iOS 8.3 on iPhone 5: Impressions & Performance

Today, Apple released a new iOS 8.3 update for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch that delivers a new Emoji keyboard, tons of enhancements and a laundry list of bug fixes for iOS 8 problems. It’s a substantial update for the iPhone and we want take a look at how the iOS 8.3 update is performing on the iPhone 5. This is our early iPhone 5 iOS 8.3 review.

In early February, Apple released its iOS 8.3 update into the beta program for developers. The iOS 8.3 beta release confirmed an upcoming arrival for iOS 8 powered iPhones, iPads and iPod touches though it did not confirm the public iOS 8.3 release date. Apple only confirms iOS release dates when they are announced on stage next to new hardware.


In the weeks that followed, Apple released several new iOS 8.3 betas in an attempt to weed out potential problems and ensure a smooth transition from iOS 8.2. The iOS 8.3 beta also featured the first iOS beta open to the public. Finally today, after four iOS 8.3 betas, Apple delivered the update that many iPhone and iPad users have been waiting for.


As expected, the iOS 8.3 update is a big one. It brings a ton of bug fixes for iOS 8 problems and it also delivers a number of enhancements to overall responsiveness, a new Emoji keyboard, some notable changes to Siri, and a whole lot more. The update is the biggest since iOS 8.2 and it’s arguably the biggest iOS 8 update since iOS 8.0.


As many of you know, incremental updates like iOS 8.3 have the potential to have a huge impact on performance. iOS 8.0.1, for example, killed Touch ID and cellular data on the iPhone 6. That’s why we take a look at these smaller updates. We want to provide you with feedback and clear vision as we push away from the initial release.


After some preparation, I installed Apple’s brand new iOS 8.3 update in an effort to provide you iPhone and iPad users with some initial impressions of Apple’s new software. These impressions don’t serve as a final review but they will help those of you who are straddling the fence about whether to install the company’s latest iOS 8 upgrade.

Here are my early impressions of iOS 8.3 on iPhone 5.

iOS 8.3 Installation

Installing the iOS 8.3 update on my iPhone 5 was an absolute nightmare. While I was able to get the 200MB+ update on board my iPhone 6 in about 45 minutes, my iPhone 5 iOS 8.3 installation process took well over an hour with the estimated time of completion fluctuating between two minutes and an hour.

I’ve really only seen this kind of issue on a big iOS release day, not a release date for a smaller incremental update. I haven’t heard about any widespread problems so I’m just going to chalk this up as an anomaly that you’re probably not going to run into yourself.


If you do run into installation problems, similar to mine or otherwise, try performing a force reboot. To do this, hold down the power button and home button at the same time and you should be good to go. If that doesn’t work, you’ll probably want to try installing the update through iTunes. It’s not as fluid but it’s an alternative to the OTA download process.

Note:I also tried iTunes and it said it would take 12 hours to download the update from Apple’s servers. Right.

iOS 8.3 Features

Apple’s new iOS 8.3 update comes with a ton of bug fixes and security enhancements. However, it also comes with some new features. The biggest changes are found in the redesigned Emoji keyboard. If you’ve downloaded iOS 8.3 already and you’ve sent out a message, you’ve probably already seen the change. If you haven’t, the slideshow below will give you an idea about what to expect.

iOS 8.3 vs iOS 8.2: What’s New in iOS 8.3

New iPhone Emoji in iOS 8.3

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New iPhone Emoji in iOS 8.3

Apple adds over 300 new iPhone emoji in iOS 8.3. There are new Emoji like the Apple Watch and a new Mac, but most users will focus on the addition of more family choices including more kids, families of two men or two women and now there is an option to change the skin tone of many emoji.

Read: How to Use New Emojis


With this update you can tap and hold to choose the skin tone of an emoji icon for many emoji options and then tap to pick the color option. Tap and hold on a new color option to make it the default.

The iOS 8.3 emoji keyboard for iPhone now offers continuous scrolling so it is easier to scroll through the emoji options and find the ones you want.

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There are a number of other changes on board the iPhone 5 iOS 8.3 update and the slideshow will give you a better idea about what to expect from iOS 8.3 and its change log. The emoji keyboard is the biggest change and while it’s going to take some getting used to, I think it’s a much better layout for the iPhone 5’s 4-inch display.


iOS 8.3 on iPhone 5: Performance

I’ve spent several hours with iOS 8.3 on iPhone 5. Before getting into the early review of performance, 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, LTE, or my home screen more than you do. So, consider this a general guide as you try to decide whether iOS 8.3 is worth installing on your iPhone 5.


