iOS 5 on iPhone 3GS: Final Impressions and Performance

Shortly after Apple released iOS 5, I loaded it up onto my iPhone 3GS and expected a chaotic, sluggish experience. However, as you might know, my first impressions of iOS 5 were much different. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the software ran on my two year old phone and I began recommending the software to everyone I know who owns an iPhone 3GS.

So, three people.

Since then, more than a few of you have written in to me describing your experiences with iOS 5 and your iPhone 3GS. A good portion of you had similar experiences to mine. A terrible installation process followed by sweet relief.

iOS 5Others had issues. For the most part, they had to do with battery drain, the fact that some applications were missing after installation (this can be remedied), the lack of Siri, and just overall sluggishness.

All of that, of course, came mere hours after the update was released and I wanted to come back and see how you guys were faring with the update and also fill you in on my experience has been two weeks after release.

I have honestly been waiting for some kind of issue to occur over the last 14 days or so whether it’s a battery that can’t hold or sluggishness and thus far I haven’t noticed a thing.

I consider myself an average user. I browse the web. I use a bunch of applications (Twitter, Facebook, ESPN are my three most used) and leave them for considerable amounts of time idling. I check my email. I text. And I occasionally play a game when I’m on-the-go.

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None of these have been made worse with iOS 5. In fact, I think it has made them even better. I can now save websites. Applications work as usual and I’ve seen no slow down switching between them. I don’t see any abnormal battery drain when leaving them open. Email is functional. iMessage has, for the most part been fantastic. And gaming has been par for the course.

And then there is the new stuff. Notifications are a dream come true. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using the new options with the camera. I’ve actually been setting and adhering to Reminders I set on my phone. Photo Stream has worked as it should. Syncing has been headache free.

In summary, I can’t complain. This was not the experience I was expecting after hearing about all of the horror stories from iPhone 3G owners upgrading to iOS 4. In fact, the experience has been so good that I am thinking about passing on the iPhone 4S.

I’m serious.

There were two major things that were going to draw me to Apple’s refreshed iPhone. The first, is if it had LTE. If the iPhone 4S had LTE, I would have bought it day one.

Two, if iOS 5 was terrible on my iPhone 3GS.

In addition to neither of those happening, Apple decided to keep the iPhone 4′s design, a design that I’m still not fond of. (I dislike the glass.)

So, where do I go from here? I’m in no hurry to ditch my iPhone 3GS so I think I’ll be waiting to see how I like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and if I can’t convince myself to get it, I think I may just keep my 3GS until the iPhone 5 comes out next year.

I rarely ever say this but thank you Apple.

iOS 5 on the iPhone 3GS is fantastic.

Agree? Disagree?

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Let me know.

Comments

  1. Shonni2008 says

    I cannot get the IOS 5 to download on my 3GS…it is telling me that my settings are wrong.  How could this be?

  2. Josh says

    Yep, I’ve had the same experience too. Plus I’m torn to wait until the 5 is released before upgrading. Shame I dropped it and cracked the corner of my screen last week though. Not so precious with it now which isn’t entirely a bad thing. I think the 3GS pebble design is far superior to the squarish design of version 4. Pity they didn’t upgrade the keyboard to match the one in iAwriter. That would have been good.

    • Anonymous says

      You can get a refurbished 3GS on ebay for around 150 so you don’t have to burn your upgrade. My 3GS has been on it’s last leg for awhile now from being dropped so may times and I don’t see any real value in the 4s when the new one will likely come out in 8 months. With that sad iOS 5 runs horribly on my phone, slow performance, apps crashing, etc but it could just be the phone.

  3. Sjtwomktwo says

    I am in the same boat as you….I am finding it HARD to want to go to the 4s . I have loaded the iOS5 onto my 3gs with no issues. I have heard through the grapevine the siri will be available to ALL iOS devices soon….If they do that I am going to wait till the IPhone5….next June?

