iOS 8.1 on iPad Air: Is It Worth Installing Now?

Back in October, Apple pushed out its second major iOS 8 update dubbed iOS 8.1. iOS 8.1 delivers new features and bug fixes to iPhone and iPad users though it’s not without its faults. After using iOS 8.1 for more than two weeks, we want to take another look at how the update is performing on the iPad and offer a clear cut answer to the all important question: Is iOS 8.1 worth installing on the iPad Air?

Earlier this year, Apple released its iOS 8.1 update into the beta program. For several weeks Apple, and its developer partners, poked and prodded the update ahead of its highly anticipated public release date. In mid-October, Apple took the stage to announce several new products and there, it confirmed an October release for the iOS 8.1 upgrade for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.


Several weeks ago, Apple’s iOS 8.1 update rolled out to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users all over the globe and, as we’ve noted in our reviews, the updates tackled some of the annoying problems that emerged last month with Apple’s iOS 8.0 update. And while iOS 8.1 did squash some bugs, it appears that it failed to eradicate them all.

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We’ve received feedback from many iPhone and iPad users, many of whom are dealing with assorted iOS 8.1 problems. We’ve also heard from iPhone and iPad users who, after hearing about these issues, are still on the fence about downloading and installing the iOS 8.1 update. If that sounds like you, we don’t blame you. In fact, if you waited, you probably did the right thing


iOS problems tend to show up, or dissipate, in the weeks after the initial release and now that we’re at the two week mark, we feel like we have a pretty good gauge on iOS 8.1’s performance across most of Apple’s iOS 8 devices including several former flagships.


Today, we want to revisit the iOS 8.1 update on the iPad Air, the first-gen iPad Air, and give a definitive response to those iPad Air users still on the fence about a move from iOS 8.0.2 and below. Here’s a look at how iOS 8.1 is performing on the aging iPad Air after two weeks.

iOS 8.1 Review on iPad Air: Two Weeks Later

Over the past two weeks, I’ve spent a ton of time with iOS 8.1 on iPad Air. Before getting into this updated review, I should note that mileage is going to vary from device to device, person to person. That is to say, I probably don’t have the same apps installed and there’s a chance that I use Google Chrome, games, or my home screen more than you do. So consider this updated iOS 8.1 review a general guide as you try to decide whether iOS 8.1 is worth installing on your iPad Air.

iOS 8.1 Performance

When it comes to the performance of iOS updates, I like to focus on five different elements. They include performance of applications, battery life, connectivity including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, assorted bugs and issues, and overall speed.

iOS 8.1 Apps

After using the iOS 8.1 update on iPad Air for two weeks, I can tell you, with confidence, that my app experience has never been better. I haven’t run into any crashes or lock ups or anything that’s driven me nuts. Literally every single key application that I use, Netflix, Chrome, and various games, has been performing well inside iOS 8.1. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Hangouts, Spotify, Soundcloud, Google Maps, The Weather Channel, and Dark Sky are all working fine as well.


I experienced a host of issues inside iOS 7 and I even encountered sporadic crashes and freezes in iOS 8.0.2 and iOS 8.0. iOS 8.1 has been treating my apps well and its helped make the transition from iOS 7 to iOS 8 very smooth.

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Now, I understand that I don’t speak for everyone that owns an iPad Air. What I mean by that is, I know that there are some iPad Air users dealing with app issues. If you are dealing with app problems inside iOS 8, my advice to you is to update your apps to the latest version. You’d be surprised how many problems get solved just by updating your applications.

A few friends of mine, iPad Air users, were experiencing issues and wouldn’t you know? I told them to update their applications and their experience is as smooth as mine.

iOS 8.1 Battery Life

Two weeks later and my iPad Air battery life in iOS 8.1 is still extremely solid. It hasn’t harmed it at all. Instead, its kept it at an acceptable level for a device that’s now a year old. I’m still able to get more than a full day of use out of my iPad Air and that’s come in handy on a couple of recent trips for friends weddings. It’s nice not to have to worry about it running out of steam on a plane ride.


Now, keep in mind, I don’t use LTE. My device is Wi-Fi only. LTE tends to drain battery a whole lot faster than Wi-Fi so if you are experiencing issues, try limiting your LTE use.


As I’ve noted many times before, iOS updates are not supposed to bring battery life problems to iPhones or iPads. Typically, bad battery life is caused by third-party apps or users themselves. We’ve outlined a number of strategies to get better battery life inside iOS 8 and the same advice applies to Apple’s latest iOS 8.1 update.

iOS 8.1 Connectivity

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both working fine after two weeks. I’m able to pull down fast speeds over my home Wi-Fi network and I’m also able to connect, with ease, to my Bluetooth speakers. I’ve experienced some iOS 8.1 Wi-Fi issues on my iPhone 6 but for whatever reason, my iPad Air has been able to avoid them. For the time being.


Our potential iOS 8.1 Wi-Fi fixes seem to have helped iPhone and iPad users in need though there’s always a chance they won’t permanently fix things. Wi-Fi has been an issue in iOS for a long time and unfortunately us iPad users are never in the clear. My hope is that the experience I’m having right now inside iOS 8.1 is the experience I’m having months, even years, down the road.

iOS 8.1 Bugs

iOS 8.1 is far buggier on the iPhone. I’ve noticed several hiccups on the iPhone 6 while the experience on the iPad Air has been far more stable. I’ve literally been digging for two weeks and I haven’t come across any game-changing bugs. That is to say that the device doesn’t get stuck in landscape mode, messages send out when they’re supposed to and I haven’t seen my keyboard disappear.

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Bugs have a habit of laying dormant and then exposing themselves when you least expect it. So, while I’m clear of bugs right now, there’s always a chance that something will emerge in the weeks and perhaps months ahead. If you do run into issues, take a look at our iOS 8.1 bug fix list.

iOS 8.1 Speed

Immediately after installing the iOS 8.1 on iPad Air, I noticed some some unexplained slow down and sluggishness. As I’ve pointed out at various times over the past two weeks, those issues have not popped back up. Two weeks later and the iPad Air iOS 8.1 update is running extremely smooth. Folders open up without jagged animations and I haven’t seen any abnormal slowdown in my many hours with the software.

iOS 8.1 on iPad Air: Is It Worth Installing Now?

In a word, yes. Not only do you get some new Continuity features and new features for photos including Camera Roll, you also get a ton of potential bug fixes. I’ve also retained my fantastic iPad Air performance which is a plus.

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If you’re at all concerned, you can simply hold out for iOS 8.1.1. Apple’s next iOS 8 update is currently in the beta process and it looks like it will aim to tackle some of the remaining problems found in iOS 8.