Should iPhone 3GS owners upgrade to iOS 5?

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The iPhone 3GS.
(Credit: Apple)

Updating software on smartphones has become a scary proposition. It seems like you never know what glitch or bug might break your device.

At the same time, software updates promise all kinds of cool new features. And Apple's iOS 5 is no exception. So it makes sense that iPhone 3GS users who aren't ready to upgrade to the iPhone 4S would want to update their phones with the new software. But can a two-and-a half-years-old iPhone 3GS handle the new software?

Previous iOS upgrades have not gone smoothly for some people who had older hardware. When iPhone 3G users first upgraded to iOS 4.0, many noticed that the phone slowed down and the new software drained the battery. Some of this was corrected via bug fixes from Apple, but it took a while.

Apple says that the new iOS 5 software is fine for iPhone 3GS devices. The software has been out less than a week, but there are complaints from some users. The biggest issue we've heard from people is regarding battery life. One iPhone 3GS user vents his frustration on an Apple message board:

"Upgraded my 3GS to iOS5 on Wednesday, and now it runs out of battery after about six hours with no use, four hours or less with occasional email use. Had to recharge it three times yesterday, and after four hours today ...Never had these issues until this upgrade."

Another user said:

"Same for me, four hours from 100% to 16% with no use iPhone 3Gs".

It's hard to pinpoint the culprit, but people responding on the message board who initially had a similar problem explained that resetting email and turning off certain functions, such as GPS location services, Bluetooth, push notifications and iCloud back-up may help fix the problem. Also, if battery life is an issue in general, you may consider reducing the brightness on the screen of your device, and turning off Wi-Fi when you're not at home or near or a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Still, even when you turn off all of these options, some people say that the OS is still a bit sluggish, post-iOS 5 upgrade.

That said, the phone is still functional after the upgrade, even if the battery life is diminished and performance is slightly affected. What this means for you is that you have to balance these potential pitfalls with what you'll be getting in exchange. Keep in mind that this software update is a big one. The new iOS 5 has more than 200 updates. Some of these new features are not necessarily a big deal. But there are enough worthwhile enhancements that you may not want to wait for. Unlike the previous iOS update, which actually did not offer too many enhancements for iPhone 3G users, almost all of the features in the iOS 5 update will function on the older iPhone 3GS, as well as the newer devices.

The ones that we think are most interesting are the new notification screen, which gives you a pull-down menu for all of your notifications, so that they're not just popping up on the screen.

I also really like the upgraded camera and photo apps. Now you can pinch the page to zoom in, and you can even take a picture by clicking the volume button. You can also edit pictures right on your phone, such as removing red-eye and enhancing the colour. While these are not earth-shattering enhancements, they are incremental improvements, which make using the camera on your iPhone a little easier.

I'm also pretty excited about the iMessage function that will allow you to send text messages, photos, videos and contacts to other iOS users on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. And I like the wireless syncing for iTunes and the ability to get over-the-air software updates.

If you do decide to upgrade, keep in mind that things can go wrong. And if you're a few minor updates behind on your device, there's more of a chance that the software will get hung up when you try to update. That's why it's very important to back-up your iPhone before you begin updating the software. (To do that, you simply plug in your phone to iTunes and sync it.) That way, if something goes wrong, you can completely wipe the device and start from scratch. And you'll be able to reload it with everything that you originally had on your phone.

Also, keep in mind that when a big software update like this comes out, app developers will also be releasing new versions of their apps. So you may have to update your apps or even re-download some of them. If it's an app you paid for already, the App Store will recognise that you have already bought the app, and you won't be forced to pay again.

So, what should you do? It really depends on how badly you want these new features. We haven't heard of iPhone 3GS users having such terrible problems that their phones no longer work. But you may be forced to charge your phone more often. And there may be times when it isn't as quick. If you can live with these inconveniences, then go for it. Otherwise, you may want to keep things the same and enjoy all the new features should you eventually upgrade to the iPhone 4S.

The problem is that once you upgrade, it's hard to revert back to older versions of the software. It's not impossible, but it's not easy.


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innocent posted a comment   

How did you do that?


JCaus posted a comment   

Upgraded My 3GS and have had some minor issues connecting to my network. Had to replace sim card and it helped but the problem returned this morning. Not sure what to do next.


Sallie-Ann posted a comment   

Upgraded and the battery life now abbysmal. Not sure it is really worth having to recharge 3 times more frequently than pre upgrade.


Croz posted a comment   
New Zealand

I upgraded my 3GS to iOS5 and it is fine - no problems at all. I recommend it.


jazzfan84663 posted a comment   

I upgraded my 3GS the day iOS 5 came out. I was very pleased to find a major increase in performance, and a slight boost in battery life. Maybe my iPhone just loves me because I bought it an Otterbox :D


Munish posted a comment   

I just upgraded to ios 5 & no issues, the battery backup is fabulous & I'm loving it


ccampbell498 posted a comment   

I upgraded my Mums and sister 3Gs to ios5 and it works with no slow down. My mum and sister said that the new ios5 is also very slightly snappier. The battery life has only gone down a little bit. Not so much though that its terrible.


vbevan posted a comment   

Just replace the batt...Oh wait.


TexSpleen posted a comment   

I updated my 3GS the day iOS5 was released and it runs just fine. The extra functions do put more strain on the battery but the trade off is well worth it. After all the battery is 2 years old now and no longer in its prime.

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