  4. Kingstanding_lad says

    i agree ios5 seems to be working fine on my 3gs.. and in the same dilemma regards iphone 4s or 5, i think i am going to sell my 3gs and put the money towards 12 month contract on the 4s and see what next year brings :)

      • Xavier Lanier says

        If you’re above a certain monthly $ amount AT&T typically encourages you to upgrade early. It’s hit or miss and not guaranteed, but I’ve been able to upgrade to each of the new iPhones at the subsidized price thanks to AT&T’s early upgrade promos. I still sign on for 24 months though

  5. Drbillstone says

    I cannot load ios 5 on my deactivated 3gs iphone- itunes says I have the the current version. Perhaps an activated iphone is required?

      • Drbillstone says

        Thanks for the post- I have iTunes 10.5 and windows 7- still does not work. My iPhone 4 updated to ios 5 with iTunes 10.5 and XP. 

  6. R L says

    I’ve had a pretty poor experience. If I leave WiFi on the battery drain can be terrible (though not always).  I’ve had a couple of days where its gone from 100% to <20% in 3 hours of standby use. I also get a lot of lag now on transitions or just scrolling within apps or in the browser.
    I knew I wasn't going to get Siri with iOS5 but I assumed the location aware reminders would work.  Nope - only for the 4 and 4S.
    The Wifi sync works fine on my iPad2 but I can not get it to work consistently for my 3GS.
    Between iCloud and the wireless sync I thought I would seamlessly get access to purchased music and audiobooks but it has not been that way.

    All-in-all a very un-Apple like experience.

    When the 4S was announced I was dissappointed with the physical design (my wife has the 4 and i really don't like the feel of it). I also was looking forward to a bigger screen – as had been rumoured.  Ironically, the crappy performance of my 3GS, along with a broken headset jack and lost volume rocker, might tempt me to get the 4S instead of waiting for the 5.  hmmmm.. or maybe the Nexus Prime!

    • Deeeshooom says

      Our experience has been terrible.  ios5 on 3GS is a disaster.  Apps freezing (I have updated all of them thru app store), slow response times, screen locks that take forever to lock and unlock….UGHHH  

    • David Slim Sowers says

      Do a hard reset on your phone. With the screen unlocked hold down the power and home button at the same time untill the screen turns black and you see the apple logo appear. Besure to let go of the buttons when you see the apple logo. Then it will restart. This should fix your problem with the battery life I know it fixed mine and several friends.
      David.

    • kabol says

      hmm.  we havent any of that, except words with friends seems to lock up from time to time and i dont know why.  even after hard restarts.

      here’s a few things that you can do that maybe can help:

      keep your programs cleared daily.  with the phone on and on the homepage, double click the home button.  this will bring up all of the apps you have been running on your phone since you opened them.  click them off.  (i showed a friend of mine this and he spent forty minutes exiting them all, and his battery life greatly improved after that.)

      next, do a hard restart on your phone.  with the phone on and on your homepage, hold the top button as well as the home button down until the phone turns completely off; you dont swipe a finger or anything, the phone will shut down entirely.  wait a few minutes and then turn it back on.  that’s a hard restart and you should do it every two weeks to a month (depending on how often you use youre phone).

      next, in settings, make sure youre phone isnt sending “feedback” to apple.  i imagine they are looking for a lot of that with the new update and that can constantly ping your phone. 

      adjust your brightness display to a good, readable level.  not too bright, somewhere in the middle. 

      and definitely turn off your wifi if youre at work all day and you dont get wifi there.  or if youre on car rides or other such trips when wifi wouldnt be available anyway. 

      hope that helps.  we have all these settings set this way and have not only not had problems with our battery life but rather the battery seems to last about fifteen percent longer with ios 5.  i just attributed that to a cleaner running program..

  7. Sam the Swede says

    My 3GS slowed down dramatically. Whenever I push the lock button, it takes up to 5 seconds before it sounds off the click tone. Even if I close all apps, it’s better, but still not like before. Music plays choppy (offline Spotify), which hasn’t before either. Opening apps takes longer and ir feels like the CPU left the device entirely. I’m not sure what I should do now, but am going to try a iCloud backup followed by a factory reset and then iCloud restore. Oh, and did I mention my iPad (1) is in the same mess?

