How can I get Apple's new iOS 9 operating system software on my iPhone? And is my iPhone fast enough to run iOS 9 without slowing down?

iOS 9 has just arrived! If you go to Settings > General > Software Update you should see the download. But be cautious! Make sure you have a backup and expect the download to take ages.

How to update to iOS 9: The complete guide

iOS 9, the new operating system software for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, was unveiled during WWDC 2015 in June and finally becomes available to all on 16 September. You've probably got three questions: can I update my iPhone or iPad to iOS 9, should I update my iPhone or iPad to iOS 9 and (if the answer to the first two is yes) how can I make the upgrade.

We'll address these questions in that order in our complete guide to iOS upgrades.

Hang on a minute... I'm trying and I can't download it!

A few people are seeing error messages when they try to download iOS 9 on their iPads and iPhones; this is probably due to the sheer volume of traffic right now as half the world tries to download the update. Patience is a virtue. But if you want to try downloading via iTunes you may have more success. Here's how to download the iOS 9 update via iTunes.

Sections in this article:

How to update to iOS 9: The basics

iOS is the operating system software that runs on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices. It's the underlying framework that organises, launches and runs other apps, and can perform a number of features of its own. iOS 9 is the newest update to iOS, and will launch officially to the public on 16 September 2015.

If you've got an iPhone 4s (or later), an iPad 2 (or later), either of the iPad mini models, or a fifth-gen iPod touch, your device is officially rated as iOS 9-compatible, and you can update to iOS 9 for free when it comes out. (We discuss the list of compatible devices in a little more detail in the next section.) You can also access the iOS 9 beta.

We discuss iOS 9 as a single entity for most of this article, but we should quickly acknowledge that a number of smaller point upgrades will be released throughout its year-long lifetime. Don't expect any big differences between these - mostly these will incorporate security updates, fixes and minor tweaks. When you update your device to iOS 9 (or to iOS 8, while it's still available) you will automatically get the most recent version that is available.

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How to update to iOS 9 on iPhone or iPad

How to update to iOS 9: Which iPhones & iPads can get iOS 9?

We've discussed this question in considerably more detail in a separate article: Can my iPhone or iPad run iOS 9? But we can summarise things here.

Essentially, if your iPhone is an iPhone 4S or later, if your iPad is an iPad 2 or later (or an iPad mini or later) and your iPod touch is fifth-gen, you're safe - Apple has confirmed that all of those devices support iOS 9. Needless to say, the new iPhones - the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus - and the new iPad Pro will all come with iOS 9 pre-installed, so you won't need to worry about updating those devices to iOS 9.

Which iPhones & iPads can get iOS 9?

We feel compelled to point out that devices on the borderline - the somewhat older iPhones and iPads that only just make it on the list - have in the past often struggled to run new software effectively. The iPhone 4s was the oldest iPhone that was allowed to run iOS 8, but lots of users found that it slowed down as soon as the installed the new software. iPhone 4 owners had a similarly negative experience when they upgraded to iOS 7.

These devices were powerful enough to run the new version of iOS - but only just. And you don't want to be in that position. We therefore used to advise people not to update their iPhones and iPads if they were at the older end of the list of compatible devices. They should at least wait for a few days, we suggested, and see if other people with that device complain about slowdowns. It's generally very hard to downgrade from one version of iOS back to the previous one.

This time, however, all bets are off. Normally iOS gets more and more demanding to run each year; but Apple claims iOS 9 isn't just level with iOS 8, it's actually less demanding. In other words, devices that were starting to run a little slowly with iOS 8 may even speed up when upgraded to iOS 9.

We've only run the beta of iOS 9 so far, and we won't be able to test this statement until the official version launches in September. But it's a grand claim.

Read next: iOS 9 vs iOS 8 comparison review

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How to update to iOS 9: Should I upgrade to iOS 9? What are the benefits, and will iOS 9 slow down my Apple device?

This leads us to a harder question: even if you're allowed to upgrade, is it a good idea to install iOS 9? Are there any reasons why you wouldn't upgrade to iOS 9?

Should you update to iOS 9? The cons

First of all, bear in mind that upgrading iOS tends to be essentially a one-way journey. It's always extremely hard (if not impossible) to go back to the previous version afterwards, so be sure you want to do this before starting the upgrade process.

So you'll probably be stuck with the new OS if you update. But are there any actual down sides in the way iOS 9 will work?

The first is speed. While Apple always works on streamlining iOS and making sure it runs smoothly, it has to be said that the past couple of updates have both slowed down older iPhones and iPads. As we said, iPhone 4s owners were not impressed when iOS 8 noticeably slowed down a lot of their devices, so the same could be true for iOS 9. Apple says this year will be different, but we'd still advise caution until you've heard from people on the same hardware as you that iOS 9 runs okay.

