iOS 8.4: Worth Upgrading?

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Geekbench 3 benchmark of iPad 2 running iOS 8.3

Geekbench 3 benchmark of iPad 2 running iOS 8.4

I used GeekBench 3 to test the update before and after upgrading both of my devices. Both my iPad 2 and iPhone 6 showed slightly better performance after upgrading. As you can see, the iOS 8.4 upgrade actually has a higher multi-core score on my iPad 2.

GeekBench only tests algorithms, not the actual performance of apps. It was unable to discover the serious flaw rendering Apple Music and other apps useless on older devices. Once again, Apple has improved the lower-level aspects of their operating system, only to have serious flaws introduced by their application team. My hunch is that the Safari team is responsible for the embedded browser (UIWebView, DLWebView), which is used by several apps.

Installing iOS 8.4

The iOS 8.4 upgrade time varies based on your device and how often you upgrade. If you have been updating your device regularly, the update will be between 78 – 218 MB. The update was 78.5 MB on my iPad 2 and 218 MB on my iPhone 6. If you have been updating regularly and you have a decent Internet connection, the update should take 30-45 minutes.

After the update, expect your device to be a little slow. The battery will also drain faster. This is because a post-upgrade optimization process is being run. With Apple Music, your device will be doing some additional processing to analyze your musical preferences, integrate your iTunes purchases and sync with iCloud. As usual, people are complaining about this right away. Wait a few days before you start screaming bloody murder on social media.

I waited a month before writing this article. I feel it is necessary to actually use 8.4 before writing about it. After a few days, iOS 8.4 will not detract from performance or battery life on a new device. Keep in mind, if you are using Apple Music for several hours and streaming music, it will drain the battery faster than surfing the web or other activities. People will often play music over AirPlay while browsing for other music. The iCloud Music Library may be doing some syncing activity. Apple Music server components may be communicating with the client to provide recommendations. One should expect this to use a significant amount of battery power.

WiFried Bug Reintroduced in 8.4

Although I have not personally experienced this issue, several users are complaining that the so-called “WiFried” defect has resurfaced. The bug can disconnect or slow WiFi. Apple fixed WiFried in iOS 8.3. If you experienced this bug and it was fixed in 8.3, I strongly recommend holding off on iOS 8.4.

If you have persistent WiFi issues, please read “Fix iPhone WiFi“. This guide provides information on fixing iPhone WiFi problems and tuning your WiFi router to avoid frequency collision. The WiFried bug may be exacerbated by frequency collision with your WiFi network. Other wireless devices (cordless phone, audio transmitter, baby monitor) or your neighbor’s WiFi network could be interfering with your WiFi router’s signal strength. I improved WiFi performance by properly configuring the WiFi channels on my AirPort Extreme router.

Other Bugs Introduced in iOS 8.4

Apple Music introduces quite a few issues in iOS 8.4. Adding music from the For You screen to a playlist doesn’t work most of the time. I can’t get it to work at all on both of my devices. You can workaround this problem by tapping the “…” button next to a song or album and choosing “Make Available Offline”. This will download the music to your device. Tap on the My Music tab at the bottom of the screen to access your downloaded music. Adding downloaded music to a playlist works. (continue…)

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  1. Just wanted to say you can now downgrade an iPad 2 back to iOS 6.1.3 via the Odyssey Jailbreak hack. It’s an exploit a user developed and he’s been able to downgrade the iPhone 4s and iPad 2 from iOS 9 back to iOS 6.1.3 OFW from Apple. Supposedly this works even if you don’t have saved Blobs.

    Here’s the YouTube video if you’re interested 🙂

  2. Thanks for the info. I think I’ll keep my iPad 3 on iOS 5. Like you said iOS 9.1 is still buggy and sluggish on the iPad 2. I think the trade off of more features vs performance hit on the iPad 3 isn’t worth it. I still have music i’ve purchased on iTunes and games that run on iOS 5.

    Lastly, i’ve also worked for large tech companies in the 80’s and fanboys and cheerleaders are a just plain dumb.

