This may surprise some of our readers, but the iPhone 4s is still wildly popular. Sales of the device accounted for 25% of iPhones sold in the first three months of 2014, and that's just new phones. There are still a sea of users out there with holding onto their iPhone 4s thanks to its size, usability, durability, and price. Naturally whenever Apple releases a new iOS we iPhone 4s users shake in fear.
Could this be the update that kills our phone?
Sadly for many users iOS 8 was the move that finally affected the basic usability of their 4s, this writer included. Apps crashed, third party keyboards were sluggish, battery life too a serious hit, and everything was generally slower. We know we're using old hardware, but since Apple was still until very recently actively pushing the iPhone 4s as an entry point -- one that's incredibly popular overseas in expanding markets -- the hit from this latest update was a harsh one.
Apple seems to have noticed the complaints of their 4s users if their latest iOS 8 update is any indication. iOS 8.1.1 is targeted specifically at iPhone 4s and iPad 2 users whose devices have been slowed down by the new OS. If you're a iPhone 4s user who has burned in the past by updates it can be hard to trust again, we understand. This reviewer is one of you. However, in the interest of journalism I have updated my Verizon iPhone 4s to iOS 8.1.1 to test it so you don't have to.
My final conclusion: It's worth the jump if you've already upgraded to iOS 8.
In the 32 hours since updating I have not experienced any app crashes, with Safari being noticeably faster when browsing over Wi-fi and 3G alike. When I upgraded my device suddenly had 300MB of space suddenly open up. iMore is reporting some iPad users have discovered up to 500MB of newly freed space on their devices after upgrading, confirmed by our own Victor Agreda. If you experience this freed up data please let us know in the comments.
Battery life is slightly improved, but may only net you around an extra 30 minutes over the day. This is improved by fully closing apps when you're done with them.
Double tapping the Home key to scroll between apps no longer sometimes registers double taps as a single tap and vise-versa. For the first time since updating to iOS 8 it's easy to scroll between open apps again. If you've already updated your 4s to iOS 8 you need to download this update. The improvements are subtle, but if you've been pulling out your hair they're important.
That being said, if you have not updated to iOS 8 stay away. Keep iOS 7 and accept it is probably as good as it is going to get for our beloved iPhone 4s'. We are currently using technology that is living on borrowed time and this latest update from Apple is a welcome gift to those of us who keep a phone until it dies, not just when a new one comes out.
Even with these improvements iOS 8 is a noticeably slower experience than iOS 7. Third party keyboards are nice, and the changes to the control panel and menus are welcomed, but the trade off on battery life and general speed aren't worth it. Then again this update could be more than just throwing loyalists a bone. It's entirely possible that Apple has noticed that iPhone 4s users still love their devices, and we are legion.
If you're on the fence about updating and you already have iOS 8, rest easy. An improvement is here just for you. Those of you with iOS 7 still living peacefully on your device, congratulations, but with a caveat. Should this update signal a new willingness on Apple's part to take the literal millions of iPhone 4s users seriously as a user base we may be getting more updates with us in mind in the future. Continue to live cautiously, but hold out hope that this is the first sign that Apple hasn't given up on us completely and keep looking at the details of each new update.
My battered iPhone 4s and I are holding out hope. Sure, our devices have been discontinued by the manufacturer, but that doesn't mean we've stopped using them. Until then for iOS 8 using iPhone 4s owners iOS 8.1.1 is as good as it gets.