iOS 4 software update highlights and limitations

iOS 4 software update highlights and limitations


iPhone os 4The iOS 4 update for older iPhones has arrived. After witnessing installs on both the 3GS and the 3G, and a whole host of Googling, we’ve concluded the good, the bad and the ugly of Apple’s new operating system.

The Good – 3GS Implementation

While iOS4 is out for both the 3GS and the 3G, it really shines on the newer phone. It even installs brilliantly. On our trial, we managed to get the download and install done in just 23 minutes. We’ve even heard rumours of 15 minute upgrades – that’s almost one new features for every minute of installation.

Those features are, of course, key to iOS 4 – and on the 3GS they are all present in their full glory. The main features are:

  • Multi-Tasking: Run applications in the background, finally!
  • Folders: store applications in folders of similar programmes
  • Screen lock: Force your screen to orientate in a fixed position.
  • Threaded Mail: Like the Gmail function, the iPhone now stores your e-mail correspondence in a handy conversation-like list.
  • Wallpapers: Set a wallpaper on the homescreen.
  • iTunes Playlist: Create and edit playlists on your handheld.
  • 5x Digital Zoom: Not the most useful feature on the 3GS’ limited camera, but it is there.
  • iBooks: Read purchased books and PDFs on your handheld.
  • Bluetooth Keyboard: Link a keyboard for easy typing.
  • Photo Sorting: Sort your photos by album, event, place and even face.
  • Custom Dictionary: Add custom words to the updated spellchecker.
  • Spotlight: Search the internet or Wikipedia from the search bar on the home page.

Along with all these new features some people have suggested that their 3GS feels snappier and more responsive, although this may be a placebo. Across the board, we didn’t see much evidence that the phone was faster. Maybe the camera app loads faster, although maybe it was just the adrenaline rush as we desperately tried to capture the exact moment the woman across the street tripped over.

More of an app upgrade than an OS one (although it is vital to the iPhone experience), Mobile Safari is now even quicker. The best phone browser is noticeably quicker, and while we didn’t form a statistic for the performance increase on the 3GS, one clever user reported a 37% faster page load time on even the old 3G. Which is particularly impressive, because the rest of the 3G update is…

The Bad – The 3G

Unfortunately, the 3G is a little less lucky. Not only does it miss out on multi-tasking, screen lock, home screen wallpapers and the bluetooth keyboard support, it is also a bit of a chore to install. While it only took us about an hour, some reports have clocked it at two and half – and any phone operating system that takes that long to install must be doing something unholy.

Once installed, it is also receiving mixed reviews. While we noticed a little lag on opening applications, other critics from all around the web are complaining about slowdown. Critics from Gizmodo have complained that they can’t even input text anymore as the letters enlarge and shrink at a very delayed rate. They also claim that “opening very basic apps” has got slower and crashes have increased.

There is evidence that this is true, too. One customer, Adrian Nier, put his old, un-updated 3G next to one running iOS 4 and recorded the results (see video).

The result is that the 3G is not up to running iOS4. Why ours hasn’t had this level of slowdown is interesting, but it does show the risks of putting a new operating system on a two-year old phone.

The Ugly:

If you’re a 3G user, we may have already convinced you not to upgrade. This next revelation may scare off everyone else. In the latest privacy policy for iOS 4, Apple reveals that it can anonymously track the “real-time geographic location” of devices, and that it will share that data with partners and licensees. While the company states that it will only share the information anonymously and for location-based services, some people may worry they’ll have invited Big Brother into their pocket.

If you’re not comfortable sharing information with any big company, you should also be wary of the OS’s other hidden demon:  iAds. An in-built advertising network bought by Apple, it monitors your browsing habits and interests and serves up targeted advertisements. However, this particular ugly duckling can be turned into a swan by visiting and choosing to shut down automated cookie collection – that way, you’ll just get generic ads instead.


While we’ll let you form your own opinion on the potential data-mining pitfalls of the new OS (realistically, it should all be fine. Yes, I know I’m tempting fate), the other options are more clear-cut. If you want to make your 3GS a lot better, stick on iOS 4. It won’t take long and it will vastly improve your phone experience.

3G users, however, should beware. Try it if you have to – but don’t be upset if it is uncomfortably slow. We warned you.


  1. yes it took me about a couple of hours for the itune update and then software update. I am glad though I have a 3GS as everything so far seem to work well there.

  2. Don’t know what you are talking about. I have not checked out all the features yet, but I have a 3GS and it took me about 20 minutes to upgrade 2 days ago. I DO now have multi-tasking and home screen wallpapers but have yet to check out screen lock (don’t want it anyway) and bluetooth keyboard support. There has been absolutely no slow down in my using the keyboard and typing and no slowdown otherwise other than the usually crappy reception from ATT&T at times. Videos are loading a lot faster, etc. as long as I am on the 3G network–fast than before. Overall, extremely pleased.

  3. Hi Hank – thanks for the update. Your post has agreed with everything I said about the 3GS! It is the humble 3G that has all the issues!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.