There are no major changes in the visual design department, so you're unlikely to be upset by changes to the way iOS 9 looks compared with iOS 8. When iOS 7 launched two years ago, many users were horrified by the radical graphical redesign, which took a while to get used to and still annoys a minority of iPhone and iPad owners. That year we advised people to spend time with borrowed iOS 7 devices if they could, and see if they got used to the look of the OS after a week or two - generally interface changes feel earth-shattering at the time, then before you know it you can’t remember how it used to look.

But in this case, as we say, there's no significant visual rethink. iOS 9 looks very much like iOS 8, which in turn looked very much like iOS 7.

Other than that, we don't expect there to be any major worries for those expecting an update.

Should you update to iOS 9? The pros

Of course, the pros are that you're getting a new operating system that comes with loads of new features. You can find out about the new features in iOS 9 in more detail in our iOS 9 preview, but below is an outline of what you'll be getting.

New features: An exciting new 'Proactive' Siri-activated personal assistant, rather like Google Now; pubic-transport directions (and other new features) in an improved Maps app; new and improved Multitasking (which is split screen on iPad Air 2), a new News app, an overhauled Notes app.

Design tweaks: As we said, the design changes aren't earth-shattering, but the designers have smoothed a few things over. They keyboard has been slightly redesigned and improved, for example, and some of the visuals are very slighty different to make them easier on the eye.

Fixes, tweaks and stability stuff: Boring but useful, particularly the battery life enhancements that should mean an hour extra power and a new low power mode to extend battery even further.

Future-proofing your device: This will become important in the future. Generally app developers try to make their stuff work with a wide variety of devices, but there will always be a limit. Check your favourite app on the App Store, and under Information you’ll see something like 'Requires iOS 6.0 or later'. In a few years apps will start to say things like 'Requires iOS 9.0 or later'.

Read next: 31 brilliant iOS 9 tips Plus: How to get the News app in the UK (How to use the News app)

Should you update to iOS 9? Conclusion

If your iPad or iPhone is up to it (and really up to it - not just officially rated as iOS 9-compatible), you should probably update. Even if you don't care about the new features, the boring stuff - such as bug fixes and compatibility with new apps - is important.

But take the decision carefully, because you probably won't be able to go back. Read our coverage of iOS 9 by following the links below and think about whether you'll use the new features.

12 iOS 9 tips

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview

How to use Proactive in iOS 9

iOS 9 vs Android M comparison preview

See where your iPhone or iPad sits on the chart of compatible devices above. If it's only just new/powerful enough to run the new OS, you need to find out if there will be any speed problems, so wait for a few days after it's launched to the public in September. See how people with the same model as you get on.

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Macworld poll: Will you update to iOS 9?

We've explained out thoughts on whether updating is a good idea or not, but what do you think? Let us know by answering our poll:

How to update to iOS 9: Important steps to prepare your iPhone or iPad for the upgrade

We're about to walk you through the update process. But before we get to that, here are the steps you should take before you click yes on that update alert. (My colleagues look at a couple of aspects of this in a little more depth in a separate article: How to prepare your devices for iOS 9.)

1) Back up your data

Use iCloud or iTunes to back up your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. If you don't do this, and you find that messages or photos disappear from your iPhone after the update, then that's your look-out.

Beware: the backup will include purchased music, TV shows, apps, and books; photos and video in the Camera Roll; and device settings, but it won't include anything you synced from your computer. To re-sync that stuff you'll need to sync with iTunes. For that reason we recommend backing up to your computer as well as iCloud.

2) Save a compatible copy of iOS 8 in case you change your mind

You may change your mind and decide you want to downgrade from iOS 9 to iOS 8, and this will be easier if you make sure you've got a copy of the latest version of iOS 8 compatible with your device.

You see, Apple 'signs' versions of iOS, which in effect tells your iPhone or iPad that the version you want to use is okay for that device. As long as that version is signed, you can install it on your iOS device, even if it's earlier than the one on there at the moment. (Traditionally, Apple stops signing old versions of iOS only a day or two after releasing major updates, so you'll need to act quickly if you want to go back.)

If you have a copy on your hard drive you will find it, by default, by following this path: youruserfolder/Library/iTunes and then select the Software Updates folder for your device. (Access the Library folder in your user folder by holding down the Option key in Finder and selecting Go > Library.)

Your Mac may have deleted this file, however. If so, launch your web browser and search for download ipsw. You'll find a number of sites offering links to the file you need. Make sure you get the right one for the device you use.

3) Make room on your device

If you have limited space on your phone you may not be able to perform the update - it's a fairly hefty download. To get ready, you can remove content you no longer need, which is a good idea in any case. See our guide to making room on your iPhone or iPad

Our iPhone required 5.8GB of space to be available in order to perform the iOS 8 update - since our iPhone is only 16GB this wasn't really an option so we opted instead to update via iTunes on our Mac. More on that process below.