    • Hathserv says

      I have the same lock button delay since upgrading my 3GS to iOS 5. Generally it is not too bad and I can tolerate the slower performance for the added benefit of ios5 functions. I am thinking of upgrading to 4s for the camera, speed and improved reception in country areas. I believe my carrier Telstra in Oz is giving the 4s a blue tick recommendation for rural areas. I have been tempted to go a galaxy s2 but I guess I like the iPhone and it has delivered a couple of years trouble free service. Does that make me a apple fanboy? Guess it does!

      • bono9999 says

        in addition, i would recommend you guys not restoring from a ios4.x backup, it’s far better to set up as a new iphone and sincronize fron scratch.

    • Hunky says

      Turn off iCloud. Disable all spotlight searches. Disable new reminders. Disable as many notifications as you can. Turn off text messaging between iphones. Do a hard reboot. Will be 1000% better performance, but will still suck as you would need to get it back 1500% better to be back where you where. I’ll never make this mistake again…

  8. Wschloss says

    Sorry you are all having problems.   My wife has been fine with IOS5 on 3g but frankly she is a very light phone user in general.  But more puzzling I find is that you don’t like the iPhone 4′s design.  I love it, love the glass, much better than metal, and love the shape.  I hope when the next phone comes out they don’t make ANY changes unless they are needed for antenna, bluetooth or other similar functionality.  OK I would like the screen a touch bigger but I really like being able to operate with one hand, and have heard others complain about that on bigger phones.  I think that’s about 2 cents worth.

  9. steady freddy says

    It’s working fine on my 3gs. I’m using it as a prepaid gophone on att, and the data doesn’t always work now. why would you consider switching to an android phone? none of your apps or itunes music will work. seems like a waste of time and money, unless you just need the phone for calls, and don’t have a music library.. 

  10. Greg says

    I am in 100% agreement with you. I will hold onto my 3GS instead of splurging on a 4S. Let’s be honest the only major draw of the 4S is a better camera and Siri. Siri is great but not 300$+ dollars great (cost is after apple care). Its “wow” factor wears off after about 20min of playing with it. After that you realize how much you don’t actually need it. As for the camera, I don’t REALLY need a camera that bad. 4S left much to be desired. So I will hold onto my cash until I find a phone that makes me feel like I am getting more than a talking assistant.

  11. Wbwarnerb says

    Since upgrading my 3GS, every app (even native apps like the camera) crash on the first two load attempts.

    Also my phone is now 80% slower. Clicking the camera takes 5-8 seconds for camera to load. Typing is delayed by 3 seconds.

  12. Bobwired says

    Same good news with my 3GS. I’m on a month-to-month AT&T contract grandfathered in to the unlimited data plan ($30/mo) so I’ll wait until the iPhone 5 is released before upgrading.

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  14. Tech Brandon says

    Iphone 4s back plate is not made out of glass anymore its made out of a high quality plastic now – however i can only attest thats true with the white 4S. Screen is still GorillaGlass which is nothing to complain about(not listed as GG on the website but still thought to be GG.)

  15. Quiet Ocean says

    In Canada, we have 3 year plans instead of the Americans 2 year plan. I bought my iPhone 3GS in 2009 on a 3 year plan which then expires in 2012. I could’ve paid up to cancel it and get a 4S on new 3 year, but I agree with the blogger; iOS 5 on 3GS is and has definitely worked out well that I’m deciding that when my 3GS contract is up in late 2012; hopefully the new iPhone 5 is released then and I will definitely be getting that new phone.

  16. mr. FF says

    installed iOS 5 on my 3GS since day one and its all great except having a terrible lag while doing landscape mode music album view, it reaches point where the music app crash and i have to re-open it again. And “one more thing!” emoji on iOS 5 cant be read by other device(android, blackberry, etc) except other iOS 5 device.. it used to be compatible when its still iOS 4 tho..

  17. Leanne912 says

    I am in complete agreement with everything you have said! I am due an upgrade right now but I can barely justify getting the 4s! I just wish I could predict when the 5 will be out!!

