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iOS 8.1 on iPad Air: Impressions & Performance



Today, as promised, Apple has released the iOS 8.1 update for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. With the iOS 8.1 release date finally here, we want to take a look at how the iOS 8.1 update is performing on the iPad Air. This is our early iOS 8.1 review on iPad Air.

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 had 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 latest update.

Last week, Apple finally announced an iOS 8.1 release date, confirming the update for Monday, October 20th. Today, right on cue, Apple released the iOS 8.1 update for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The update, as expected is a sizable update that not only includes support for Apple Pay but comes packed with an assortment of tweaks and changes that are meant to improve Apple’s new iOS 8 update.


The iOS 8.1 change log is massive, much larger than your standard incremental upgrade, and it’s an update that iPhone and iPad users are clearly interested in given the problems plaguing iOS 8.0. Problem is, Apple’s iOS updates will often deliver some problems of their own. With that in mind we have decided to, once again, serve as your iOS guinea pig.

Earlier today, we installed Apple’s brand new iOS 8.1 update in an effort to provide iPhone and iPad users with some initial impressions of the iOS 8.1 update. 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 our early impressions of the iOS 8.1 update for iPad Air.

iOS 8.1 Installation

While the iOS 8.1 installation process on my iPhone 6 went very smoothly, the installation process on my iPhone 5 and iPad Air did not. The issues were very different though. My iPhone 5 installation issues pertained to a lengthy verification period while my iPad Air simply couldn’t pull the update from Apple’s servers in the minutes after iOS 8.1’s arrival.

Instead of installing the iOS 8.1 OTA, I chose to install through iTunes. This way, I didn’t have to delete any files to install. OTA updates require a ton of space and I own a 16GB iPad that’s almost full. I tried to install the update and almost immediately was greeted with an error that prevented me from getting to the download process.

iPad Touch ID

After waiting about 30 minutes, I was finally able to pull the update through iTunes. After the initial hiccup, everything went fine and I was able to get the iOS 8.1 update up and running in about 15 minutes or so.

If you do run into some issues, have a look at our fixes. They will hopefully alleviate any installation issues that you encounter during the transition to Apple’s iOS 8.1 update.

iOS 8.1 on iPad Air Performance

In the past few hours, I’ve spent a ton of time with iOS 8.1 on iPad Air. Before getting into the early review and my impressions, 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 8.1 is worth installing on your aging iPad Air.

iOS 8.1 Apps

While my app experience on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 has been a bit uneven, my app experience on the iPad Air has been very solid in iOS 8. I haven’t run into any problems with core apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts, Google Chrome, or YouTube, and the same can be said about Apple’s new iOS 8.1 update.

Everything is working fine on the iPad Air with iOS 8.1 aboard. Even Netflix, a problematic application, is working well with Apple’s latest upgrade. It’s a testament to the job that developers have done ahead of this update and iOS 8 itself. From what I’ve seen, developers were very prepared for these updates and that’s translated into a pretty stable experience for most users, myself included.

iPad Air

If you are experiencing problems right now, try updating your applications. I have auto update turned on so that my apps are always updated and there’s a good chance that a bug fix or iOS 8 compatibility update will help solve your issues.

Keep in mind, there’s a chance that performance will decline in the hours, days and weeks after iOS 8.1. App performance has a tendency to do that and I started to see issues crop up with Google Chrome and Facebook in the weeks after installing iOS 8.0.2 on the iPhone. Still, it’s worth noting that I haven’t experienced any headaches in the hours after iOS 8.1’s arrival.

iOS 8.1 Battery Life

iPad Air battery life was solid in iOS 7. It was solid in iOS 7.1. It was solid in iOS 8.0. It was solid in iOS 8.0.2. Unsurprisingly, iOS 8.1 battery life is fantastic on the iPad Air, so far. I haven’t run into any abnormal battery drain, slow charging issues or anything else that is cause for concern. The iPad’s battery is holding up quite well after Apple’s latest.

As I’ve noted many times, 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. Have a look at those before writing iOS 8.1 off or performing a factory restore on your iPad Air.

iOS 8.1 Wi-Fi & Bluetooth

I’ve heard complaints about Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in iOS 8 though I haven’t experienced any myself. I do not have a 4G LTE iPad Air so I can’t speak to cellular performance after installing iOS 8.1 but what I can say is that I’m still not experiencing any Bluetooth or Wi-Fi issues with iOS 8.1. Both are still very solid and I’m able to pull down stable connections.

iPad Air Outdoors

iOS 8.1 comes with fixes for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth though given that I wasn’t experiencing any issues before iOS 8.1, I can’t tell you if they fix anything. What I can tell you is that all three are performing nicely with iOS 8.1 on board.

Should iOS 8.1 fail to fix your problems, we advise you to take a look at these potential fixes. They might squash your issues though as is the case with all iOS fixes, they may not work for you all.

iOS 8.1 Bugs & Issues

I was dealing with numerous iOS 8.0.2 bugs on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5 though I did not experience the same bugs on the iPad Air. In fact, after using the iPad Air and iOS 8.0.2 for several weeks, I did not encounter any issues with a negative impact on the overall iOS 8 experience. It’s crazy but it’s true. The experience has been and still is very stable.

So far, I haven’t stumbled into any iOS 8.1 bugs or issues. The update, which comes with an assortment of fixes for iOS 8 problems, seems to be very stable though I know how quickly that can change. There is one annoyance that I’ll cover in a second but I haven’t seen any major bugs impact the overall performance on the iPad. It’s stable.

If you’re struggling, have a look at our fixes for common iOS 8 problems. They might help.

iOS 8.1 Speed

iOS 7.1.2, iOS 8.0 and iOS 8.0.2 were all very fast on the iPad Air. iOS 8.1 doesn’t feel as crisp. It doesn’t feel as fluid and I’ve noticed the operating system slow down on several occasions. It’s a bit strange given how good the experience has been though I suspect that it will iron itself out in the hours, days and weeks ahead.

I should not that this slow down, this sluggishness, is occasional and it’s not on par with the problems I’m having with the iPhone 5. iOS 8.1 on the iPad Air is much faster than iOS 8.1 on the iPhone 5 though it can’t touch the experience on the iPhone 6.

Should You Install iOS 8.1?

Overall, iOS 8.1 is good. Battery life is great, so is connectivity. The speed problems leave something to be desired but I’m confident that they won’t persist beyond this week. We’ll see. If you’re dealing with serious problems on either iOS 8.0 or iOS 8.0.2, it’s probably going to be worth taking a chance on it. The iOS 8.1 update is full of bug fixes that could potentially settle your iOS 8 problems.

iPad Air Review -  2

If you’re not experiencing any issues, you might want to hold off for a few days while I dig into the update even further. Apple doesn’t force you to install its iOS updates so there’s no reason to rush on this update. iOS updates have a habit of showing their true colors about a week or two in and if you’re not in a rush, consider sticking with what you have right now. Be it iOS 8 or iOS 7 or something else.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Lesley

    10/20/2014 at 8:15 pm

    if you just look at the apple forums, you’ll see A LOT of people having connectivity issues on iPads with iOS 8.0.2 including myself. Safari is AWFUL on this iOS, pages take at least 10 seconds to open, home button response delays. Only on the pad, my 5s is fine. I’ll hold off to see some reciews before I update to 8.1 on my pad. It’s terribly frustrating to use.

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