iOS 8 vs. iPhone 4s: Round 1 – Does It Work?
The Perils of Not Upgrading Hardware
When I bought my iPhone 4s on Virgin Mobile it was already a year old and was like a brick compared to the shiny new iPhone 5. But Virgin Mobile had the best plan for me, and while I paid full price for the phone I can do math and knew that over two years I would save over $1,000 compared to any of the major carriers. This was before no contract plans were all the rage, and Virgin was one of the few carriers offering the iPhone (it wasn’t even on T-Mobile officially yet) and the 4s was all they had. But that was fine with me, and I haven’ regretted the decision … until recently (the subject for a different post).
Getting a year old phone comes with potential issues, obvious and not so obvious. The obvious is that you’re not getting all the newest, shiny technology, including the latest, fastest processor & graphics and improved camera. The not so obvious relates to it’s lifetime and depends, obviously, on how long you expect to use it. I was planning on using this phone for at least two years, and figured I could deal with any obsolescence by suffering loudly and making do.
And the real issue with usability comes with the operating system. If you plan on keeping your phone on the OS number that came with it, that’s obviously not a problem. But most of us want to upgrade our phones (and computers and other devices) to the latest OS and gain the advantages they purport to bring. With any aging technology this creates a tension between using new features and the toll those features tend to take on aging equipment.
So About This New OS You’re Coming Out With?
Which brings us to last summer and Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) where, as expected, iOS 8 was announced. I watched the keynote with a mix of excitement and trepidation (how often to get to use that word in a sentence?). The features all sounded great, but would the iPhone 4s be included in the supported devices? After all, by the fall release, timed with the seemingly inevitable new iPhones, it would be three generations old.
So while I was not too surprised I was still quite happy when the 4s made the list of supported devices. While I was bummed that Airdrop and Handoff wouldn’t be supported, our computers are so old they didn’t make it on the Yosemite side either, so not much to complain about there. And everything else the phone was capable of in terms of it’s internal components would be supported.
But Does It Work?
And then after the June announcement there was the three months of waiting until iOS 8 was released into the wild. And then it was. And then I started encountering some issues. Nothing, in turns out, that others weren’t encountering, but as I was encountering them on a three year old phone it was hard to know that at first.
The first issue was actually being able to install it at all. You see, iOS 8 required you to have 4.6 GB of free space on your phone or iPad. Needless to say, many of us with 16 GB phones that we’ve been using for awhile, and installing apps on and taking pictures and videos with, didn’t have that much space.
But while the unwashed masses were taking to Twitter and Facebook and screaming bloody murder, I followed the instructions that were pretty clear on the phone’s screen and simply plugged the phone into my computer, booted iTunes, and was able to install that way. A pain, but not a huge pain for all the whining you heard on social media and in the press.
Aging Pains, We All Get Them
And after going through that and booting it up, it did work, after a fashion. I had expected that the new features would likely slow the phone down some, and I was not disappointed. While not unusable, there were obvious delays throughout the system; from opening apps to opening the search window and bringing up the keyboard there were noticeable delays throughout the OS.
Others had noticed this as well, and one article in particular grabbed lots of media attention from those who like to read headlines and not articles. The well-respected site Ars Technica wrote an article with the click-baitish headline iOS 8 on the iPhone 4S: Performance isn’t the (only) problem. Those who chose not to read the article, and those with an anti-iOS/Apple bent in general, grabbed hold of this headline and crowed about how Apple was making their three year old phones obsolete; some even complained or threatened to sue over this “forced” obsolescence. However if you read the article to the end, you find that Ars actually recommends the upgrades despite the inevitable performance hit.
And despite the issues I’ve had with the upgrade, which I will begin detailing in the next post in this series, I would agree. Yes, some things are slower and yes the phone definitely shows its age more with this OS than with iOS 7. But the features that iOS 8 brings, which I will also begin detailing, more than make up for it in my opinion. So if you have an iPhone 4s, or an iPad 4 (Retina), I say go ahead and upgrade, but be prepared for the consequences. Next post, I’ll begin to tell you why and what to watch out for.