  18. xanadu38 says

    I have found similar issues to other posters here…..  the performance on lock/unlock is now much slower (seconds) but the main problem for me is battery drain.  I charge my phone every night and usually when I am plugging it in at the end of the day there is still around 60% battery life left, however since updating my 3GS to iOS5 I have found that the battery doesn’t seem to last a full day any more!!!  Very disappointing :(

  19. bradley says

    Similar issues with iOS5 on 3gs phone: Slow unlock. Slower app launches. Slower switch to landscape view. Slower response time in general. More apps crash, more frequently.Faster battery drain. If this had’ve been my experience when I first bought the phone, I would’ve returned it. Apple, are you listening?

  20. gstenger says

    I’m having trouble holding onto a Wifi connection now that I upgraded my 3GS to iOS5.  I’ve also had the phone completely crash and reboot on me twice in the last 3 days telling me that my battery was dead.  After a minute or so it would come back up and tell me I still had at least 60% battery… ???  Before the “upgrade”, I never had these issues.

    I’m going to try to reinstall iOS5 without restoring from backup and see if that helps.

    Apple, are you listening?

  21. Msmith says

    Totally disagree. iOS 5 has rendered my 3GS crippled, performing poorly, and with a 5-6 hour battery life without making calls and will location services & wifi both off. The back of the case fell warm to the touch as it burns through whatever it’s suicidal mission is. I have my entire small consulting firm on Apple platforms and am so peeved it could drive me to Android

  22. Lhnulman says

    any ideas for the button lag…whenever I press my home (round) button I cannot be sure it will work…maybe 25-30% of the time. So for every click I must press 4+ times….TRULY ANNOYING and unacceptable.  Has anyone found any solutions? tks.

  23. dturtle says

    it is NOT fine on iOS5. The camera is super slow. Facebook is clunky slow and jumpy.
    calls dont get thru sometimes. And just when I need to use a map – the maps won’t come on. when they do work, the locator is about 2 miles from where I really am. not to mention the battery woes. this is crap, crap, crap. i would say DO NOT upgrade till Apple releases said bug fixes/patches.

  24. Plat-O says

    I upgraded my 3GS to iOS5 with out issue, the only slow part of the install was reloading 11gig of music back on – walk away – come back some time later….

    The only issue I’m having since upgrading is poor performance in relation to the music player.  If the music player was the last app open prior to locking, the next time I unlock it is really slow.  You move the slider across to un-lock and it just sits there for about 5 seconds before unlocking.  Skipping through songs can be a little jumpy, and I’ve had one or two random crashes with the music player.

    Facebook is also pretty slow, though I think this is more to do with the Facebook app and my really crappy data speed from my really crappy service provider.  Not so much caused by iOS5

    Aside from the music player slowness overall I’ve found no real issues.  The 3GS does feel like it is having to work a little harder, but the slight drop in performance is not enough to hinder use.

    My girlfriend has just got a 4S, and it is FAST compared to the 3GS.  My contract runs out March next year, but I think I will hold out until the 5 before upgrading.  The 4S feels like an in between model rather than something new.

  25. Mccastlew says

    I’ve had a bit of sluggishness when scrolling down a web page and using the keyboard.

  26. Anti_Ponjin says

    Factory Unlocked 3GS:
    Installed iOS5 very easily. At first everything was fine except for the battery life. That’s probably due to the new Notifications. I’d like to see one button to turn Notifications on and off.

    The past few days:
    My 3GS just shuts down unexpectedly. Many apps crash. NEED A BUG FIX!!
    I like the new features in iOS5, but I’ve never had this amount of trouble. I need to revert back to iOS 4….

  27. Anti_Ponjin says

    I forgot to mention that I did do a RESTORE, but didn’t set up as NEW. I have too much to reinstall from scratch.

  28. JohnSmith says

    My iPhone 3GS (not jailbroken) and 2 other of my friends with the same phone have been having issues with the phone randomly rebooting! It happens 2 to 3 times per day at least. I could be crazy, but it seems to happen when I loose/re-establish connection (like when I go in/out of the subway)?

  29. 3GS great says

    My iOS 5 3GS works perfectly for battery issues turn of gps for setting time zone, for speed issues get the free app called “memoryinfo” it clears the iPhones RAM every time you open it and close apps you’re not using. Anyways my 3GS works great no lag or any kind of delay at all.

