Thursday, September 19, 2013

Should I Upgrade to iOS 7 with an iPhone 4?

When Apple announced their iPhone event a couple of weeks back, I eagerly awaited the wonderful changes they had in store.

Keep in mind that my current phone, an iPhone 4 that replaced the one I lost to a crushing lap bar at Six Flags, seemed to be on its last legs. It took ages to open menus, let alone apps. I'd frequently hit a "button" on the screen, only to find that the phone was still working, and it processed the "click" as having triggered a different button entirely. Also, the battery life was garbage--on a "normal" day, I'd have to either recharge mid-afternoon or sweat it out to get a full day's work out of the thing. Safari took forever to register my keystrokes.

As a CEO of an early stage startup, novelist and freelance writer, I'm not exactly rolling in dough here, but I thought that upgrading to the 5S was going to be a necessary expenditure.

Then the press conference came along.

Consider me underwhelmed.

Aside from a much faster processor and the fingerprint scanner, it sure seemed like most of the big changes would be to the phone's operating system, iOS. Though the interface was a bit "cute" for my liking (it looked a bit like Wall-E had a robot kid with Hello Kitty), Apple put design guru (and "Guy Who Should Be CEO") Jonny Ive on the project, and I trust his eye and sensibilities implicitly.

iOS 7 was scheduled to be released yesterday, and even though I usually wait a few weeks to download the new iOS so that Apple can iron out the initial bugs, I figured that my plodding iPhone 4 couldn't do any worse than it was already doing. Worst case scenario, if the update bricked it (and I've heard of this happening to some folks, so be mindful of that), I could get a 4S from AT&T for free, or if I was really feeling like The Monopoly Man, I could always upgrade to a 5S or (shudder) a 5C.

So I fired up iTunes on my MacBook Pro (Late Fall 2011) and transferred all of my purchases from the phone to iTunes. Even though my phone was set to auto backup to iCloud, I also did a hard backup to my computer, "just in case" the worst happened.

Finally, my phone was ready for the upgrade. It took me a while to get through to Apple's servers, but I persevered, making sure that I chose "Download Only" so that I could transfer it over to my phone at my leisure.

After a while, I was all set up with iOS7.

So far, so great.

Here are the ways in which my phone has improved:

-It's faster. Some people in online comments sections have indicated that iOS 7 is slowing their iPhone 4 down. I've found the opposite to be true; my phone gained a noticeable performance boost already. I don't have benchmark scores or anything like that, but the input recognition of the phone seems to be way up; when I type something, it displays almost immediately, no lag.

-The battery appears to last longer. I say "appears to" since I've been testing it for less than 24 hours. However, I'm here mid-afternoon, when the phone previously would be at 60-70% or so, and it's at 87% after the change. That's a significant bump--I should be able to go the rest of the day without charging.

-The interface is more intuitive. From the quick "pull-up menu" that lets you access the most commonly-used features of the phone (Airplane Mode, Flashlight, Calculator, etc.) to little things like not having to scroll to the top of the Safari window to enter a URL, it really is a better user experience that will shave seconds off of each interaction throughout the day. Those seconds add up, if for nothing else than to diffuse my frustration at how damned slow the thing used to move.

-More default ringtones. "What is this? 2005?" I know, I know, ringtones aren't a terribly exciting feature nowadays, but I always left my phone on the factory presets (tri-tone and chime, I believe) since I didn't like any of the other ones that came with it, and was always too cheap/lazy to buy/make custom ones. I've already set my phone, email, text, twitter, and facebook notifications to different, equally pleasing sounds. Hey, every bit helps.

Not all is sunshine and roses, though. Here are a couple of gripes:

-The Podcast app is somehow worse. I'm not sure how this happened, given that I listen to a ton of podcasts and Apple seems to think that no one does, given the effort (or lack thereof) they put into the app. Imagine my surprise when playback just stopped twice this morning, once when I switched from wi-fi to 3G (I guess it's understandable, but come on--it's 2013!) and the second time for no apparent reason. Wonderful.


-A bit too colorful. I'm guessing Jonny Ive is a fan of the movie What Dreams May Come, given his sudden infatuation with over-the-top color. I've come to tolerate the "whooshing" icons every time I unlock the screen, but the colors on the icons that populate the home screen are borderline seizure-inducing. I'm sure I'll get used to them over time, but my God, Jonny, maybe go a bit softer next time!

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how "out-of-the-box ready" iOS 7 was. The few bugs I've encountered thus far are far outweighed by the performance upgrades and (apparent) extension of battery life. I would highly, highly recommend that iPhone 4 users upgrade as soon as they can, provided they do a hard backup first to make sure that they don't lose any data.

Questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments. Thanks everyone--hope this helps!

In addition to being the co-founder and CEO of Hunt to Read, D.J. Gelner is a writer in St. Louis Missouri. Check out his books, available at his Amazon Author Page and on Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here). E-mail him directly at djgelbooks@gmail.com.

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