only hope that the expanded public beta program will make for a more stable release, assuming Apple paid close attention to user feedback. Color me optimistic!