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

iOS 9, the new operating system software for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, was unveiled during WWDC 2015 on 8 June. You've probably got three questions: can I upgrade my iPhone or iPad to iOS 9, should I upgrade my iPhone to iOS 9 and (if the answer to the first two is yes) how and when can I make the upgrade.

We'll address these three questions in that order, in our complete guide to iOS 9 upgrades. (And if you're wondering about upgrading to iOS 8, don't worry - we've still got all the iOS 8 information you need on page two). See also: Android M vs iOS 9 comparison.

If you want to get iOS 9 on your iPad or iPhone right now, there are ways you can do so. Find out how in in our article: How to get iOS 9 now: join the iOS 9 beta.

Sections in this article:

  • iOS 9 upgrade advice: The basics. What is iOS and more
  • Can I upgrade my iPhone/iPad to iOS 9? List of compatible devices
  • Should I upgrade to iOS 9? What are the benefits, and will iOS 9 slow down my Apple device?
  • How to upgrade to iOS 9, and when it will become available
  • iOS 8 upgrade guide: How to upgrade to iOS 8, and whether you should

iOS 9 upgrade guide: Can I update my iPhone/iPad to iOS 9?

We've discussed this question in considerably more detail in a separate article: Can my iPhone or iPad run iOS 9? Full list of compatible devices. 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.

But devices on the borderline have in the past often struggled to run new software well. 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. Our general advice would be: if your iPhone or iPad is the oldest device in its category that's allowed to run iOS 9, wait for a few days, and see if other people with that device complain about slowdowns. It will be very hard to downgrade from iOS 9 back to iOS 8, so be sure this is right for you before making the leap.

iOS 9 upgrade guide: 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.

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'.

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.

iOS 9 upgrade guide: How to upgrade to iOS 9, and when it will become available

If you decide that upgrading is right for you, 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.

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. For more detail on the upgrading process: How to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 9

iOS 9 is already available in beta form for developers, and a public preview is set to become available soon (we'll bring you more information about how to get your hands on that and whether you should when the official launch of the public beta arrives), but won't become properly available until September, a few days before the arrival of the iPhone 6S or iPhone 7.