For iOS 9 we're hopeful that the install file will be a bit smaller. That's what Apple says, anyway.

4) Update iTunes on your Mac or PC

A couple of years ago people updated iPhones to iOS 6, only to discover that their iPhone or iPad could no longer talk to their Macs because they were running an old version of iTunes. This was made worse if they couldn't actually update to a version of iTunes that was compatible because they were running Mac OS X Leopard on their Macs.

It was a big enough issue for Apple to actually start selling Snow Leopard again because it was the only way to get the Mac App Store - which is the only way to update to later versions of the Mac OS.

Read next: How to get Snow Leopard.

5) Plug in your iPhone or iPad

Make sure you plug in your device to a power source. If you run out of battery mid-download you may corrupt the iPad or iPhone.

6) Make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi

Be sure that you are downloading over Wi-Fi and not via 3G or 4G, or you may end up using up all your data for the month. Read our guide: how to stop running out of cellular data.

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How to update to iOS 9: How to get the iOS 9 beta ahead of the (16 Sept) final launch

Update, 15 Sept 2015: The final version of iOS 9 will become available to everyone tomorrow, 16 September. You can still get a beta version of iOS 9 by following the steps below, but at this point it's probably worth waiting for the official launch version. (We explain how to install that in the next section.) The beta is more likely to contain bugs, even at this point, and is more fiddly to install.

If you can't wait for the final or official version of iOS 9 on 16 September (the final version of iOS 9.0, that is; Apple will continue to release point upgrades of iOS 9 throughout the year), you need to grab one of the beta versions.

In the past the beta testing versions of iOS were available for app developers only, since they were the ones who had to ensure that their software could work with the new OS, and any civilian who wanted to try their hand with the beta had to tell some fibs and pretend to be a dev.

Luckily, this year Apple has invited members of the public to test the beta too, which seems like a win-win: we get to try the software out early, and hopefully more bugs will get spotted and ironed out before launch day.

If you'd like to get involved - and we would warn that beta software nearly always goes wrong in one way or another, and could even brick your device, so make sure you put it on a secondary or spare iPhone - then take a look at our tutorial: How to install iOS 9 on your iPhone & iPad today.

Or just watch as we demonstrate the process in this video:

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How to update to iOS 9: How to upgrade to the official version of iOS 9, and when it will become available

The final official version of iOS 9.0 will become available on 16 September, and be available to owners of all compatible iPhone and iPad models from then on.

If you decide that upgrading is right for you, but you're willing to wait for the official launch, then how do you upgrade to iOS 9?

It's actually very easy. You should get a notification informing you that a new version of iOS is available for you to download; all you need to do is confirm that you're happy to do this. Download the iOS 9 install file, and then install it; the process should take a few hours - don't worry, this is normal - but the length of time depends on the server traffic and how well Apple is coping with it. It's got much better since the huge delays people faced when updating to iOS 6 on launch day.

Haven't got a notification that iOS 9 is ready? Take a look in the Settings app and scroll down to General. Tap Software Update (the second option down), which will have a little '1' if there's an update for you.

iOS will think for a moment and then present you with the update, including the amount of storage space required (you may need to clear some space before downloading) and a link to a 'Learn more' article that tells you about the changes. Simply confirm you wish to upgrade and follow the steps.

If everything is working as it should, updating to iOS 9 should be extremely simple and user-friendly. It's also free.

How to download and install iOS 9 on your iPhone or iPad: Step by step

The update is pushed out to your iPhone or iPad automatically. You just need to go into the software update section of Settings and accept the update. Hopefully you will be lucky and it will work first time.

1) Go to Settings > General > Software Update

This will force your iPhone or iPad to check for the latest updates. (You may get an alert telling your that iOS 9 is ready, in which case you'll just need to tap download.)

2) Tap Download

Your iPhone or iPad will start to download the update.

3) Leave the update to download in the background

Once the download has finished you will receive a notification saying an update is available for your device.

4) Tap Details

This will take you to Settings > General > Software Update.

5) Tap Install Now

The iPhone or iPad will now start to install the iOS update. 

You can choose to leave the installation for later. Settings will display a notification badge until you have installed the update.

iOS 9 is already available in public beta form as we discussed in the previous section, but won't become properly available until September, a few days before the arrival of the iPhone 6S or iPhone 7.

How to update to iOS 9 if you haven't got room on your iPhone/iPad

A common problem when updating your version of iOS is to find that there isn't room on your device for the install file. One solution is to delete lots of files from your iPhone and make room, then put them back afterwards. (Apple says it will offer an automated tool to do this for you when iOS 9 launches.) But another solution is to update iOS via iTunes on your Mac.

