By Apple’s count, sixty percent of iOS users have moved to the company’s iOS 8 update. This means that there are still a ton of iPhone and iPad users lingering on iOS 7.1.2 and below. With more than two months of iOS 8 use under our belts, on a number of different devices we might add, we want to take a detailed look at iOS 8 and help those of you on iOS 7 and below over the fence. This is our iOS 8 review, more than two months later.
Last year, Apple introduced the biggest change to iOS since its inception. The iOS 7 update brought about some remarkable changes to Apple’s iOS design and it also delivered a number of new features to iPhone and iPad. iOS 7 was a massive update and one that many iPhone and iPad users installed onto their device replacing the company’s previous versions of the operating system.
Every year, Apple introduces a new version of its mobile operating system so as we moved away from the iOS 7 release, we knew that the company was hard at work on its successor. In June, Apple put that successor on display for the first time, confirming its next update as iOS 8. iOS 8, unsurprisingly, was not the complete overhaul that iOS 7 was and when the update arrived this past September, it wasn’t greeted with the same mass hysteria.
iOS 8 was first released to the public in September alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The update, which replaces iOS 7, is not a huge departure from iOS 7 and instead, builds on the foundation left behind by last year’s changes. It delivers new features, enhancements, fixes, and more to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users.
The update also delivered a series of iOS 8 problems to iPhone and iPad users. Over the past two and a half months, Apple’s worked to fix those iOS 8 problems through a series of updates. First, we saw iOS 8.0.1. Next, it was iOS 8.0.2 and iOS 8.1. Then, last month, Apple pushed out iOS 8.1.1. iOS 8.2 is active in the company’s beta program but it’s not expected to arrive until next year.
It’s not clear why 40% of iOS users remain on iOS 7 and below but there’s a chance that the attention given to iOS 8 problems played a part, perhaps a small part, in peoples decisions. Whatever the case, it’s our job to keep people informed and today want to inform the remaining 40% of iOS users about the iOS 8 update from Apple.
This two month review will take a comprehensive look at the update’s features and performance and it will hopefully answer the question we’ve been getting over and over again since September: “Is iOS 8 worth installing?” Here’s our answer after two months.
iOS 8 Review
Over the past two and a half months or so I, like many of my colleagues, have spent a ton of time with Apple’s iOS 8 update. I regularly use the iPhone 6, iPhone 5, iPad Air, and iPad mini 2 while my colleagues have been using the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, and iPad 3. This review will primarily be about my experiences though I will loop in some of their thoughts as well. I’ll point them out so that you’re aware.
Before getting into this detailed iOS 8 review and my impressions over an extended period of time, 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 applications installed and there’s a chance that I use Google Chrome, play more games, and use my home screen more than you do. So, consider this a general guide as you try to decide whether iOS 8 is worth installing on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
iOS 8 Performance
When I look at the performance of Apple’s iOS updates, I like to focus in on five key areas. Other reviewers might do something different so if you’re looking for something else, check around. The five areas I look at are app performance, battery life, connectivity (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE), miscellaneous bugs, and overall fluidity of the OS. Those are the most important aspects to me and that’s what will be covered here.
App performance after major iOS updates is often a bit uneven. In the past, we’ve seen iOS updates wreck havoc on a great number of applications. Typically, it’s because the app developer didn’t prepare. This is a cause for concern amongst many of the iPhone and iPad users we’ve spoken with over the years but if it’s one of the things holding you back from installing iOS 8, it’s time to let go.
As my colleagues and I have noted over the past couple of months, app developers have done an outstanding job of keeping apps updated with bug fixes and more importantly, fixes and enhancements specifically for iOS 8.
I’ve seen a stream of bug fixes pour out over the past two months and those fixes have kept my app experience at a relative calm. I’ve seen a few crashes with Google Chrome, the occasional stutter with Facebook, and a few random crashes here and there but there’s really been nothing catastrophic. Same goes for the experience of my colleagues.
That’s a testament to Apple’s beta program and to the hard work of the engineers at companies big and small behind the scenes. They were prepared for this update and it shows. There’s always a chance that some of your applications will act up after making the move from iOS 7 or below to iOS 8 but now that we’re two months in, I think you’re app collection should be pretty stable if you install the latest updates.
Battery life is the lifeblood of mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. And after every single iOS update, I always hear moaning and groaning about battery drain and random battery problems. I’m not dismissing those problems as frauds but what I will say is that most of the time, it’s not Apple’s fault. Most of the time, it’s an app causing problems or your bad habits causing the problems.
iOS updates aren’t supposed to much of an effect on the battery life on older devices. And if they do have an effect, it’s supposed to be positive. iOS 8 didn’t, and still doesn’t, advertise any battery life tweaks so it’s not surprising to see the battery life across my devices, and across my colleagues devices, stay the same as it was with iOS 7 on board.
