Apple’s iOS 8 is launching today—read this before upgrading

Just don’t ask about Maps.
Just don’t ask about Maps.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Apple is releasing iOS 8—its new operating system for iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches—today. It’s a free upgrade for gadgets that can run it, which includes iPhones back to the 4S and iPads back to the 2. It will be available in the General > Software Update section of a supported device’s settings app.

When to upgrade?

Not necessarily right away. While there are many benefits to iOS 8—we’ll get to those in a moment—there are also some potential complications. During previous iOS updates, many have complained about reduced battery life, especially with older devices.

If you absolutely need your phone to work as well today as it did yesterday, it might be worth holding off until enough people have updated that it’s clear there are no major issues. That said, of the iOS reviews we’ve read, including a thorough, test-based analysis from Ars Technica, none has complained about any big problems. (And one neat feature of iOS 8 is that it will tell you which apps are using up your battery power.)

If you can afford any potential issues, go ahead and upgrade. But always, always back everything up first.

Either way, there should be a semi-major update to iOS sometime in October. This is when Apple is scheduled to add support for its new mobile-payments system, Apple Pay, and likely more features that tie into its next Mac OS X update, Yosemite, which also is expected in October. It’s possible that some bugs could be fixed before then. But that’s when the next significant release is likely.

Beware iCloud Drive

This new service adds Dropbox-like folder syncing to your iCloud account, which is accessible on iOS 8 devices and Macs if they are running Yosemite—most aren’t. RealMac Software has a good explanation article.

In short: If you rely on iCloud to sync content with an iOS app that you also access on a Mac, and don’t have Yosemite running on that Mac, don’t use iCloud Drive yet. (Choose the ”Not Yet” option when prompted to upgrade to iCloud Drive.)

The best of iOS 8

Pretty much everything else about iOS 8 sounds like a solid upgrade. (See Apple’s “What’s New” page, or if you have a few hours to spare, this lengthy manual at iMore.)

You’ll be able to do more things with iOS notifications, including replying to text messages immediately. It’ll be easier to share things to other services, like Pinterest. Family members can share apps and media. Eventually, when Yosemite is released, your iPhone and Mac will work better together. Also, third-party keyboards will be available for the first time, and we’ve seen some neat ones in development. (Swype, a famous keyboard from the Android world, is launching today for 99 cents.)

And our favorite feature: You can now minimize an email you’re writing by swiping down—to look through other emails, or copy some text—without losing your work.