We explain this relatively painless process in a separate article: How to update iOS on your Mac

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How to update to iOS 9: Common problems when updating iOS, and how to avoid/fix them

Updating to iOS 6, iOS 7 and iOS 8 in the past has been difficult in all sorts of different ways. In this section we'll try to offer tips on avoiding or fixing these problems if you encounter them.

We had a complete nightmare installing iOS 7 in 2013 - it took us all night. We had hoped things might go a bit smoother in 2014 with the launch of iOS 8. But unfortunately not. Again, many faced installation dramas because Apple's servers seemed unable to cope with the sheer number of people trying to access them to get the download. So if this was your experience with iOS 8 it's not a huge surprise, and you shouldn't feel like you're alone.

One thing is for sure: if you chose to update as soon as iOS 8 launched you were probably in for a long wait because the first few hours of an update are always the busiest time on Apple's servers. If you're like us you tried to update to iOS 8 pretty much as soon as it was launched, and probably found that it was going to take hours (ours said 14 hours). Perhaps you even saw error messages and warnings that the update had failed.

If you want to avoid having a long wait for the download, we recommend you wait for a day or two, both because the rush will have died down and because some initial bugs and problems that weren't noticed in the beta testing phase will have been patched.

All that presumes you had enough space on your iPhone to start with. The main issue encountered by those trying to update was the fact that the iOS 8 update requires a lot of space to be available on your iPad or iPhone. When we tried to update it said we needed 5.8GB of storage available, even though it claimed that the iOS 8 update itself is just 1.1GB. Why does it need so much space? This is because it downloads a compressed file, unpackages it and then installs it. You need the space for the unpacking and the update. It also needs enough space for iOS 8 itself.

If you don't need to free up a lot of space you may be happy to delete a few images from your Camera Roll or some of your music. You might find it useful to read our guide to saving space on your iPhone here.

Luckily you don't really need all that space to be available - you can download the update via your Mac or PC. We show you how to do that here. Also read: How to improve iPhone battery life.

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iOS 8 upgrade guide

The remainder of the article concerns 2014's iOS update, iOS 8. At time of writing (15 September) this is still available for upgrades, and is indeed the current official version of iOS that Apple preinstalls in all new iPhones and iPads, so we will keep the information here for the time being. But expect iOS 8 - and our guide to installing iOS 8 - to disappear in the near future.

Should I update my iPhone or iPad to iOS 8? What are the pros and cons of upgrading? In our iOS 8 upgrading article we've got all the information you need to know about iOS 8, Apple's new iOS operating system for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, and detailed advice on whether it makes sense for you to update your Apple device to iOS 8. Plus, find out what's new in Apple's iOS 8.3 update and what we know so far about iOS 8.4.

We also discuss the various models of iPad and iPhone that are rated as iOS 8-compatible, and explain whether they are likely to struggle to run iOS 8 and suffer speed reductions. For more information on upgrading to iOS 8, read our full iOS 8 review. Plus: here's how to install iOS 8 without deleting anything or find out how to make space on an iPhone when you need it.

Finally, if you're wondering about the next version of iOS which could be shown off in a matter of days at WWDC 2015, here's our article on iOS 9 release date rumours. Also read these advanced iOS 8 tips you don't know yet.

iOS 8 upgrade advice: The basics

iOS is Apple's mobile operating system: the software that runs (and runs on) iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices. It's the underlying framework that organises, launches and runs other apps. iOS 8 is the latest update to iOS.

You might want to read: How to tell what version of iOS 8 you're using.

But should you update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8?

Can I upgrade to iOS 8? List of compatible devices

iOS 8 runs on the same iPhones and iPads as iOS 9.

The iPhone 4S and later, the iPad 2 and later, all the iPad minis and the fifth-gen iPod touch all support iOS 8.

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Should I upgrade to iOS 8? Pros and cons

Is it a good idea to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8? Let's start with the plus points of making the leap.

Should you upgrade to iOS 8: The pros

The obvious benefits of iOS 8 are the new features, of which there are many. 

Camera: There are tons of new camera features, including a new Time Lapse mode, real-time exposure adjustment, a timer (3 sec or 10 sec), and the extension of existing high-end features to more devices (the iPad can now take panoramic shots, and older iPhones get burst mode).

The Photos app has new editing features.

You can do voice messaging from within the Messages app, and it works with just a few gestures.

Mail has gesture support for archiving and deleting messages, and various new organisational tricks - such as swiping messages downwards to hide them temporarily.

The system keyboard has been heavily enhanced, with whole-word predictive typing and the ability to download third-party keyboards (such as Swype) and use them across iOS 8.

You can install widgets - cut-down versions of apps that sit in your Notification Centre.

There's a new Family Sharing feature to help you share apps, media and location data within your family unit, and to control the kinds of apps and media your kids can download.

Should you upgrade to iOS 8: Family Sharing feature

There's a new app called Health, which will be used to collate fitness- and health-related information picked up from fitness apps, trackers and so on - although the third-party apps aren't ready yet so it's been delayed.