    1. I kind of wish I stayed with iOS 6 on my iPad. It’s not even really usable for browsing the web. Email works OK, but if I try to send a link using the Share Sheet in any browser, it will crash sometimes. The main purpose of my iPad is to test iOS releases. It saved me from upgrading my iPhone 6 to iOS 9.

      Agreed. I find most of the fanboys don’t really work in tech. I did work at a large Silicon Valley software company in the 90s that had a cadre of Mac fanboys. That was back when the Mac wasn’t very good. But they were pretty much light-weight HTML authors. The coders who developed the Mac versions of the software weren’t that happy with Apple.

      I like my Mac and my iPhone. OS X is rock solid. iOS is what it is — a decent mobile operating system, that used to be more stable. I went through a short phase of liking Apple a bit too much. I still like their products, but when my Apple TV reboots itself 5 times a night and my iPad crashes on simple web pages, it gives me a reality check. Apple Music and some of their stock apps also clued me in that not everything Apple makes is great. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of any stock app that’s excellent. I had hoped Maps would improve, but they are still missing a lot of data. The shopping center near my home was gentrified about 6 months ago, and Apple Maps still doesn’t have the new stores. Google Maps does. The furor over Apple Maps was overblown, but it is not as good as Google Maps. Think of the businesses that are losing money because no one can find them! I personally think Apple should get out of the app business and let third parties handle it. It’s a distraction. If they focused on great hardware and operating systems, quality would only improve. Let people set their own default apps. I would love to use Camera+ instead of the stock camera app. I would prefer to use Chrome and Google Maps as defaults.

      Fanboys can’t see this. They can only think in simple terms — “Apple good”. Apple makes a lot of great products, and some are no so great. I am going to buy the new Apple TV very soon, but my expectations are set appropriately. The Apple TV product team is not the cream of the crop. I expect it to get better with updates, but then to be neglected within 2-3 years when another model comes out. It will be a rocky road, as they will most likely introduce regressive defects with each update.

      1. TotallY agree with your assessment. I think the Maps issue may have been more about internal politics that got Scott Forstall fired. Shame really because although iOS was buggy back then it was a polished mobile OS. Today we have an unpolished, buggy mess.

        The overall design queues implemented in iOS 7 and beyond are real head scratchers. It’s as if the Jony Ive team set out purposely to strip away everything Forstall did to iOS. Then added tricks, gimmicks and effects that impact performance. I’ve been reading that even the new larger iPad has UI performance issues running iOS 9.

        I still am puzzled why Apple was never called out for gimping their devices with such low system memory. To this day it’s not uncommon to have Safari crash on any iPad even up to last years iPad Air 2. I own three iPad’s (iPad 2/iPad 3/iPad Air) and they will be my last unless the company changes course which I seriously doubt because there is NOTHING Pro about the new iPad Pro. It’s just a ridiculously sized iPad designed to make more money for Apple.

        It’s baffling that I can count on one hand Chrome crashing on the cheapest Android tablet and it’s a common occurrence on iOS and the Apple faithful defend the company as if they were personally insulted.

        1. It’s good to see another Apple user who is skeptical. I think I owe it to my readers. I am neither an Apple fan nor an Apple hater. I try to be more of a consumer advocate. I’ve used Apple products for a very long time, and I still think the Mac and iPhone are great products. I actually defended Maps when it came out, but I now see it hasn’t improved at all. A shopping center near my house has been totally rebuilt, with new stores. It was finished 6 months ago. Apple Maps doesn’t have these points of interest, but Google Maps does. It hurts customers and businesses alike. The worst thing is that this is in SF, home to a lot of Apple employees and just up the road from Cupertino. They can’t even accurately map their own backyard. If you ask Siri “where’s a good place to eat around here”, it won’t know about the new restaurants, because it is using Apple Maps for data.

