Should I update my iPhone or iPad to the new iOS 8 software? What are the pros and cons of upgrading?
UPDATE, 29th September: Apple has now stopped signing iOS 7. This means that downgrading from iOS 8 back to iOS 7 is extremely difficult. Make sure you are absolutely sure you want to upgrade before doing so.
In our iOS 8 upgrading article we've got all the information you need to know about iOS 8, Apple's next 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.
In particular, we 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.
iOS 8 upgrade advice: 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 8 is the latest update to iOS.
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 8-compatible, and you can update the iOS 8 for free. (For more on iOS 8 compatibility, see Can my iPhone or iPad run iOS 8?)
But should you update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8?
Should you upgrade to iOS 8: Know your versions
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 wil automatically get the most recent version that is available.
Here are the updates to iOS 8 that have been released so far, and what you need to know about them:
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. This was swiftly replaced by...
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.
Expect further minor tweaks for the next 12 months - but it's unlikely that any of them will seriously change your decision about updating.
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.
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 Sharing, predictive typing and third-party keyboards, iCloud Drive, and a new programming language for developers. And don't forget to check out The best new features in iOS 8, 29 iOS 8 tips & tricks: Get to know iOS 8's best new features and our iOS 8 Tutorials zone.)
More info on iOS 8:
- iOS 8 FAQ
- iOS 8 vs iOS 7 comparison review
- iOS 8 vs Android L comparison preview
- The best new features in iOS 8
- How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7
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. iOS 8 has 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.
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.
How to upgrade to 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.
New features in iOS 8
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.
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 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 will work in the US at launch; UK start date of this service is to be confirmed but is expected some time early next year.
The new Apple Pay API is now open to developers to incorporate into their apps.
We're continually updating this article... Stay tuned for more information.
You'll find the rumours from before iOS 8 was unveiled on page 2.