Finally, Apple has opened up iOS to third-party developers far more than ever before. As well as being able to create widgets and new system keyboards, app developers can use Touch ID in their apps. There's an API called HomeKit which will let devs build home-automation kit that works with iOS devices. And Apple has created new software frameworks for developers to work with - a programming language called Swift and a graphics system called Metal - that could lead to brilliant apps and games appearing for Apple devices.

And if all this is too much to get a handle on, there's a new Tips app to help you get the hang of the new features in iOS 8. It's only got a few tips at the moment but Apple says it will continually add new ones.

(For more on the new features in iOS 8, read about: Family Sharingpredictive typing and third-party keyboardsiCloud Drive, and a new programming language for developers. And don't forget to check out The best new features in iOS 829 iOS 8 tips & tricks: Get to know iOS 8's best new features and our iOS 8 Tutorials zone.)

More info on iOS 8:

Should you upgrade to iOS 8: The cons

So why shouldn't you upgrade?

Well, obviously you might not be able to update. The iPhone 4 and older, the original iPad, and 4th-gen and older iPod touches simply can't update.

And you might find it tricky to update even with a newer model. Before iOS 8.1.3, iOS 8 had been demanding that you have around 5GB of free space on your device before you can update, and that might mean deleting a lot of music, photos, apps and so on to make room. That's put a lot of people off. But when you update iOS it needs the space for the duration of the update process - unpacking compressed files and things like that - but won't need anywhere near as much space afterwards. So you may be able to reload some of the stuff you deleted.

Besides, if space is a problem, you can upgrade to iOS on your Mac or PC - in iTunes - use the space there and then sync your device to the Mac or PC using a cable (see How to upgrade to iOS 8 without deleting anything). So space shouldn't be a reason not to upgrade.

Visually, iOS 8 is virtually identical to iOS 7, so there shouldn't be much to annoy you about the new system. But you might not like the changes to the Photos app, for instance - some people are finding it confusing that there's no longer a folder called Camera Roll. We don't think you should let this put you off - you'll quickly get used to the new organisational structure.

But here are some more serious reasons you might not want to upgrade to iOS 8.

First, it's pretty much an irreversible process. There's a brief window for a few days after a new iOS comes out when you can go back fairly easily: Apple continues to 'sign' (authorise) the previous version of iOS so you'll be able to go back. But very soon the downgrade process gets a lot more difficult, and unfortunately that has now happened to iOS 8: Apple is no longer signing iOS 7.1.2. So it's probably best to assume this is a one-way ticket.

For more on this, see How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7, which we'll update when and if we find out a method that works without Apple's authorisation. But based on last year's downgrade process, it's likely to be difficult and/or restricted to a small number of devices.

(Lots of people get caught out in iOS updates and find themselves unable to go back. One of Macworld's most popular articles is a tutorial explaining how to downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6, even though the process is exceptionally awkward and often impossible. Check you definitely want to do this before taking the plunge. Reading our iOS 8 review is a good start.)

If you're a jailbreaker, you shouldn't upgrade to iOS 8 - or at least not yet. There isn't a jailbreak for iOS 8 so far, and probably won't be one for a few months.

Some apps (particularly older ones) might not work properly with iOS 8 yet - or ever. this depends on how many people are still using the app and whether the developers feel it's worth the effort to update the app. Most of the big app developers will have already worked out any problems during the beta testing period, however, and most of the rest will sort the issues out soon. But not all will.

But the single biggest reason not to upgrade is speed.

Reasons not to update to iOS 8 straight away

As we saw last year with iOS 7 - the biggest visual change of any iOS update - an update to iOS can make your iPhone or iPad look completely different. If you're scared of change, maybe wait a bit. (To be honest, though, that's less of an issue this year. iOS 8 looks very similar to iOS 7 - the main differences are all the lovely new features.)

Don't update if you rely on being able to jailbreak your iPhone. There's generally a delay before someone comes up with a jailbreak for a new iOS.

Remember Maps. Everyone who downloaded iOS 6 immediately then got hopelessly lost when they discovered Google Maps had been replaced by Apple Maps, as had a number of landmarks.

Beware of bugs. Every new update brings with it bugs that somehow got missed in the testing process. Beware: your iPhone or iPad might just stop working if it doesn't like something about iOS 8. Let others discover the problems first.

The latest version of iOS might break your apps. Before you update to iOS 8 make sure that your existing apps are up to date and that you have a backup of your iPhone or iPad.

For example, last year Kindle warned that if you didn't update your Kindle app before updating to iOS 7 you might have to download your books again. A Kindle update to version 3.9.2 was necessary before updating to iOS 7.

Don't download if you aren't at home - it's easier to troubleshoot when you are in the same room as your Mac or PC, and have access to WiFi.  