          I agree with you 1000% about the iPad. I’m not going to buy another one. I can’t even work on this site using an iPad, mainly because of Safari weaknesses. Automattic doesn’t put much effort into their WordPress iOS app, because they are aware that most publishers use a computer. There are all sorts of workarounds and kludges, but I don’t see a reason to compromise just so I can be using an iPad. The iPad advocates seem to feel that they are living in the future of computing. I prefer the present. If they ever improve Safari, offer better graphics apps and a real file system, the iPad may be a great way to go. Even then, the ergonomics of the device are suboptimal. Why would corporations go for the iPad Pro, when they can get a $400 Dell system that is more capable and more comfortable to work on for 8+ hours? It may make sense for field workers, but they may be better served with an iPhone or iPad Air.

          I still like my Mac and iPhone and I plan on replacing these products when the time comes. But I am less enchanted with Apple. I use third-party replacements for virtually every stock app, and I would love it if these could be defaults. I also suspect that Apple is hobbling Safari (and WebKit) to hurt Google. If this is true, they are also hurting their customers. It may just be sloppy development. They have done these things in the past. They recently hobbled Siri to deny any music-related queries to non-Apple Music subscribers. After a lot of bad publicity, they changed this practice. I suspect that Safari crashing all the time may be a way to drive people to apps and away from the web, in order to hurt Google. This strategy is obvious in other areas. They improved Spotlight to keep users away from Google search. Really, this has just made Chrome my go-to portal for Google services.

          You might find this article interesting. It is a counter-argument to the tech pundits who claim an iPad can replace a computer. You don’t need to be a developer, video or audio editor to need a proper computer. Most office workers need a fully functional version of Office. They need to sit at a desk with their keyboard at wrist level and the monitor at eye level. There are scores of things one still can’t do on an iPad.

          Apple seems to be succumbing to hubris and group-think. It’s like they think iOS is so amazing, it can do everything. For the things it can’t do, they are dismissive. “Who needs to do that anymore?”

          The other possibility is that they want people to buy an iPad Pro, realize its limitations and buy a Mac, yet still love the device for content-consumption and light computing tasks.

          1. “Apple seems to be succumbing to hubris and group-think. It’s like they think iOS is so amazing, it can do everything.”

            It’s the same hubris that got them in trouble during the John Sculley days which Steve Jobs came in to bail them out.

            The problem with the Apple product pipeline is that there really is NO longer a pipeline. Apple’s product line is basically the iPhone and the growing Chinese market.

            iPad sales have tanked royally the last 1.5 years while the Apple fanboy’s were laughing off the Apple is Doomed cries. Apple has not come out with anyone new eyecatching product post Steve Jobs. Their products are all refinements of existing products and the fanboy’s call that innovation. The iMac is the same product it was when I bought my Snow iMac in 2002 with Classic and the first version of OS X. It’s just slimmer and almost impossible to repair.

            What we have today is the Apple Watch and going along with Apple’s hubris, you need an iPhone for it to work properly. The last time I wore a watch was back in the 70’s and they have the gall to sell a $17,000 Gold Apple Watch and morons buy it. Sales numbers are treated like Amazon Kindle Fire sales numbers, i.e. they’re not reported and neither is the iPad Pro. So that tells you those numbers aren’t to their liking.

            I have a Mac Mini and truth be told i’d rather run Linux Mint. That’s not to say I don’t like OS X, I do. But at least with Linux if there is a security issue, it’s cleaned up usually within days or even hours

            Without Jobs the company is just resting on it’s laurels and it’s beginning to show. I remember a time when Jobs came back in the late 90’s. It was all about simplicity. When I compare iOS 5 vs iOS 7/8/10, there’s no more simplicity You have menus then there are submenu’s and sometimes there are submenus to submenus. If Scott Forstall put the Bookmark icon in the upper left corner, Ive switched it to the upper right. Forstall realized that most people are righties, and the can access their Bookmarks with a finger on the left hand while scrolling with their right hand without taking a finger off the device. That’s forward thinking. The Ive team realized this and switched it back in iOS 8.

