iOS 8.1 Review: iPhone 5

Last week, Apple released its first big update to iOS 8.0 in the form of iOS 8.1. iOS 8.1 represents the third update to iOS 8 since its arrival back in September and it’s an update that delivered new features in addition to bug fixes. After spending a week with Apple’s new software on the iPhone 5, we deliver a full iOS 8.1 review and help you decide if an upgrade is worth it.

In September, just a few weeks after iOS 8.0 came out of the beta program, Apple released the first iOS 8.1 beta. Apple did not attach a public iOS 8.1 release date to the beta leaving consumers wondering about a release date. iPhone and iPad users put great importance on the 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.

Earlier this month, Apple announced a public iOS 8.1 release date with a release set for October 20th. 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.


Over the past week, we’ve been poking and prodding Apple’s new update in an effort to bring iPhone and iPad users feedback in the aftermath of its release. After spending a ton of time with Apple’s iOS 8.1 update on the iPhone 5, we want to share our feedback in an effort to help those of you that might still be straddling the fence between iOS 8.1 and something else. iOS 8 represents the second major update for the iPhone 5, a device that was first released in 2012.

This iOS 8.1 review on iPhone 5 will go over iOS 8 problems, fixes, and most important, overall performance. Our goal is to help you decide one way or the other. Remember, Apple never forces you to install its software updates so there’s no need to feel any pressure.

iOS 8.1 Review on iPhone 5

Over the past week, I’ve spent a ton of time with iOS 8.1 on iPhone 5. Before getting into this 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, LTE, or my home screen more than you do.

So consider this iOS 8.1 review a general guide as you try to decide whether iOS 8.1 is worth installing on your iPhone 5.

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 of the software. These are all important, especially to owners of the iPhone 5, a device that’s getting up there in age.

iOS 8.1 Apps

In the hours after the iOS 8.1 update’s arrival, I noted that my app experience on the iPhone 5 was very solid. Even problematic applications like Facebook and Google Chrome, both of which acted up in iOS 8.0.2 and below, were working normally. To my surprise, the iOS 8.1 app experience has held up over the past week.

Google Chrome hasn’t been crashing, Facebook and Twitter are both fast, and other key apps like Instagram and Google Hangouts are both working properly. I haven’t noticed any abnormal hangups or crashes in other applications as well. Does this mean that things won’t change? Nope, apps have a tendency to break down on older devices over time. However, the performance I’ve gotten so far is encouraging.


If you’re experiencing issues with any of your applications in iOS 8.1 or below, you’d be wise to update them. I’ve seen tons of bug fixes roll out in the days and weeks after the iOS 8 update’s arrival and most of those updates have delivered important bug fixes. It could explain why I’ve been having such a solid experience inside iOS 8.1.

Note, if you don’t have automatic app updates turned on, you might want to think about doing that right now. I keep it turned on because I typically forget to install bug fixes. With it turned on, I no longer have to worry about it.

iOS 8.1 Battery Life

I’ve been getting complaints about iOS 8.1 battery drain though I’ve yet to see any on the iPhone 5. Battery life remains solid and I’m still able to get a full day of use with a mixture of Wi-Fi and LTE. If you primarily use LTE, note that it’s going to drain your battery a whole lot faster than Wi-Fi. So when you can, try and use a Wi-Fi connection.

The fact that a two year battery is holding up this well is very impressive. It’s the little things that help to prolong a smartphones battery life and Apple is very good at providing those little things. No battery drain and no slow charging problems have made me a happy camper over the past week and I hope that the results continue to be good.

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

While I’ve dealt with Wi-Fi issues on the iOS 8.1 update for iPhone 6, I haven’t run into the same problems on the iPhone 5. Wi-Fi, AT&T LTE and Bluetooth are all holding up quite well after the iOS 8.1 update. I’ve tested the iPhone 5 and iOS 8.1 on a number of different Bluetooth devices including cars (Prius’) and speakers and I haven’t run into any difficulties.

iPhone 5

If you are dealing with connectivity issues inside iOS 8.1 or in any other iOS update, you’d be wise to check out our iOS 8.1 tips and fixes. They will provide some potential fixes for you to follow.

iOS 8.1 Bugs & Issues

What’s interesting is that iOS 8.1 is actually buggier on the iPhone 6. The iOS 8.1 update’s performance on the iPhone 5 has been stellar and the update squashed a number of bugs that had been lingering since iOS 8. One of those bugs was the landscape issue that caused the device to get stuck in landscape mode. It’s a problem I’m still seeing on the iPhone 6.

Now, as I’ve pointed out, a bug-free week with an iOS update doesn’t mean that I’m in the clear. There’s a good chance that bugs are still lurking inside the software and that I just haven’t seen them. So far though, iOS 8.1 on iPhone 5 has been pretty darn stable save for a few slow down issues that I’ll detail in the section below.

iOS 8.1 Speed

Speed is always a cause for concern when it comes to new iOS updates for older devices. The iPhone 5 is using two year old hardware and it’s starting to show its age on my iPhone 5 at least. iOS 8.1 is still a little bit creaky on the iPhone 5. And this is after I made some tweaks and changes to help improve its overall performance. It doesn’t feel as fluid as iOS 7.1.2 did.

The experience isn’t as slow as it was in the hours after installing iOS 8.1, it has ironed out a bit, but I am still getting an occasional slow down and lock up when navigating through folders, apps and home screens. It doesn’t make the software unusable, it’s more of an annoyance. I’m hopeful that things will start to improve as we push away from its release date.

iOS 8.1 on iPhone 5: Is It Worth It?

Speed issues aside, the iOS 8.1 is  treating my iPhone 5 well. The update killed off some very annoying issues and it’s provided a fairly stable experience on a device that’s not getting any younger. Battery life, connectivity and apps all remain very strong inside iOS 8.1.

iOS 8.1 is an improvement over iOS 8.0.2 and iOS 8.0 though I long for the speed and fluidity that I found inside iOS 7.1.2. If you’re still on that update and you’re not experiencing any issues, you’ll want to take a long hard look at the iOS 8’s updates features and decide if they’re going to be worth it. I think they are but it’s a personal decision.

If you’re on either of the older iOS 8 updates, and you’re running into problems, I think iOS 8.1 is going to be worth it because of the potential that it offers.