It's almost fall again, and so Apple has released the next generation of software that powers its mobile lineup: iOS 8. As always, this is a free update, and it packs new features and enhancements, both obvious and subtle.
Building on last year's dramatic interface overhaul, iOS 8, which was released today, marks the second version of Apple's mobile operating system to feature 64-bit code (last year's iOS 7 being the first). This allows the iPhone to take full advantage of the 64-bit architecture built around the A7 chip in the iPhone 5S, iPad Air and the second-generation iPad mini; as well as the upcoming 64-bit A8 chip in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
(For owners of legacy equipment, iOS 8 can run on the iPhone 4S and later, and the iPad 2 and later. The only iPod Touch that can handle iOS 8 is the fifth-generation model that's been shipping since September 2012. However, not all features will be available for all devices and countries — Apple has provided a list of which features are available in which countries.)
iOS 8 retains the look and feel introduced in iOS 7 with added refinements throughout the system. The new functionality doesn't feel bolted on, doesn't slow the OS down or add bloat — a difficult trick to pull off.
Be warned, though: I have run into lingering bugs in the final release of iOS 8 (build 12A365). Some are obscure enough that you may never run into them, but the usual caveats and warnings apply regarding installing and running first-release software.
For this review, I tested iOS 8 on an iPhone 5S, an iPad mini (second generation with Retina display) and a cellular iPad Air. However, the main focus of this review will be based on how well iOS 8 runs on the iPhone.
Before you do anything else, go to Settings: iCloud: Storage & Backup and tap Backup Now. You will want a full backup of your data in case of an unforeseen event.
There are several ways to install iOS 8. The easiest: From an iOS device, navigate to Settings > General > Software Update and run the update. For this, you will need a Wi-Fi network and at least 50% battery life, or else the device will have to be plugged in. After the download is complete, your device will update in place, leaving all of your settings, data, media and apps intact.
The other way to upgrade your iPhone is to plug it into a PC or Mac running iTunes. You'll have the option to either Restore or Upgrade the phone, with the Upgrade option leaving your settings, data, media and apps in place; the Restore option initially deletes everything on the device before installing a fresh operating system. If you've been having issues with your device, or if you've modified (or jailbreaked) ) the OS in ways Apple hasn't sanctioned, then a Restore may be the best bet.
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