            When I compare the overall look between iOS 5/6 vs iOS 7/8/9, I see an eye-popping design that Scott Forstall created. Jony Ive stripped it all away and added gimmicks such as Blur and you notice I did not mention translucency? Because Scott Forstall was already using translucency in the UI. He used it with minimal effect and in it’s proper context so as not to overdue it. So now we are at the point where the latest offerings can’t run iOS without some sort of lag and stutter or crashing.

            I’m at the point where my Android tablet is super reliable to surf the web.

          2. All good points, especially that Apple is just resting on their iPhone laurels. I think instead of trying to develop these really bad stock apps and services, they should just focus on the hardware and operating systems. I did the Apple Music trial, and, to be honest, it is awful. I went back to Spotify with a paying membership. All of their stock apps are mediocre at best, but some are just awful. I’ve seen CS students deliver better apps for their senior projects. Their corporate culture stymies app development. This same mega-corporation organizational structure seems to work well for hardware, and used to work well for operating systems. I am afraid that OS X will start to suffer the same fate as iOS.

            Apple needs a new, breakthrough product like the iPhone. All they do now is just take that same design and offer it in different sizes. There are only hair-splitting differences between the iPhone and iPad. Apple TV 4 is a bit disappointing. I expected more. Not so long ago, they innovated. Then they started borrowing features, but innovated enough to leapfrog the competition. Apple TV 4 isn’t even a “me too” product. They shipped something that’s half baked, and I’m not that optimistic that it will improve with updates. They seem to be introducing a lot of regressive defects with updates. Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back. I don’t know how their engineering process works. Are they side-stepping QA? Do they know about these bugs, yet release the products anyway? I understand, all technology products ship with known issues, but they don’t seem to consider anything to be a “show stopper”. I don’t think they are operating on an unreasonable schedule. It took them over three years to launch a new Apple TV, and it’s underwhelming. Just about every other TV streaming device has an app store and some of them already offer 4K video.

            At first, I didn’t like Forstall. I found his keynote presentations to be a bit smug. As an engineer and visionary, he is top-notch. Now that I see how iOS has suffered, I am also starting to think getting rid of Forstall was a huge mistake. Federighi is spread thin, having to lead both platforms, and I think OS X is being neglected. So far, that’s actually good, because they’re not cramming it with features and defects. I’m running Yosemite on my Mac, and I haven’t faced any problems. It’s rock solid. Why would I use my iPad?

            I’ll have to check out Linux Mint. I have Ubuntu and CentOS on some older machines, and I do like Linux. The last time I used it, however, it was just too hard to do media consumption. It seems to have changed. Spotify has a Linux client. Some of it was by design. Hulu actively blocked Linux, even though it would theoretically work. Netflix was using Silverlight, and Moonlight could only do audio. Now Netflix offers an HTML 5 video player. I think it’s time to revisit Linux.

  3. I have an iPad 3 running 5.1.1, would you suggest upgrading to 8.4.1? I also have an iPad 2 and I’m on 9.1 and while it’s a little slow and sluggish it still runs OK.

    1. Unfortunately, you can no longer upgrade an iOS device to 8.4.1, because it is no longer signed by Apple. A few days after they release a new version of iOS, they stop “signing” the last version. Even if you have the update downloaded on your computer (with iTunes) it can no longer be installed, as it is not signed.

      My iPad 2 is faster on iOS 9.1 (compared to iOS 8.4.1), but it is still really buggy. Websites crash far too often. I also found an issue with updating apps. The App Store will automatically start updating all apps, even if I just pick one. I tried again today. When I updated one app, it decided to update two others. There are some fundamentals that aren’t working on iOS 9.1. I recommend waiting for iOS 9.2. However, it depends on how you use your devices. Your iPad 2 may be working fine, because of how you use it. If you don’t use the browser often, upgrading your other iPad to 9.1 might work out for you.

  4. I cannot read my email after upgrade my ipad 2 to ios 8.4. the emails page opend, but a white page. What shall I do?

    1. Try this:

      1. double click the home button and swipe up on the Mail app to close it
      2. hold the home and sleep/wake button until the Apple logo appears, then release both buttons

      When iOS is up and running, launch mail. It should work.

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