Here we go again. Another year and another iOS update. This time Apple is touting the biggest iOS release ever: iOS 8. iPhones 4S and newer can install it. So what’s new? Is it better than iOS 7?
Before I got my iPhone 6, I updated my iPhone 4S to iOS 8. There are two ways to update your phone to this version. In both methods, make sure to back up your phone before you start.
First is to do it over WiFi. This requires you to download the update file on your phone. I have heard varying stories on how large this download was. Mine was 4.5 GB. This is huge. Especially when my iPhone 4S is the 16 GB model. I had to clear lots of stuff my phone to get the space necessary. After that the update completed without problems and took about an hour to an hour and a half to complete.
The second way to update is to hook up your iPhone to a computer with iTunes installed on it. This method downloads the update file on your computer. That way you don’t have to clear space off of your phone. Once the file has downloaded, iTunes will have installed it on your connected iPhone.
My wife chose this method for her iPhone 5S. It didn’t go well. For some reason it messed up during the install portion of the update. Her phone was fine but the install was treated as if she bought a new iPhone. To make matters worse the backup she performed only saved the essentials. She had to download all of her apps and music separately. It did, however, remember all of her notes, calender entries, contacts and app settings. It was very weird.
New Phone Setup:
If you read my iPhone 6 review, you know that I bought an iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both come with iOS 8 installed on them. The setup was easy. Back up your old iPhone before you go get your new one. After the salesman inserts your SIM card, they hand you the phone and let you set it up. You enter in your e-mail address and iTunes password and then the phone gives you the option to setup your phone from a backup.
When you select the backup you want, the iPhone downloads all the apps and settings you had on your old phone. The apps are placed on the same page, even on the same spot, as whey were before. This process takes an hour or so depending on how many apps you have.
You can still use your new iPhone while this is happening. Apps that are downloading or waiting to start downloading cannot be used until they are fully installed. The only thing I had to do after the setup was done, was enter in my username and password for apps like Facebook and Instagram.
Upon first look, it doesn’t seem to be any different than iOS 7. Other than things looking a little “flatter”, the look of iOS 8 is the exact same as the previous version. iOS 7 was the presentation update and iOS 8 is the feature update. The first difference is the Notifications screen. The confusing three tabs are history. Just Today and Notification remain. This is a welcome improvement as it simplifies this screen.
There are a couple things new with iCloud. First is the inclusion of Family Sharing. Using this new feature, you can pull in all iTunes accounts for your family so you can share your music and movies with them and have one credit card setup for it all. This also gives you the ability to approve or decline purchases of your kids’. I have not set this up as my wife and I use the same iTunes account and my son is not old enough to have a phone.
Second is iCloud Drive. This works like Google Docs. You can share files between all of your Apple devices, including computers with OSX Yosemite staring in October. Sounds like a great idea but I will not be able to fully test this until OSX Yosemite comes out.
New to iMessage is the ability to send voice memos and videos to each other. This is a cool feature but I cannot see it being used a ton.
A huge feature for me is the third party keyboards. Back before I joined the Apple herd, I had a Samsung Galaxy S. This phone had Swype. It was the only thing I missed about that phone. Now I can use this keyboard on my iPhone. It works great. The one problem is every time I enter my pass code to get back into my phone, it forgets that Swype is my default keyboard and goes back to the stock one. This apparently will be fixed in the next small update. If you want to use the stock keyboard, it has changed to add predictive text. And it works pretty well as it learns as you enter in words.
Another improvement is the ability to reply to a message from the notification of that message that drops down from the top of the screen. Now you don’t have to go into the message app to reply.
Along with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, apple has included a reachability option. All you have to do is double tap (not press) the home button and the screen will slide down so you can reach apps at the top of the screen with your thumb. Once you tap on something, the screen slides back up so you can use your phone normally. It took some time to get used to. But now I use it constantly so I am not stretching my hand to reach or using two hands.
Apple has added NFC (Near Field Communication), but it is only being used as tap-to-pay. This feature is to come and only works with iPhone 6 and higher. Once available you will be able to enter your credit card information into the app. You then will be able to tap your phone (same as you do your debit card) to pay for things at supported stores.
The last major inclusion is the Health app. This app is meant to be a collection of all of your health data. It can track your steps, distance moved and a whole host of other things, but the app is very confusing to use. I have a FitBit and the app for that is amazing. You can see all the important information at a glance. Another thing I noticed is the step count on the iPhone was way under the step count of the FitBit and the FitBit is very accurate. I counted the steps myself over a short distance (1000 steps) and it was only off by three. It seems like Apple saw this huge market in the fitness app and tried to rush this app out. Maybe it will get better when it is attached to the Apple Watch.
iOS 8 is an enhancement over iOS 7. Not a huge improvement but an improvement none the less. If your iPhone is the only Apple device you or your family owns, this update will not make any difference to you. To get the most out of the updates iOS 8 provides you have to have multiple Apple devices. iOS is now, more than ever, an operating system that ties all your Apple devices together.
This is the thing I love about Apple and the iPhone. It all works together and with minimal setup. You don’t have to go out and buy special apps to share photos, files, contacts and now music and movies. These are all included in iOS and tie together with the entry of one iTunes e-mail address and password.
Now on the point of “Should you update?”. If you have an iPhone 4S, the answer would be no. The phone is just not fast enough to handle iOS 8. If you have the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S, then the answer would be a yes. Even if you don’t have multiple Apple devices within your family, there comes a point in time when apps are not compatible or have less features in older iOS versions. It is always a good idea to keep your phone and all the apps up-to-date as you get all the new features. But most importantly you get improved security and reliability.