If your iPhone is a work phone, hold fire… Updating may break your work email or critical apps. Try explaining that to your boss.

Beware battery life problems. Sometimes iOS updates have a tendency to affect battery life.  This is the kind of thing that someone else can discover for you.

Remember you generally can't go back after you install a new version of iOS.

Should I upgrade to iOS 8: Older models

If you're running an iPhone 4s or an iPad 2 - and, according to some reports, even the iPad 3 - you could find that your device gets noticeably slower when you update to iOS 8. It's simply a more demanding system, and older hardware may struggle to run it. Apps may open more slowly, navigation may become sluggish.

Read: How to speed up your iPhone.

Older devices, of course, also don't get the full range of features.

Should I upgrade to iOS 8: Conclusion

iOS 8 lives and dies by its features - it's got loads of new features, and I think they're great, but you should take a look at our review and decide if you're interested in them. If you're not going to use any of the new stuff then it's probably not worth updating. And it'll be easy to update in six months' time if you change your mind. If you update and then change your mind in six months it will be very difficult to go back.

But I think it's well worth upgrading - and strongly encourage you to look into all the new possibilities iOS 8 opens up.

My personal recommendation is this: if you're on an iPhone 5, 5c or 5s; an iPad 4 or iPad Air; either iPad mini; or the 5th gen iPod touch; then you should update. Your device can run it fine, and the new features are there for you to experiment with until you get used to them - with the Tips app to walk you through some of the new stuff.

If you're on an iPhone 4s, an iPad 2 or an iPad 3, then I'd give it a miss. It's not worth the slowdown. If you decide to take the plunge, I strongly recommend that you make sure Apple is still signing iOS 7 so you can downgrade if the slowdown is too much for you.

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New features in iOS 8

All Apple's iPad and iPhone models ship with iOS 8 and various apps provided by Apple for free. There are also thousands of apps available on the Apple App Store for you to download. Here are the 10 best apps for your new iPad or iPhone to get you started.


There are a number of new features in iOS 8 designed to make one-handed use easier, these new Reachability features are specifically for users of the bigger iPhones. We don't believe they will be available to users of 4-inch or smaller iPhones.

'Reachability' is Apple's name for this update: it means that when you double-tap the Home button, the entire screen interface shrinks downwards so you can reach it easily. It's a clever idea, and shows more than a little humility.


The Messages application in iOS 8 includes a new voice messages feature. And it's pleasingly gesture-sensitive: you lift the iPhone to your ear to listen to the message, for instance, speak your response, and then move the phone away to send your message. Read: New Messages features

Health and HealthKit

Fascinating range of health- and fitness-related apps and data compilation features that take advantage of the capabilities of the new M8 Motion co-processor. Read our Complete guide to Apple's Health and HealthKit.

Touch ID

Can now be used with third-party apps, which opens up a wealth of new possibilities: e-commerce apps, for instance, would be able to build in fingerprint authentication, and other apps could use fingerprint identification to replace tedious passwords and logins.

One new first-party implementation of Touch ID is Apple Pay - see below for more on that. Read: How iOS 8 will unlock Touch ID


Read about the new features in Photos for iOS 8including Time Lapse, new smart adjustments and filters, and photo storage in iCloud.


Work with third-party apps. Notifications are also now more interactive: you can tap on a notification for a Facebook status update, for instance, and you'll be able to 'like' the status or comment on it from there, wthout having to go into the Facebook app. Read more about iOS Notification Centre.

Safari for iOS 8

Find our more about Safari in iOS 8 including new Private Browsing and the ability to scan in your credit cards.


We're pretty excited that Apple will be adding new keyboard features and allowing third party keyboards in iOS 8. Read about Using QuickType & Swype keyboards in iOS 8 plus: Alternative keyboards in iOS 8.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is Apple's new wallet technology (turns out it's not called iWallet).

Apple Pay uses NFC, a hardware feature that is included in the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It also works in conjunction with Touch ID and a "new secure element" that stores all payment information securely. In fact, thanks to a system called tokenisation the information stored isn't even your account details but a set of codes used to unlock those details.

Anyway, Apple Pay will allow you to pay for goods and services with your phone's Touch ID. It's now available in the UK as well as the US.

The new Apple Pay API is open to developers to incorporate into their apps.

More: Apple Pay FAQs: Will Apple Pay work in the UK, is Apple Pay secure and more questions answered

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How to update an iPhone or iPad or iOS 8

If you decide that upgrading is right for you (and as we said, we would recommend this for everyone on an iPhone 5 or later and an iPad 3 or later; iPhone 4s and iPad 2 owners might wish to wait for a while), then how do you upgrade to iOS 8?

It's actually very easy. You should get a notification informing you that a new version of iOS is available for you to download; all you need to do is confirm that you're happy to do this. You'll need to download it, and then install it; the whole process is likely to take a couple of hours, but this all depends, as we say, on the amount of server traffic and how well Apple is coping with it.

