October 27, 2015 at 3:36 p.m. PST
Apple’s newest iOS release still leaves a few rough edges. This article examines whether it’s worth upgrading to iOS 9.1.
It’s been a rough past year for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users. iOS 8 was riddled with defects and never seemed to attain the level of quality Apple users are accustomed to. Apple promised to focus on stability, performance and battery life with iOS 9. Unfortunately, even with iOS 9.1, I am experiencing browser and Mail crashes, in addition to sluggish Spotlight performance. The App Switcher has greatly improved and no longer stalls.
iOS 9.1 still isn’t good enough to install on my iPhone 6. I am sticking with iOS 8.4.1 on my iPhone. It’s not perfect, but it is more stable than iOS 9.1. If you have already upgraded to iOS 9, iOS 9.1 is better than 9.0.2. It’s faster, more stable and offers better battery life.
Installing iOS 9.1
I always test iOS upgrades on my iPad 2 before installing them on my iPhone 6. If you have an older iOS device, I highly recommend following this practice. You can find out if it’s worth upgrading to a new iOS release by installing it on an older, non-essential device. You can also just wait for my reviews. I’m not a fanboy. I won’t cover up any flaws to protect the largest corporation on the planet. I think consumers need information more than Apple needs favorable iOS 9 upgrade statistics.
iOS 9.1 is a moderately sized update. At about 100 to 300 MB, the update takes about an hour, depending on your device and how often you have been upgrading. If your Internet connection is slow or Apple’s servers are busy, it could take longer. The update was only 111 MB for my iPad 2, as it has fewer features than newer iOS devices.
Backup any critical information, using iCloud or iTunes, before you install iOS 9.1. For more information on best practices for upgrading iOS, please read “How to Upgrade iOS”.
Tap on Settings > General > Software Update and then tap Download and Install to begin the process. You will be asked to accept the legal agreements before you begin.
You can just let your device run the update unattended, if it has more than 50% battery life after the download. You can also run the update with your device plugged in to a charger.
I don’t recommend using the automatic overnight update process if you use your iOS device as an alarm. Users have reported problems with this when upgrading to iOS 9.1. Specifically, the iOS clock app will fail to sound an alarm.
After the update process has finished, users are greeted with a welcoming Hello screen.
iOS 9.1 is a major update, so it requires some initial configuration. On my iPad, I was only required to sign in to iCloud.
Although iOS 9 offers improved performance over iOS 8, iOS 9.1 isn’t any faster than 9.0.2. The primary Geekbench scores for iOS 9.0.2 and 9.1 are identical. Integer and memory performance are slightly lower on iOS 9.1, but 9.1 offers slightly better floating point performance. The detailed scores in the breakdown vary by 1 point. They are insignificant differences. For all intents and purposes, iOS 9.1 and iOS 9.0.2 offer the same performance.
iOS 9.1 Improvements
iOS 9.1 offers many bug fixes and improvements. The new update fixes a bug in Live Photos that captured raising and lowering the camera. It now sense when the camera is raised and lowered, excluding these events from Live Photo. iOS 9.1 also adds over 150 new emojis, including the infamous middle finger. The update improves stability for Apple Music, Photos, CarPlay, Spotlight Search and Safari. For more information on bug fixes and improvements, check out Apple’s release notes. You can also read these on your iOS device when upgrading to iOS 9.1. (continue…)
UPDATE: Forbes reports iOS 9.1 is introducing problems with Touch ID. Several users are reporting that Touch ID is unreliable and sometimes does not work at all. Resetting the device or restoring it to factory settings does not solve the problem. Affected users can turn off Touch ID by tapping Settings > Touch ID & Passcode and then turn off the feature for all services. Apple is already working on the iOS 9.2 release.
iOS 9.1 Security Updates
iOS 9.1 contains numerous security updates. This is a major reason to upgrade, if you have already made the transition to iOS 9. Some of the patched vulnerabilities are quite serious. For example, visiting a malicious website could cause arbitrary code execution. Apple’s official security content notes are always an interesting read. They give credit where it is due, and most of these flaws are not found by Apple.
Google’s project Zero always finds a few flaws. Professors, security experts, jailbreak coders, and companies like Yahoo also find some flaws. You don’t hear about these problems because Apple and others keep them secret so they won’t be exploited.
Unfortunately, these fixes are not applied to older Apple products which have still not reached end-of-life. For example, my old iPhone 4 doesn’t get any updates, not even for security. It is still a supported product, even though it can’t run iOS 8 or above. The iPhone 4 is old, but keep in mind, they were still selling them up until last year. Apple stopped selling the iPhone 4 in India in the middle of 2014. There are people around the world who have bought new iPhone 4’s and these are not being patched with security updates.
Apple will gladly sell apps to iPhone 4 users. They just won’t offer security fixes. While it is true that some of these fixes are specific to newer aspects of iOS, some of these flaws have been in Apple’s mobile operating system for years.
I still use my old iPhone 4 for Spotify, which frees up my iPhone 6 for gaming. My iPhone 4 still holds a full charge and, on iOS 7, is almost as fast as my iPhone 6 running iOS 8.4.1. I think Apple needs to take accountability and offer security patches for older iOS devices. Apple is a huge corporation and it doesn’t take dozens of developers, QA testers and release engineers to apply, test and release these patches. This would foster brand loyalty.
