The one thing I’ve applauded Apple for that Android device makers have done rather poorly on is the whole continuous stream of OS updates. Whereas Android devices are often abandoned by their makers after two years and rarely see updates after one, Apple is still churning out versions of its latest releases of iOS for quite old devices.
The new iOS 8 is a case in point – you can now install this update onto an ageing iPad 2.
But is that necessarily a good thing?
As you’d expect, Apple designs each iteration of its mobile OS to best show off its latest creation – in this case, the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones. But does the tech giant factor in how the OS will perform on older devices when make those updates available?
We do know a couple of things already – first, it appears the iOS 8 update has different space requirements for each device, with reports the iPad 3 requires 5.8GB of temporary space; the iPad Mini 6.9GB. That suggests each device is receiving a customised update, but we also know historically that new CPU-intensive apps won’t perform as well on older devices because – well, they just don’t.
A quick look at comparison results of GeekBench show the new Apple A8 CPU inside the latest iPhone 6 delivers six times the results compared with the Apple A5/A5X CPU inside an iPad 2 or iPad 3. And interestingly, the differences don’t change much whether you’re looking at single-thread or multi-threaded performance.
Others have speculated that the CPU performance in an Apple A7 SoC CPU is ‘four times’ that of an A5, which seems to support the GeekBench findings.
With such a performance gap, you’d have to question whether upgrading to iOS 8 would indeed be a good idea. General operating system history tends to suggest it wouldn’t. While it seems clear that Apple is providing custom versions for different devices, the extra features, security changes and the like will only weigh down on overall performance – and if you’re already as much as six times behind the current CPU level, the chances of coming out ahead with the new OS compared to what you’re already running would have to be stacked against you.
I have an iPad 3 and it’s the question I’m asking myself right now – do I upgrade to iOS 8? At this stage, based on CPU performance differences and unless I can find a more compelling answer, I think for it’s sake, I might end up just leaving well enough alone.