If you don't get a notification you can look in the Settings app and see if there's an update waiting for you. Click on the Settings app icon (the silver cogs) and scroll down to the General category. Then tap on the Software Update option (the second one down), which incidentally will have a little grey '1' if there's an update for you.

iOS will think for a moment and then present you with the update, including the amount of storage space required (you may need to clear some space before downloading) and a link to a 'Learn more' article that tells you about the changes. Simply confirm you wish to upgrade and follow the steps.

Upgrading to iOS 8 is free.

The video above shows you how easy upgrading to iOS 8 can be - although as you will see from the video in this story about upgrading iOS 8 over iTunes, it's not always such an easy process.

For more detail on the upgrading process: How to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8.

How much storage space will iOS 8 take up?

Based on last year, we expected that iOS 8 would be about 700MB, although at the time it was recommended that you have 3GB free.

Unfortunately iOS 8 turned out to be even bigger and greedier. iOS 8 is 1.1GB and requires a massive 5.8GB of storage to be free before it can install. This is because it downloads a compressed file, unpackages it and then installs it. You need the space for the unpacking and the update. It also needs enough space for iOS 8 itself.

Luckily you can download the software via iTunes, and connect your iPhone to your Mac to instal it on your iPhone without needing to delete apps, photos and more. We explain exactly how to go about updating iOS over iTunes on a Mac or PC in this article: Here's how to update to iOS 8 without deleting anything.

As for how much space the update uses - we had a 16GB iPhone with just 1.3GB available. The iPhone's capacity was shown as 14.91GB before and after the update. Once our software was up to date and we had 917MB of space left over sot he update didn't use up 1.1GB more than iOS 7 did, it was around an additional 300MB.

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Version history: the features and fixes added in each version of iOS 8

We discuss iOS 8 as a single entity for most of this article, but we should quickly acknowledge that a number of smaller point upgrades will be released throughout its (probably year-long) lifetime. Don't expect any big differences between these - mostly these will incorporate security updates, fixes and minor tweaks. When you update your device to iOS 8 from any version of iOS 7 (or earlier) you will automatically get the most recent version that is available.

iOS 8.3: What's new in the iOS 8.3 update?

Apple has released the latest update to its mobile software, bringing the version running on up-to-date iPhones, iPads and iPods to iOS 8.3. The update, which arrived on 8 April, includes several tweaks, changes and improvements, including new keyboard and emoji features.

Emoji have become a key part of the way many of us communicate, but everyone knows the symbols aren't inclusive. An emoji redesign has been in the works for quite some time, and now the results have landed.

Now you have access to more than 300 new emoji plus a new scrolling keyboard, so you don't have to tap through pages to find the symbol that expresses your thoughts.

iOS 8.3 is more diverse across the board, with Siri now able to recognize new languages like Thai, Russian, Turkish, Portuguese, and more.

There are a few other interesting changes, like the addition of filtering to wall out unknown numbers in iMessage. You can also report messages as junk to Apple.

iOS 8.3 was the first version of iOS that was available as a public beta, so many of you had the chance to test out the latest features before they officially launched.

iOS 8.4 beta: What's coming in iOS 8.4?

Apple's music app is getting a major facelift in iOS 8.4, with the goal of making it easier to use. The new app is available now for developers to test in beta form through the iOS beta program. Apple appears to have simplified the buttons along the bottom of the app, and consolidated other parts of the app to make it easier to navigate and less cluttered.

Apple is also trying to make playback more convenient in iOS 8.4. You can start playing an album or playlist directly from the music list - no need to tap through to another menu - and a new mini-player lets you quickly pause and jump to the playback screen while browsing the app. There's also a new Up Next feature that lets you create and manage a play queue on the fly. A global search function appears throughout the app, so users can quickly search by tapping the magnifying glass.

Reports from those who've tested the app claim that Apple has removed the landscape view from the iPhone version of the app, while the iPad version is getting a new split-screen viewing mode.

The iOS 8.4 beta arrived in mid April following rumours that Apple might be taking the Music app even further by adding a streaming music service that becomes part of the Music app - presumably the result of Apple's Beats acquisition last year. The new Music service could be unveiled at WWDC 2015, which has been officially confirmed for 8 June.

iOS 8.2: What was new in the iOS 8.2 update?

iOS 8.2 brought more than the Apple Watch app (which no, you can’t delete: read about how to remove and delete apps from your iPhone here) to iOS devices when it launched in March. If your iPhone is older than iPhone 5 (4s, 4, or earlier) you won't get the Apple Watch app as the Apple Watch isn't compatible with your phone. Nor will the app appear on your iPad if you update it to iOS 8.2.