My Apple TV 2 crashes 1-5 times a night and there hasn’t been an update in almost 18 months. They continue to push channels to this device, because services like HBO and Showtime are profitable.
Apple continually offers security updates for older Mac OS X operating systems. Apple should make this a uniform policy, if they are really interested in fostering brand loyalty. Perhaps you sell your old device and get the new Apple gadget every year. Someone ends up with your old iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple TV. These devices should be secure and stable.
iOS 9.1 Problems
iOS 9.1 is an improvement on iOS 9, but it leaves some major defects and introduces some new problems. iOS web browsers are still hopelessly buggy. When I visit major websites, I often experience browser crashes. This happens about 20% of the time. It’s an exceptionally high failure rate. It doesn’t matter which browser I use, as they all must use WebKit. I am starting to wonder if this is an intentional strategy to make browsers unusable, in order to steer people into using apps.
I really wish Apple would allow non-WebKit browsers into the App Store. Chrome is much more stable, but since they must also use WebKit, it uses the same rendering technology as Safari. At best, you can use a cloud-based browser such as Photon. Make sure to enable the cloud session. This renders the website on an external server and your iOS device only gets a rendered image. It’s a little slow, but if you need to use a website that keeps crashing on Safari or any WebKit browser, it’s the best alternative.
Sharing a website using Safari or other browsers is also a bit defective. I usually have to press the Share button several times. Sharing a link via email will often crash the browser. This has been a problem since iOS 8, however, it seems to have been improved with iOS 8.4.1. iOS 9 seems to re-introduce these issues and iOS 9.1 doesn’t fix them.
After upgrading to iOS 9.1, I went to the App Store to update one app that I use often. I had pending updates for about 50 other apps, but I didn’t want to update them right away. I tapped the update button next to the app and carefully set my iPad down on a table. I verified that only one app was updating. I came back in a few minutes, and to my horror, every app was being updated. This is clearly a bug introduced when Apple fixed an issue with App Store updates in iOS 9.1.
It’s very frustrating when all of the apps are updating, especially when Apple’s servers are so slow immediately after new iOS updates are released. I tapped on all of the apps to stop them from updating, to no avail. They would stop for a moment and resume updating. Some apps ended up being stuck in limbo. I will need to delete them and re-install them. This bug rendered my iPad useless for two days. I had to shut it down to stop it from congesting my Internet connection.
The Mail app has also crashed on me a few times since upgrading to iOS 9.1. Mail is an essential utility, and for the first time I am considering using another email client. You don’t have to use Mail. You can use the Gmail app or mail clients from a variety of different providers.
After the iOS 9.0.2 update, Notes no longer syncs with my Mac. This is another app that I will stop using. I am considering moving to Evernote. The poor quality of Apple’s stock apps is nothing new. iTunes has been around for over a decade, and it seems to get worse and more convoluted with every release. As Apple gets larger and top engineering talent are lured to startups, they just don’t have the culture, environment or talent to make decent apps. I ditched Apple Music because it was just too buggy. Great app developers aren’t working at Apple. They can get paid more and are granted pre-IPO stock options at startups. Apple’s app developers are not the cream of the crop.
I am not the only one experiencing problems with iOS 9.1. There are many reports from people who can no longer use their phone, send email or send text messages. For a complete picture of iOS 9.1 problems, read the comments on this website. Keep in mind, there are hundreds of millions of people who are using iOS 9.1. The chances of experiencing these problems is unlikely and they don’t seem to be widespread. Nonetheless, if you need your iOS device to “just work”, you may want to postpone upgrading to iOS 9.1.
iOS 9.1 Battery Life
As with all iOS releases, some users are complaining about poor battery life after upgrading. Make sure to calibrate the battery after upgrading, if you are experiencing rapid battery depletion.
The Facebook app for iOS contains a known bug which drains the battery and slows down devices. When Facebook is closed, it continues to run a rogue process in the background. Make sure to update your Facebook app and read the release notes to make sure they have fixed this issue. If your device runs the faulty Facebook app, you can fix the problem by closing the app and resetting your device (hold down home and sleep/wake until you see the Apple logo). Keep in mind, you will need to do this every time you use Facebook, until you have the fixed app. They have supposedly fixed the iPhone app, however, I do not see a fix for the iPad yet.
iOS 9.1: Worth Upgrading?
iOS 9 promised to be a stable and efficient release. Apple promised an evolutionary release with modest changes and a focus on performance and stability. It’s getting there, but iOS 9.1 is still too defective to install on my iPhone 6. I am experiencing far too many app crashes, particularly with WebKit browsers (Safari, Chrome, etc.) and Mail. Notes no longer syncs with my Mac. I also find Spotlight to be unbearably slow at times. I recommend sticking with iOS 8 for now.
If you have already upgraded to iOS 9, it’s worth upgrading to iOS 9.1. There are fewer bugs than previous iOS 9 releases. iOS 9.1 also patches numerous security vulnerabilities.
Most Apple experts claim that iOS 9.1 is the last release for a long time, perhaps until 2016. This may be a long time to wait if you are still on iOS 8. I don’t find any compelling reason to upgrade to iOS 9. The promises of stability and improved battery life haven’t yet materialized. I think the next release will offer the quality that Apple customers expect.