I’ve owned the iPhone 5 for well over two years and I’ve dealt with my fair share of app problems. iOS 8 though has been pretty kind to the iPhone 5. While I’ve dealt with a few bugs here and there (looking at you Google Chrome), my overall app experience has actually been pretty good. Impressive for a 4-inch phone from 2012.

I’ve only been using iOS 8.3 for a few hours but in those hours, I haven’t noticed any problems with any of my apps. I won’t list all of them here but Slack, Asana, Instagram, Twitter, Dark Sky, Google Chrome, Google Hangouts, YouTube, and Spotify are fine after shifting from iOS 8.2 to iOS 8.3. I’m hoping that the performance holds up but there’s really no predicting the future when it comes to apps. They will sometimes start exhibiting issues out of the blue. I’m not seeing any major problems though and that’s a good sign.


Now, keep in mind, I’m very proactive when it comes to apps. I download the latest bug fix updates and if I do run into problems, I reinstall the app to see if that works. Often times, it does. Try those techniques before complaining to the developer.

iOS 8.3 Battery Life

Apple’s iPhone 5 is an ancient phone and that’s why it has been so refreshing to see its battery life hold up iOS 8 update after iOS 8 update. In the months since iOS 8’s arrival, I have yet to experience any abnormal battery drain and I’m not seeing any with iOS 8.3.

I’ve been using this phone a ton over the past few hours, on Wi-Fi and on LTE, and I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary. I’ve also left it in standby mode for awhile just to see if there was any weird discharge. Nothing. It’s still holding a great charge for a two year old phone.

As I’ve noted many times, battery life complaints are common after major iOS updates and I’ve seen tons of people complain. Even iOS 8.2, a major bug fixer, hurt the battery life on some iPhone 5 models. Just not mine.

I don’t think you guys are crazy. So, I’ve outlined a number of strategies to get better battery life on iOS 8 and the same advice applies to Apple’s iOS 8.3 update. Have a look at those if you install the iOS 8.3 update and you start noticing issues with your battery. Some of you might run into trouble but I expect a majority of you to come out of the iOS 8.3 update without any battery issues.

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth & LTE

While I have run into some connectivity issues on the iPhone 6, I haven’t seen the issues on the iPhone 5. Wi-Fi, LTE and Bluetooth have all be working fine and I’m not seeing anything different with iOS 8.3 on board.

I’ve been able to hold down a solid Wi-Fi connection. I’ve been able to pair my iPhone 5 with various Bluetooth devices. And I’ve been able to use AT&T’s LTE network without any mishaps. Connectivity problems can appear out of nowhere but I’m pretty optimistic at this point.

Bugs and Issues

iOS 8 on the iPhone 6 has been buggy while iOS 8 on the iPhone 5 has actually been really good. iOS 8.3 comes with a ton of bug fixes for iOS 8 problems that I don’t have but I’m not complaining.

So far, iOS 8.3 has been very stable on the iPhone 5. I haven’t encountered any major hero level problems that need immediate attention from Apple nor have I run into any smaller annoying issues. Smaller issues are typically a lot harder to spot in the hours after a release so I’m going to continue my hunt this week and next.


Remember, the iOS 8.3 update went through an extensive beta process, both public and private, and it’s building on an extremely solid foundation. iOS 8.3 represents Apple’s eight iOS 8 update since the release of iOS 8.0 in September.


If you’ve been following along, you’d know that my iPhone 5 has been struggling. The horrible performance has validated my decision to replace the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 6. If I hadn’t bought the iPhone 6 the day it came out, I would have bought an iPhone 6 after iOS 8.1. It has been that bad.

I’ve only spent a few hours with iOS 8.3 and so far, it has been good. (I said the same thing about iOS 8.2 though and it regressed after a couple of weeks.) The phone feels faster and simple things like opening a folder or an app feel a lot more fluid. Apple’s included improved performance for app launch and app responsiveness so that could certainly have something to do with it.

There’s still this sort of clunkiness when I multitask or move around the UI. Maybe I’m expecting too much from a phone that’s going on three years old or maybe Apple still has some work left to do. I’ll know more in a few days.

Should You Install iOS 8.3 Today?

After spending a few hours with iOS 8.3 on iPhone 5, here’s what I’ll say. If you’re dealing with iOS 8 problems that you can’t fix, go ahead and install the iOS 8.3 update right now. It comes with tons and tons of bug fixes for iOS 8 problems and it could solve yours.

If you aren’t having any problems on iOS 8.2 or below, my advice is to wait a few days. Yes, the emoji keyboard is nice but it can wait. Wait for the smoke from the iOS 8.3 release to settle, gather feedback from other iPhone 5 users, and make an informed decision. iOS 8.3 is a substantial update but it’s not going anywhere. Don’t rush into anything.