If tales of poor iOS 8 battery life are holding you back from installing the update, don’t let them. We haven’t noticed any abnormal battery drain on any of the iOS 8 devices that we’re using. We should note that all of them are using iOS 8.1.1, Apple’s latest upgrade. We haven’t seen any problems with charging speed and all of our iPhones and iPads are holding a solid standby charge.
We can’t speak for every single iPhone or iPad user out there but what I can say is that if there were widespread iOS 8 battery life issues, we probably would have stumbled into them. So it’s looking like we have another case of people blaming Apple for battery life problems that are probably being caused by third-party applications or, well, you.
The important thing to note is that there’s a very good chance you’ll retain the same great battery life you’re currently getting on iOS 7.1.2 or below. Even if you don’t, there are ways to easily fix battery life woes.
Connectivity is important too. Mobile devices aren’t useless without a data connection like Wi-Fi or LTE but they are certainly hampered. Over the years, we’ve run into our fair share of problems with cellular networks, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. And while we’ve heard about various issues with iOS 8, we have not run into any issues after getting the iOS 8.1.1 update on board our devices.
LTE is working perfectly with iOS 8 on board. Wi-Fi, which has been a huge problem in the past, is working perfectly fine across all of our iPhones and iPads running iOS 8.1.1. And Bluetooth, which was broken in early versions of iOS 8, has returned to its past form with the arrival of iOS 8.1.1. These are all up to snuff.
Now, I should note that these services are very unpredictable and there are lots of outside factors that could damage their performance. Older routers, network outages, cars that either can’t or don’t support Bluetooth. It’s impossible to cover all of that ground but we’re confident that iOS 8 and more specifically, iOS 8.1.1, probably won’t break these services completely. And if it does, there are some fixes that you’ll want to try out.
Bugs & Issues
This is another area that is probably holding a lot of you back from iOS 8. You’ve heard about the bugs and issues plaguing the iOS 8 and various iOS 8 updates and so you’ve gotten scared. We don’t blame you at all, especially if you’re having a solid experience on iOS 7.1.2 or below. That said, most of the issues you’ve heard about are isolated and the few issues that we saw in the early days have been squished by Apple’s fleet of incremental bug fix updates.
iOS 8 isn’t flawless. Software updates never are. But from where I’m standing, it’s an extremely stable update, even on older devices like the iPad 3. We’ve heard from iPhone 4s and iPad 2 users who are reporting success after installing iOS 8.1.1 update as well.
Apple’s worked hard to eradicate the issues plaguing the iOS 8 update and iOS 8.1.1, in our opinion, is the most stable version of iOS 8 yet. Is it bug free? Probably not, but show me a piece of mobile software that doesn’t have some minor issues attached to it. If you prepare for iOS 8 and do your homework, you’re going to mitigate the chance of getting issues and you’re going to lessen the sting should any issues arrive on board.
If you’re worried about iOS 8 affecting the overall speed of your device, and you own a newer model, you can go ahead and relax. If you own an older model, you will need to do your homework.
The iOS 8 update is unsurprisingly fast on the iPads including the iPad 3. It’s also fast on the iPhone 5s, Apple’s flagship from last year. What do we mean by fast? We mean that folders open up fast, animations and transitions are fluid, and there’s very little (if any) sluggishness. iOS 8 is fast on all of Apple’s newer devices though speed might take a hit for those of you with older phones and tablets.
We’ve noticed a very visible drop in speed on the iPhone 5. We’ve also gotten feedback from iPhone 4s and iPad 2 users who say that performance is lacking after installing iOS 8. iOS 8.1.1 for us, and others, has improved things but some of you may never get the speed of iOS 7 and below back after making the move to iOS 8. Key word might. There are plenty of others that have made it out fine.
Thus far, this is the only real risk that we’ve discovered for owners of older devices. And thanks to the features that come along with iOS 8, it’s probably going to be a risk worth taking.
iOS 8 Features
Apple’s iOS 8 update builds on last year’s iOS 7 upgrade and delivers a number of big time features of its own. There are some that aren’t found on older devices but the differences aren’t as drastic as last year’s change logs. There are over a hundred changes to iOS, big and small, so I’ll focus on some of the bigger additions to the operating system.
iOS 8 brings massive changes to the Messages app. As an iPhone and iPad user that heavily relies on Messages for communication with friends, family and co-workers, I was hopeful that the changes wouldn’t ruin a good thing.
