iOS 8.1 Impressions: Is It Worth Installing Right Now?

Earlier this week, after a short stint in beta, Apple released the iOS 8.1 update for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. As expected, the iOS 8.1 update delivered a number of big time changes including Apple Pay, additions to Continuity, the return of Camera Roll, and a slew of fixes for iOS 8 problems. And while iOS 8.1 was aimed at improving Apple’s new software, iPhone and iPad users are dealing with iOS 8.1 problems in the hours after release.

In late September, just a few weeks after iOS 8.0 came out of the beta program, Apple released iOS 8.1 beta. Apple did not attach a public iOS 8.1 release date to the beta leaving consumers wondering when the update would arrive. iPhone and iPad users put great importance on iOS 8.1 release due to a number of iOS 8.0 issues and iOS 8.0.2 issues on board Apple’s iOS 8 update.


Last week, Apple announced a public iOS 8.1 release date, confirming the update for Monday, October 20th. Two days ago, as promised, Apple released the iOS 8.1 update for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The iOS 8.1 update is a sizable upgrade that comes packed with new features and fixes for those touting iOS 8 powered devices. It also appears to have some bugs of its own on board.

See how iOS 8.1 performs on the iPhone 6 Plus.

See how iOS 8.1 performs on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Yesterday, we told you about a number of iOS 8.1 problems iPhone and iPad users are complaining about as the dust around the iOS 8.1 release begins to settle. iPhone 5s users are reporting random reboots after iOS 8.1. An iPhone 5 user told us that his iMessages stopped sending immediately after installing the iOS 8.1 update. We’re also hearing about Wi-Fi issues including Wi-Fi speeds mysteriously being throttled on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 in addition to erratic connection speeds. Those are, unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg.


We continue to get bombarded with questions about Apple’s iOS 8.1 update and the most popular question revolves around whether or not it’s worth a download right now, with no iOS 8.1.1 release in sight. Today, we want to help answer that question for you as we run down our experiences with iOS 8.1 on the iPhone and iPad.


iOS 8.1 Impressions

Over the past 48 hours or so, we’ve spent a ton of time with iOS 8.1 across several different devices And while we’re confident in our testing, we should note that mileage is going to vary from device to device, person to person. We probably don’t have the same apps installed and there’s a good chance that we stream more movies, use more LTE, and play more games than you do.

Consider these short impressions an initial guide to your final decision about whether to update to iOS 8.1. Ultimately, the final decision rests is going to rest in your hands. We can only serve as your guides.

iPhone 6

Our iOS 8.1 iPhone 6 experience, for the most part, has been extremely solid. The update fixed a number of the nagging issues inside iOS 8.0.2 including problems with iMessages and landscape mode and we haven’t noticed any battery life problems or any substantial problems with third-party applications. Connectivity and speed are top notch as well.

iPhone 6


We still haven’t run into any catastrophic issues or anything that ruins the overall experience. To us, iOS 8.1 is the update that should have accompanied the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to shelves. It has dramatically improved the performance on both of these flagship smartphones. For a more in depth look, have a look at our iOS 8.1 on iPhone 6 impressions.

iPhone 6 Plus

Same goes for the iPhone 6 Plus. The battery life is still holding up, apps are no longer getting stuck in landscape mode, and cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity remain strong after the update. These are all essential to the overall iOS experience and the move from iOS 8.0.2 to iOS 8.1 has been an impressive one. At least thus far.

After upgrading to iOS 8.1 apps run well on the iPhone 6 Plus.

After upgrading to iOS 8.1 apps run well on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Those of you that need a little bit more information about the iOS 8.1 update for the iPhone 6 Plus will want to take a look at our impressions. They’ll go into depth about all of the key areas that iOS updates like iOS 8.1 typically impact.

iPhone 5s

The iPhone 5s, Apple’s aging former flagship, saw its fair share of problems inside iOS 8.0.2 and iOS 8.0 though it fared much better than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. We fully expected the iOS 8.1 update to treat the iPhone 5s well and lo and behold, we’ve discovered a very stable update that actually might have enhanced performance.


Here's a closer look at iOS 8.0.2 performance on the iPhone 5s.

Here’s a closer look at iOS 8.0.2 performance on the iPhone 5s.

