Every time Apple drops a major new operating system update – whether it’s macOS or iOS – there’s the question of whether to upgrade right away or wait a while. There is definitely a case to be made in both ways and lots of variables in play. What are your needs? How willing are you to live with a few problems? How stable are the latest beta releases? What features do you want?
Over the last many years, the latest version of iOS has been released at any time in the days following a September event – ranging from the day after (in 2020) to nine days later (in 2019). Now that iOS 15 has been launched (from Monday, September 20), the question is again: Should you mosque the update button right away or wait? Here is the case for and against.
Update 27/09/21: An iOS 15 bug prevents unlocking with the Apple Watch feature on some iPhone 13 devices.
iOS 15: Why you need to update now
The biggest reason to update right away for iOS 15 is of course to get all the cool new features. There are many new things in FaceTime, including various microphone focus features, a new layout, and links where others can join your FaceTime conversation from the Internet on other devices. There are new “Shared with you” sections in apps to display content that people send you in Messages, Focus settings to limit distracting messages, Safari enhancements, the ability to scan text and translate text almost anywhere … the list goes on and on.
Perhaps one of the biggest improvements is that Safari will process many requests completely offline. If you do not need an internet connection for the feature (such as getting a sports result or weather forecast), Siri processes the request entirely on your device. This makes it one lot faster and more secure.
Depending on how you use your iPhone, one of these features can completely change the life of your smartphone. Combine that with all the security cap improvements that Apple makes with each release, and it’s pretty hard to argue for against upgrade. There are a lot of improvements on your phone, they are completely free and you just do not want to take them?
Of course, some iOS releases have been riddled with bugs in their first release. We’ve seen everything from frequent crashes to battery drain issues in previous iOS releases. And some releases actually made things worse – who can forget the Apple Maps failure for iOS 6?
Fortunately, Apple has a better testing system in place these days, and as we approach the finish line, we find the iOS 15 beta to be quite stable and comfortable. There are never any guarantees, but the early signs indicate that iOS 15 is a relatively hassle-free release.
As a final reason to update right away: Apple’s somewhat controversial new method of scanning material after child sexual abuse in photos uploaded to iCloud has been delayed until later in the year. If you want iOS 15 but were wary of the method Apple uses to find this kind of disturbing material, you should get the update Before Apple will add it in a future update.
iOS 15: Why you should wait
As good as it may be to get a lot of free new features for your iPhone, it may also make sense to wait a few weeks, even a few months, before updating to iOS 15.
To begin with, there are all the delayed features. Sure, iOS 15 will bring a host of welcome changes and improvements, but more of them will not be part of the first release. If you just want to whole iOS 15 experience, you can update your phone four or five times between now and the end of the year, or you can just wait and update it once.
If you have an older iPhone, iOS 15 is still an improvement, but some of its cooler features are exclusive to newer hardware. If you have an iPhone XS or later, you’re ready to go. But those with an iPhone 8 / X or earlier will miss things like spatial sound and portrait mode in FaceTime, live text in photos, and offline Siri processing. We have a guide to which iOS 15 features are available on which iPhones.
Then there is the ever-present concern of serious error. Apple’s internal testing and beta processes are much better than they used to be, but new bugs are almost always discovered when the latest software is pushed out to a few hundred million users. Case in point: An iOS 15 bug prevents the Unlock with Apple Watch feature from working. Apple has already released an iOS 15 update exclusively for the iPhone 13, and it is very likely that an iOS 15.0.1 bugfix release (if not iOS 15.1) will come within a few weeks of iOS 15.
Then there is the issue of apps. It’s not like new iOS releases break apps very often, but apps need an update to take advantage of new frameworks, APIs, and OS features. Depending on how you use your iPhone, the latest iOS update may not do much for you until your favorite apps are also updated. For many popular apps, it happens within a week or two.
Macworld recommends: Update on newer iPhones, wait for older ones
If you have an iPhone XS or later, we think the added features you get are worth updating right away. Errors in recent beta releases have been rare, and we think most users will not really encounter major issues – certainly not something that would offset the new features you get.
If you have an iPhone 8 / X or older, consider waiting for iOS 15.1 or 15.2. You still miss out on more features and combined with the features that are delayed for a later release and the inevitable bug fixes, you just don’t get quite as much for the hassle of updating multiple times. If you’re an enthusiast who likes to have the very latest, feel free to ignore this advice (you probably have iOS 15 beta already, right?), But if your iPhone is more than three years old, you can save yourself a little headache just waiting for November to update to the latest version of iOS.
I have written professionally about technology throughout my adult professional life – over 20 years. I like to find out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way that anyone can understand.