The changes that iOS 8 introduces are going to take some time for many of you to digest. It took me awhile to properly configure Group Threads and discover some of the new settings but after two months of use, I can’t imagine going back to the old Messages app found in iOS 7.
It’s the little things like the new sharing functionality that comes with a long press on the camera button that have found their way into my daily routine. And the ability to name all of my group threads so that I can better manage my conversations both in work and in play. There’s just so much customization here and that’s huge for those of you that love to send messages. Who doesn’t love that?
I wasn’t a big notification user before the arrival of iOS 8. Most notifications are annoying. iOS 8 makes them less annoying. Specifically, you can now respond to texts and other messages like email and Twitter mentions without leaving the app that you’re in. That might seem like a small feature but that’s been absolutely huge for me thus far.
I’ve also started actively using Apple’s version of widgets. For those not familiar, you can now install a little widget (for select applications) in your notification tray. These widgets offer up to date information about weather, sports scores and more. They’re not as nice as Android’s version of widgets but they’re a nice improvement over iOS 7.
If you are concerned about your battery life, and I know of no iPhone or iPad user that’s not, iOS 8 introduces a handy little tool in settings that allows you to track the applications and services that are eating up your battery life.
I am addicted to this little feature and it’s helped me to curb some of my bad app habits. Alone, it’s not worth the move to iOS 8 but when paired with everything else the update has to offer, it makes a fine addition.
Apple made a huge deal out of Continuity when it introduced the iOS 8 update. The feature is actually a collection of features aimed at owners of the iPhone 5s and above and iPad 4 and above. They also tie into Mac and Apple’s new OS X Yosemite.
The feature essentially allow you to pick up phone calls and answer messages across all of your devices. It also allows you to pick up right where you left off inside certain apps. So, for instance, if you were writing an email on your iPhone and you decide you need more room, you can switch to your iPad and you won’t have to do much to continue.
I haven’t used this feature too much, it’s annoying when all of my devices ring over and over again when someone calls, but I could see this being essential to those of you that extensively use Apple’s applications.
I can’t say enough about the changes that Apple delivered with the new Camera application. The new Self-Timer and and the new Time-Lapse feature are both solid additions but it’s the Manual Exposure Adjustment feature that’s really been a treat to use.
I had high hopes for the new predictive keyboard functionality but I’ve since turned it off. One because it wasn’t very accurate and two, it was getting in my way. If you’re thinking about jumping up to iOS 8, I wouldn’t do it to get the new keyboard.
Apple’s multitasking still doesn’t allow you to run two apps on the screen at once but iOS 8 does offer some nice additions to the company’s version of the feature. Now instead of just the cards, it will also give you easy access to your contacts.
This has been absolutely essential for me, someone that lives on the iPhone, because I’m able to skip the part where I have to dig into my folders, or use Spotlight, to find the correct number of contact. It also allows for easy access to favorites. A nice touch.
iCloud & Photos
These are huge. The Photos app, which once again includes Camera Roll thanks to iOS 8.1.1, provides some fantastic ways to keep photos and videos organized. It’s a much cleaner, much nicer approach than the jumbled mess that was and is iOS 7’s Photos application. There are also now an assortment of photo editing tools so that you don’t need to spend extra money on a photo editing app. I’ve used these countless times to touch up and rework some of my best photography.
iOS 8.1 delivered a fantastic feature called iCloud Photo Library beta. This allows you to view your photos and videos across devices. The original resolution is stored in iCloud which means that the photos and videos won’t take up a ton of extra space on your devices. This feature requires iOS 8 and it’s a big reason why I have no regrets about making the move.
iOS 8.1.1: Extra Storage
One last thing. We should point out that the iOS 8.1.1 update frees up about 500MB of storage space on the iPad and if users are correct, on the iPhone as well. That’s a huge bonus, especially for those of you that are touting 16GB versions of the iPhone or iPad. 500MB is a lot of room and it’s especially precious on variants that lack a ton of internal storage space.
Is iOS 8 Worth Installing?
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably noticed a theme throughout this review. Over and over again, I’ve mentioned Apple’s iOS 8.1.1 update. I noted that it’s the most stable iOS 8 update yet. This was, and is, important to key in on because in my opinion, iOS 8.1.1’s arrival makes the iOS 8 worth installing on your iPhone or iPad right now.
At this point, I think that the benefits of the iOS 8 update that I detailed above and the performance of iOS 8.1.1 offer the best iOS 8 package yet. It’s also worth noting that there is an iOS 8.1.1 jailbreak available, right now, if you want to go that route.
When you install iOS 8, you’re not going to notice the changes right off the bat. The software looks very similar to the iOS 7 update, almost identical. But once you start diving in, I think you’re really going to like what you find.