  30. Ashlyn_wilks2007 says

    I don’t like the update for 3GS. It is super sluggish and just annoying. I like the features just not how slow it is

  31. Tonyounes80 says

    Ios5 is running great on my 3GS.however,I cant get instant notifications.any idea for solution?

  32. Infocrazy1 says

    You NEED to remove apps from the multitasking bar every 10 minutes or so of using. The old hardware on the 3gs can support the update, but not the RAM it takes. That is why your phones get sluggish. Mine is fine and this is why I think it is fine.

    -I never have more than 6 apps running in the background (when using a demand app I have none)
    -Reboot the phone once a day

    I have been overall pleased!! Thanks Apple!!

    • Anonymous says

      I haven’t upgraded my 3Gs to IoS 5 yet; I’m still running 4.  I used to shut things down more often after getting iOS4, but became lax about it.  Wow, you’re so right. After closing down countless apps from the bar, the game I usually have open constantly is so much faster. Instant difference. This really should be remembered advise for us old 3 users.

      To add to this, as mentioned in above post, this is what causes slowness, and app crashes even. Memory full makes apps crash. Keep your RAM clear by closing some things down and see if that’s not better. I’ll join the crowd in trying this and testing it out on os5…. but it holds true on os4.

  33. Fjanik says

    Totally disagree! I loved my 3GS until I installed iOS 5… now my iphone is almost unusable… especially surfing the web. It typhcally takes 30 seconds or more to load every web page!

  34. John L House Jr. says

    all the good and bad posts about the upgrade to ios 5 on an 3gs phone would be nice if luck would have been on my side to start with. installed  the new update on my 3gs using win 7. all went well until trying to reactivated the phone after install. never happend. tech support from at&t and apple, had not a clue. in short. apple replaced the 3gs with another. only lost my contacts and some very important notes stored on my 3gs, everything else was backed up with itunes. after reading these posts, i will leave my 3gs as it is now, no upgrade to iso 5, but working like a champ. thank you all for your insight.

  35. Pcoca78 says

    Overall slow between apps. And a lag when view new txt. Got about a half gig of free space. Even as I am texting this from my iPhone there is a lag. Not impressed

  36. Max says

    I agree. Good experience However, sadly, I am going to upgrade to the 4s. I have a broken power button. Just shot out on me one day. And my phone is getting pretty laggy on top of that. I would have loved to see a bigger screen. 4g LTE support. And…. Drumroll Flash support. I actually expect to see these on the next iPhone, eh except for flash, which I was going to hold out for. Looks like I’m just going to go with the 4s. Hopefully the antennae are as good as they’re talked up to be. And hopefully 4g doesn’t blow up in the next two years

  37. rick says

    Upgraded my 3GS to IOS 5 3 days ago. Slowed down the phone a bit, but not to the extent it’s really annoying. What IS annoying however is that it shuts itself down during a phonecall. This happened to me 5 or 6 times now in the past 2 days. The apple logo appears and I have to wait for minutes before I can try to call back and excuses myself to the person (sometimes a client) that I was talking to……Anyone having the same experience? Suggestions?

  38. Carole says

    I’m so very glad to hear this! I haven’t upgraded to IOS5 because I’d heard bad things. Think I’ll do it right now! I agree that, if it works fine on the 3GS, I’m holding off for a 5 next year and skipping the 4S. Thanks for the post!

  39. guest says

    I disagree.  My iPhone 3GS is so slow after the upgrade.  I wasn’t planning on upgrading my phone despite the fact that I’m eligible for one, but now I’m reconsidering.

  40. Theihponesrule says

    my iphone 3gs used to be incredibly fast and a great phone. ever since i upgraded the software to IOS5 it has been incredibly sluggish and slow. is there anyway to fix this?

  41. HH says

    for me… i found that 3gs with ios5 is lagging me… somehow switching among the apps is slow… much slower than ios5… still work fine during ios 4.3.3… i’ve already deleted a lot of apps… but it still the same… laggy… >.< what about u guys? have the same problem?

  42. Coperario says

    Guardian crossword now hopelessly slow to do, it was laborious enough before! One app also very slow to respond. Notifications in Safari annoying but cannot get rid of it. Lots of lags browsing. Some new functions could be useful but it was fine before for me and id rather have the quicker response. Can I undo upgrade?!

