iOS 8.4.1: Worth Upgrading?

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iOS 8.4.1 Security Updates

Security Fixes

As with every iOS update, 8.4.1 also includes several security fixes. Most of the security patches are for difficult to exploit vulnerabilities. It is always surprising to see a few serious issues that are just being fixed. Apple remains quiet about these vulnerabilities until they are fixed. For example, iOS 8.4.1 fixes an issue where a malicious app could access the iCloud user record of a previously logged in user.

It’s also interesting to realize who finds these security flaws. The TaiG Jailbreak team finds a lot of them. It’s ironic that Apple attempts to thwart jailbreaking, when the community has been so helpful and seem to understand iOS better than Apple’s own employees. In fact, most of the vulnerabilities are not found by Apple. Ian Beer of Google Project Zero also found a security flaw.

I always find the security update notes to be very interesting. They remind iOS users as to how vulnerable our devices are, and how we are de facto forced to update our devices in order to keep them secure. Unlike OS X, iOS users must update the entire OS to get security fixes. This needs to change, as Apple has been unable to deliver quality and performance with recent iOS updates. Looking at the lengthy list of security fixes, some of them quite severe, users should strongly consider upgrading to iOS 8.4.1. Unfortunately, this may decrease performance and introduce other defects.

iOS 8.4.1: Worth Upgrading?

Given the numerous security flaws fixed in iOS 8.4.1, I recommend upgrading, especially if you have already upgraded to iOS 8.4. Be aware that users are reporting issues with the phone app crashing, excessive battery drain, slow lock screen and slow App Switcher performance on the iPad Air 2. I personally have not experienced these issues on my iPhone 6 or iPad 2G. My iPad is noticeably slower after the update, but iOS 8 pretty much rendered it obsolete anyway.

My iPad is still unbearably slow and buggy, as it has been with iOS 8. After a year of putting up with app crashes and sluggish performance, I have decided this will be my last iPad. Spending $700 on a device that is obsolete after 3 years is irrational. The iPad (even the newest model) still isn’t as capable as a $300 Windows notebook computer. You can spend $100 more than a reasonably equipped iPad and get a Macbook Air, which is more capable, faster and more stable than an iPad. I don’t think I am the only one who realizes this. The whole tablet market, including the iPad, is facing a major decline in sales. Tablets put form over function. The device is smaller and features a novel touch screen, but is less capable and stable than a notebook computer.

If you have installed Apple Music, iOS 8.4.1 solves several annoying bugs. If you are a regular Apple Music user, you may consider upgrading. Just keep in mind, this release is par for the course. It continues the pattern of poor quality iOS 8 releases. To put it in perspective, however, people who have switched to iOS feel it offers superior quality and stability compared to other mobile operating systems.

Mobile operating systems are relatively new and the competition has resulted in feature-cramming, which has reduced quality. Competition isn’t always a good thing. It can produce innovation, but it also usually produces a lot of defects. Apple engineering needs to push back on product management. iOS 9 seems to be a step in this direction.

I also feel that iOS should become open source. Most iOS security flaws are found by engineers outside of Apple, and they can’t even see the source code. Opening iOS doesn’t mean anyone can contribute. Apple would still be the gate-keeper. It would create variants of the OS. You would see iOS ported to other non-Apple devices. It would enable jailbreaking. It would also vastly improve the quality and security of iOS.

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