Apple says the iPhone 4S supports iOS 8, but you shouldn't test it.

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Phil Schiller talks about the iPhone 4S in 2011.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Today is the day when you pretend to be doing some very important “tech stuff” at work while you’re actually just updating the operating system on your iPhone. Android users running the pure OS will have their moment when L launches, but today it's all about getting the expanded iMessage features and custom-keyboard goodness of iOS 8.

If you have an iPhone 4, you may be feeling kind of down, because today your phone becomes obsolete. It can’t handle running the new operating system, full stop. But if you have an iPhone 4S, you may be feeling pretty pleased. Your handset looks like a 4, but has Siri, a better camera, and the ability to upgrade and stay with the operating system pack. Apple says that the 4S is good to go and has even updated the 4S landing page to say that its standard operating system is iOS 8.


But don’t listen. I repeat: Wall yourself off from this madness. Your mission is to ignore.

Just thinking about the situation abstractly, it’s pretty clear that iOS 8 on the 4S is not a good idea. First of all, iOS 8 is optimized for big smartphone screens. Really big. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch screen and the Plus has a 5.5-inch screen. Things are all right on the iPhone 5 and 5S’ 4-inch screen, but the iPhone 4s has a 3.5-inch screen. That’s two full inches smaller than the Plus. Come on now, how flexible can iOS 8 possibly be?

The other big issue is processing power. The new operating system is fluid, responsive, and packed with features. Unfortunately, none of that can run on people’s love of new Apple releases. Something has to crunch the 1’s and 0’s that make all of the animations and tools function. When the 4S came out in 2011, its dual-core A5 chip was definitely faster than the iPhone 4’s A4, but reviewers noted that added features like Siri were processor intensive, so the speed boost didn’t really translate to daily use.

Ars Technica confirms that upgrading the 4S to iOS 8 introduces speed and rendering problems. Plus, the 4S lacks a lot of the hardware that iOS 8’s snazziest features depend on. You won’t be able to use AirDrop, TouchID, Handoff, or Apple Pay even if you do update. “iOS 8 can add as much as 50 percent more time to the same task compared to iOS 7,” Ars writes. “The other problem is something that's not so easily measurable: animations ... are markedly more choppy and inconsistent in iOS 8 than they ever were in iOS 7” on the iPhone 4S.

Perhaps because it’s not in the spirit of technology’s progression to intentionally hold devices back, Ars writes that, “Despite the problems we ran into, we think the answer for most people will still be ‘yes’ ” when it comes to upgrading the 4S to iOS 8. It’s hard not to update when you’re getting notifications all the time, but I disagree that you should forge ahead no matter what.

If you have a 4S, it’s probably because it’s working fine and you don't want to buy something new that you don’t need. This could be because you don't have the money, you’re trying to make an ideological or environmentally-minded decision, or you just don’t care about smartphones. All of these are completely legitimate reasons to have an iPhone 4S. They are also all reasons not to risk the stability and usability of your phone for an update that basically just adds a few nifty extras.

You can do this. You can ignore all of those prompts to update and just stay on iOS 7. You can flout the societal pressure. It’s pretty weird that it exists anyway.

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