  43. Jaysenmagan says

    My phone is not holding charge, is sluggish compared to the old operating system and the incoming call volume is barely audible and I can’t seem to change it, so no it’s not great, it’s definitely needs bug fixing and FAST!!!

  44. Phillyslowroll says

    iOS 5 on my 3GS is just horrid. Phone is SLUGGISH on almost everything I try to do. Some apps will just shutdown when the system gets to confused. Others do wacky things. So many things I couldn’t even begin to give examples. Oh how I loathe the day I installed it. If only I could go back.
    Yes there are some cool features but no worth all the trouble I’m having. When I expressed my frustration at the Apple Store and said it was all to force me to upgrade they agreed with me.

  45. Greg says

    I have been frustrated to no end since the upgrade!!! My 3Gs worked like a dream prior to IOS 5 and know I get virtually no streaming video since then. I travel a lot and use Netflix and Hulu Plus which worked great before BUT since the download, it has become terribly slow. I ran Speedtest and it showed my Download at 0.05 mps and my Upload at 0.09 mps! This feels like dial-up days!!!

  46. Renaldhache says

     DISAGREE!!!!   the ios 5.0.1 on my Iphone 3GS is a nightmare….everything so slow
    cannot use it. I have to double tap every thing. Maybe it come from the Multitasking Gestures for original iPad.

    If anyone can help me……..

  47. psyhunterson says

    my 3Gs runs terribly on iOS 5. whenever i open contacts, it gets 4 seconds (!) to open a contact’s information! Plus, the magnifying glass it opens when you correct while typing, it’s really slow! Another of my issues is the cover flow performance in music. The motion isn’t fluid anymore. It’s jerky. Battery drain problem another issue. I went to new performance report field  in settings and saw that everyday I have incidents of “memory full” reports. I have turned off calendar settings and ALL iCloud options but the memory problem remains. The worst problem is that of my contacts. When I really need to choose a contact’s number, the 4 seconds to open it feels like an eternity of frustration! 

  48. Jongonzalez24 says

    My iPhone 3GS runs perfectly on iOS 5.0.1 everything works perfect. No complaints.

  49. Dc-ghz says

    Very good article, just saw it 1/15/12, but most interesting and informative. Surprised that IOS 5 worked so well, that was really informative. Thanks for taking the time to do this!!

    • Guest says

      Could everyone having problems please say if the setup ad new phone or just upgraded?
      I’d think that setup as new is absolutely essential and most if the poor performance can be explained by just upgrading.

  50. Rbrxtn says

    I have honestly never had an issue since I upgraded to iOS5! Phone works great! I just bought my boyfriend the 4s and I love it, but I’m not paying all that dough to upgrade!!

  51. Jayant_thomas01 says

    I like the ios5 system…has definitely made the 3GS even more fun! So far no problems to report and this phone’ll do me fine for a while.

  52. Danielzyg says

    i’m having a problem trying to upgrade my 3gs from ios 4 to ios 5.. i tried to follow every instruction but in the end while activating my phone, never succeeded… “your phone could not be activated because the activation server is temporarily unavailable. try connecting your iphone to itunes to activate it.” i did for hundreds of time, still could not!!! and now my sim card can not be read in the phone as in “no sim card”. can anybody tell me what to do?

    • Richshew says

      Danielzyg.  i too had this problem for a while.  the exact same issue.  get the latest update for your itunes.  once that is updated (it takes a little while), when you plug your iphone, it will automatically prompt your 3gs update to ios 5.

      • Danielzyg says

        Richshew, i got this iphone from my cousin and it seemed to have been jailbroken :( is that also why the server kept being unavailable? can it still be recovered?

  53. johnny says

    I have my iphone 3gs jailbreaked and unblocked how can i upgrade it to ios 5 please if someone can give me some information about how to upgrade it to ios5 Thanks!

  54. Richard says

    I have the 5.1.1 version on my 3GS phone and just recently purchased the Apple TV. Do you know if there is a way to get the mirror option to work on my phone. I can connect easily to the Apple TV from my iPhone but the mirror option won’t come up. I would be great to have it.

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