Thursday, October 27, 2011

iPhone 3GS Upgrade to iOS 5


I've been using iOS 5 for a week now. It's installed on a iPhone 3GS. The upgrade was a little painful because of the time it took but relatively easy overall.

To obtain iOS 5 you need iTunes 10.5. This is a large download around 500MB in size. There was also a Lion upgrade available. You need to Lion upgrade if you want to tie both your phone and your computer to iCloud but you don't need the Lion upgrade to use iTunes 10.5 (see the iTunes System Requirements).


Downloading both iTunes and Lion doubles the download size to almost 1000MB. The iOS 5 release itself is another 668MB. Expect this to take a while on a slow Internet link. If you are on a slow Internet link you should be aware that iTunes doesn't support pausing the download.

Within iTunes, you can pause the iPhone upgrade during the backup of the phone but not during the download of iOS 5 itself. Pausing the download in iTunes results in a complete loss of all of the downloaded data. You are forced to restart the download at the beginning. If you expect to have to pause the downloads you are better off downloading the iOS 5 image manually through Safari.

Installing iOS 5 takes longer than other iOS upgrades because of the firmware upgrade. The firmware upgrade basically means that you have to back up the phone, install iOS 5 and then reinstall everything on the phone. The process is automatic but don't expect it to occur quickly.

The most impressive part of the upgrade is iCloud and the Find My Phone support that comes with iCloud. Most of the other features in iOS 5 are not that significant for a iPhone 3GS user. Notifications are better but not reason enough in and of itself to justify the upgrade. For some reason the music and video libraries are split so look for your videos in the video application.

I was disappointed to find that reminders don't include location based information. It's not clear to me that this is a technical restriction—the phone already supports many other location based services. The argument that this feature was disabled on the iPhone 3GS to force users to upgrade doesn't hold water with me as the presence or absence of this feature wouldn't justify the purchase of a iPhone 4G.

The upgrade makes the phone run slower. I notice significant delays when listening to music and trying to unlock the phone, among other activities. Once past the initial delay the performance of the phone is pretty good. The annoying delays only seem to come into play when changing applications.

Overall I like the upgrade. The performance hit I attribute to the software upgrade isn't altogether unexpected but it is a little inconvenient. The notifications are nice and I enjoyed the iCloud integration, especially the Find My iPhone and Photo Streaming. Overall however nothing in the software upgrade justifies the purchase of a iPhone 4G. Too bad because I was looking for a reason to upgrade the hardware. Guess I'l be waiting for the iPhone 5.

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