You will also gain a new activity app that – when paired with an Apple Watch – will show you fitness data received from the Apple Watch. You won’t see this app if you don’t have an Apple Watch,

Along with some general fixes and tweaks to the health app, there are also a number of improvements including:

The ability to select the unit of measurement – if you access Health Data > Height, for example, you can now choose Unit (cm or inches). This omission from the original health app seems ridiculous when you consider that only now can you choose between kg, lbs and stones for weight measurement.

The opportunity to add visual workouts from third-party apps.

There are also some stability enhancement and bug fixes in other Apple apps including Mail, Maps, Music and VoiceOver.

iOS 8.1.3: What arrived in the iOS 8.1.3 update?

The iOS 8.1.3 update was released on 27 January 2015, and comes with several improvements, including one that solves an issue that has prevented many people from updating to iOS 8 in the first place: capacity. iOS 8.1.3 "reduces the amount of storage required to perform a software update."

The full list of fixes are as follows:

  • Reduces the amount of storage required to perform a software update
  • Fixes an issue that prevented some users from entering their Apple ID password for Messages and FaceTime
  • Addresses an issue that caused Spotlight to stop displaying app results
  • Fixes an issue which prevented multitasking gestures from working on iPad
  • Adds new configuration options for education standardised testing.

iOS 8.1: What arrived in the iOS 8.1 update?

Apple has made its first major update to iOS 8, iOS 8.1, available to download and install now.

With iOS 8.1 comes lots of changes, but most notably the return of the Camera Roll that was dumped in iOS 8 much to the annoyance of users, and also the introduction of Apple Pay, which uses the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus's NFC chip.

The update is just 128MB if you've already got iOS 8 installed, and it's free, of course.

Also part of iOS 8.1 is the iCloud Photo Library beta, which lets you share photos and videos across devices.

Here's the full list of iOS 8.1 features and fixes as listed by Apple:

  • Apple Pay support for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (US only)
  • Photos includes new features, improvements and fixes
  • Adds iCloud Photo Library as beta service
  • Adds Camera Roll album in Photos app and My Photo Stream album when iCloud Photo Library is not enabled
  • Provides alerts when running low on space before capturing Time Lapse videos
  • Messages includes new features, improvements and fixes
  • Adds the ability for iPhone users to send and recieve SMS and MMS text messages from their iPad and Mac
  • Resolves an issue where search would sometimes not display results
  • Fixes a bug that caused read messages to not be marked as read
  • Fixes issues with group messaging
  • Resolves issues with WiFi performance that could occur when connected to some base stations
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent connections to Bluetooth hands-free devices
  • Fixes bugs that could cause screen rotation to stop working
  • Adds an option to select between 2G, 3G or LTE networks for cellular data
  • Fixes an issue in Safari where videos would sometimes not play
  • Adds AirDrop support for Passbook passes
  • Adds an option to enable Dictation in Settings for Keyboards, separate from Siri
  • Enables HealthKit apps to access data in the background
  • Accessibility improvements and fixes
  • Fixes an issue that prevented Guided Access from working properly
  • Fixes a bug where VoiceOver would not work with third-party keyboards
  • Improves stability and audio quality when using MFi Hearing Aids with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
  • Improves reliability when using handwriting, Bluetooth keyboards and Braille displays with VoiceOver
  • Fixes an issue with VoiceOver where tone dialing would get stuck on a tone until dialing another number

iOS 8.1.2: Included bug fixes and addressed a problem involving ringtones purchased through iTunes.

iOS 8.1.1: Helped speed up and stabilise iPad 2 and iPhone 4S running iOS 8.

iOS 8.0.2: Fixed the major problems in 8.0.1. See this article - How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7, and how to reinstall iOS 8 if iOS 8.0.1 broke your iPhone - for the full list of fixes.

iOS 8.0.1: The first update to iOS 8 lasted just an hour before being pulled, for the alarming reason that it caused iPhones to lose the ability to connect to their cellular network, and affected Touch ID as well. 

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How to stop your iPhone crashing from the iOS crash prank: iOS bug lets pranksters crash iPhones

It has recently been discovered that there is a bug in iOS that lets anyone send you a message in almost any app that will cause your iPhone to crash. It requires a specific string of Arabic characters that the iPhone struggles to render properly and instead decides to crash.

If your friends won't stop sending you the crash prank there is a way to stop it. It only happens if the message appears in a notification, so you'll need to turn them off.

You can do so by going to Settings > Notifications and then going through the apps that your friends are using to crash your phone and turning off Show on Lock Screen. You also need to change Alert Style When Unlocked to None.

Apple has confirmed that it is working on a fix for the bug so we'll update this article when it arrives. iOS 8.4 should be here soon too, and you can read more about what's in store with that (quite siginificant) update by reading on.

Should you upgrade to iOS 8: Continuity feature

Read: How to use settings in iOS 8

You'll find the rumours from before iOS 8 was unveiled on page 2.