A Safe Plan
There were quite a few headlines about bugs in iOS 8 in the days immediately after its debut. Fortunately, the worst of the problems were, for the most part, taken care of by the release of the follow-up version.
Which isn’t to say that iOS 8.1 is completely perfect today. However, we’ve found that these aren’t the kind of issues that cause day-to-day problems.
Simply put, installing this upgrade will not significantly impede the performance of your smartphone. Being realistic, the iPhone 4s is three years old and it’s not going to have the same super-fast speeds as a brand-new iPhone 6, but it runs quite acceptably, even with iOS 8.1.
And this can be improved by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion and flipping the slide or two on. This will remove some of the bells and whistles included in the user interface that generally just slow the device down.
How to Find Room
Many users who haven’t upgraded yet may be worried less about potential performance hang-ups than the fact that they don’t have enough room to take the plunge in the first place. There are a number of solutions for this issue.
One easy fix is to delete hidden and unnecessary system files. These are created by the operating system and some apps, but aren’t always deleted when no longer needed. They can build up over time until they eat up several gigabytes of space. Backing up the device, doing a factory reset, and restoring it will erase these “zombie” files.
Another option is to move large numbers of pictures onto a cloud storage system. Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and others make uploading a whole archive of pictures a simple process.
People with especially full iPhones should consider removing some of their apps. A game or utility that hasn’t been opened in months can be deleted and then re-installed from the iTunes store at any time in the future.
Similarly, music and books that have been purchased through iTunes can be deleted and re-installed at any point.
Why Do the Upgrade
Apple has built quite a number of new features into iOS 8.1, even for older devices like the iPhone 4s.
The notification system has been greatly improved by allowing users to perform many actions directly in the tray itself. This means that one can write a response to an incoming text in the notification of a message without having to switch apps.
Another notable improvement is QuickType, which is what Apple calls its predictive text system. This places suggested text above the keyboard, speeding up the writing process. And the latest version of the OS supports third-party keyboards, so users can finally install more efficient input methods like Swype.
There are quite a few small tweaks in iOS 8.1 that generally make using the iPhone 4s easier. For example, double tapping the home button brings up a list of recent contacts.
Those who have a recent-model iPad will find other benefits. The iPhone 4s doesn’t have all of the new features that Apple included for cross-collaborating with the tablet, but there are a few. Most notably, SMS text messages sent to the iPhone can be set to appear on the iPad.
Just keep in mind, some of the most advertised features of iOS 8.1 aren’t available to the iPhone 4s. Apple Pay is the most notable example of this.
Just Do It
Those who have been convinced that iOS 8.1 is safe and useful, and have found room for it on their iPhone 4s, can start the installation by going to Settings > General > Software Update, or alternatively by hooking the smartphone to a computer running iTunes.
Downloading and installing the OS update can take some time, perhaps a couple of hours. It’s best to have the phone fully charged before starting.
Once that’s done, be sure to play around with the new features of iOS 8.1. That’s the best way to learn how to use them.