Several iOS 8 problems have been squashed by the iOS 8.1 update and that alone means that it should be worthy of consideration amongst you iPhone 5s users out there. To get a better feel for the iPhone 5s iOS 8.1 update, take a look at our first impressions. They’ll help you come to an informed decision about an installation today, tomorrow and in the future.

iPhone 5

Apple’s iPhone 5 was working great with iOS 7.1.2 on board. The iOS 8.0 and iOS 8.0.2 updates caused some issues for many iPhone 5 users, ourselves included, so we were hopeful that iOS 8.1 would return to the device to its iOS 7 form. So far, that hasn’t happened, at least not for us.

iOS 8.1 is, for the most part, stable. Battery life, connectivity, and apps are all working great. We should also note that a ton of bugs have been taken care of with the upgrade to iOS 8.1. However, the iPhone 5’s software is slow and clunky compared to iOS 8.0.2 and iOS 7.1.2. iOS 8.1 is noticeably sluggish on the iPhone 5 at the moment.



Given the bug fixes, it’s hard not to recommend it, but iPhone 5 users are going to want to think long and hard about the move from iOS 7 to iOS 8. iOS 8.0.2 to iOS 8.1 a little easier given iOS 8.1’s fixes. To help you in your decision, take a look at our first impressions.

iPad Air & iPad mini 2

These updates are very similar to one another so we’re going to include them both here. iOS 8.0.2 was very stable on both the iPad Air and iPad mini 2 and iOS 8.1 continues that trend. We did run into some initial sluggishness on the iPad Air though after two days, it seems to have gone away making room for a smooth, pristine experience.

iPad Air Review -  2

Battery life, connectivity and apps are all doing fine after the shift to iOS 8.1. For more on these, take a look at our iPad Air impressions and our iOS 8 impressions on the iPad mini 2.

iPad 3

Finally, we took a look at iOS 8.1 on the iPad 3, Apple’s third-gen iPad and one that is still in the hands of many, many consumers. The iPad 3 was a little slow in iOS 8.0.2 and iOS 8.0 though iOS 8.1 seems to have brought some performance improvements along with it. Do not expect a dramatic change but expect to see some noticeable changes to the speed.

IOS 8.1 performance on the iPad 3 is better.

IOS 8.1 performance on the iPad 3 is better.

For more on the iPad 3 iOS 8.1 update, take a look at our first impressions. They will provide you with an in-depth look at how the update is performing on the iPad 3 and help steer you in the right direction.

Should You Install iOS 8.1 Right Now?

All of that sets up our response to your burning question about whether or not it’s worth installing iOS 8.1 right now, just three days after the update’s arrival for iPhone and iPad.

If you own an iPad Air or an iPad mini with Retina Display, you’re probably going to be in the best shape. Both of those iOS 8.1 updates are running very smoothly and the initial slow down that we experienced on the iPad Air has dissipated in the hours after release. We recommend iOS 8.1, at this point, for both of these devices.

Apple’s iPad 3 is also performing a whole lot better on iOS 8.1. It’s not going to be a night and day experience but we’ve seen noticeable improvements over iOS 8.0.2 and below.

iOS 8.1 on iPhone 6

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus iOS 8.1 updates are much improved over iOS 8.0.2 and iOS 8.0. If you are having problems in either of those updates, it’s probably worth moving off of those right now. iOS 8.1’s bug fixes are very real and for us, the good outweighs the bad. At least for right now. We’ll see how they’re performing in a week.

Apple’s iOS 8.1 update for iPhone 5 is a mixed bag at the moment. The new features are good but it has been fairly sluggish thus far. That said, the bug fixes that come with iOS 8.1 make it worthy of consideration, iOS 8.1 problems or not. Same goes for the iPhone 4s iOS 8.1 update. According to some iPhone 4s users, there are iOS 8.1 issues though we’re also hearing good things from others. It’s a mixed bag.

At this point, the only reason you should avoid iOS 8.1 is if you’re on iOS 7 or below. iOS 8.0 and iOS 8.0.2 isn’t a huge leap and given the bug fixes, it’s a leap that makes sense. However, the move from iOS 7 to iOS 8 is a much bigger move. We aren’t dealing with a ton of iOS 8 problems but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any issues.

Our advice to iOS 7 users is to wait a week, see how iOS 8.1 is performing, and then make a decision.