Should I upgrade iOS on my iPhone automatically or manually?

I think a lot of friends are puzzled by this question when setting up their iPhones. And this is just one of those hard questions being asked. However, this doesn’t prevent me to believe that iPhone is the best smart phone in this world. If you can survive the setup, you can enjoy it!

Why Apple keep releasing new iOS editions now and then?

Let’s start from the technology point of view, a smart phone is composed of three layers: hardware, firmware (iOS) and software (App). Hardware is the physical body of the phone. Firmware (iOS) is the operating system, which runs on the hardware and manages it at the same time. Software (App) also runs on the hardware. The difference is that App cannot communicate directly with the hardware. It needs an ‘agent’ or ‘servant’ to do this job and firmware (iOS) is the one.

Apple needs to upgrade their iOS in order to make the best of hardware thus to bring more fancy features for us. When we upgrade the firmware (iOS), we hire a new ‘servant’ with more skills. An upgraded servant needs more resources, like more food, more consume of energy, more money to provide better service for you. iOS editions are different generations of firmware just like different levels of servants. Upgrading iOS means installing a newer generation of firmware into your iPhone.

It sounds very good to upgrade, but wait. Resources come from and are limited by the hardware. It can never be upgraded. So it’s easy to come to this conclusion: the newer edition the iOS is, the more resources it drain from the hardware, the heavier it is for the hardware to bear. Because iOS can never be downgraded, we need to think twice before we upgrade. The upgraded iOS can be too heavy for the hardware and the phone gets laggy. That’s why sometimes we want to turn automatic upgrade off.

Only upgrade when you have to do so

After knowing the above information, we can get to this conclusion that if you are not a person who always want to try new features of an iPhone, you can just switch off automatic upgrade.

  • an App requires a newer iOS to be installed
  • some incompatibility happens among the hardware, firmware and App. Sounds technical? Incompatibility means hardware, firmware and App cannot communicate smoothly. It’s like they say different dialects to each other. The phone will show all kinds of weird problems when incompatibility happens. Upgrading the iOS can always sort incompatibility out.

For a newly released iPhone, we recommend always upgrade to a newer iOS for 2 to 3 years. Because newly released hardware always has plenty of resources to afford a newer and heavier iOS. And bugs reside in early edition iOS need to be removed in newer ones. After 2 to 3 years, you can choose to turn automatic upgrade off to avoid unexpected upgrade.

But what if I want to install an App but don’t want to upgrade the iOS?

All Apps are first released under specific iOS version. Your iOS cannot run the App which was first released under a newer iOS than your current edition. But if your iOS is newer than its release edition and it is not new enough to run the latest App version, you can choose to run its history version. You don’t have to upgrade your iOS. It’s a little bit tricky to do this though.

First, you need to make sure the App was once installed on another iOS device. If not, install it.

Second, go browsing your purchased Apps on your target iOS device and click to install it. It will prompt that ‘your device doesn’t support the latest version’, ‘would you like to use history version?’. Choose yes.


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