Apple's latest iOS version is out today – iOS 11 – but before you rush into updating, you'll want to check that it doesn't destroy any of your favorite apps.
This version will insist on running only 64-bit apps and will kill support for 32-bit apps. That means several things: for one, if you have anything earlier than an iPhone 5S in your pocket, you will not get the update at all (and your phone is going to slowly die); but most importantly it means a fair number of old but useful apps that are stuck in 32-bit mode are going to stop working.
Apple being Apple, it has decided it doesn't care very much if your apps crap out. After all, it's the developers' fault for not loving Apple and its fans enough to update their code – and programmers have had plenty of warning.
In late 2014, Cupertino told developers that from February 2015 onwards, all iOS apps must run on a 64-bit OS, and since mid-2015, all new and updated 32-bit-only apps have been turned away from the App Store. So the writing was on the wall: apps have to be 64-bit-compatible or they'll stop working on newer phones and iOS releases.
And in July this year, in a small warning, Apple told users to check their phones first to see if they can live with losing some apps in the iOS 11 upgrade.
There are some pretty good and important apps that will be affected by this 32-bit ban. Lots of games for one. Unlike Rovio, which has constantly updated its delightful original Angry Birds game into a monstrosity of boxes and options and money-making efforts, a huge number of games are what they are – simple and fun. And not constantly reengineered to fit in with Apple's wants.
Examples: FlightControl, Tetris, Monopoly, Flappy Bird. And many, many others.
A lot of standalone apps that don't really need updating are also going to die. For this reporter, for example, several music apps are listed as about to die. And some utilities, like a great conversion app.
Many, many travel apps – whose developers felt they had done the hard work by incorporating maps, GPS and APIs from public transport authorities – are set to keel over. And lots of apps from large, slow-moving bureaucracies which no doubt need to go through long approval processes to update their apps, are also going under.
If you want to know which apps are under threat, you can check for yourself. Go to:
Settings > General > About > Applications
And a list of those on the chopping block will appear. If you see any that you don't want to lose, here's what we suggest:
- Don't update to iOS 11 – you really don't need to. Just let the hype wave roll over you, it's not worth it.
- Contact the developer(s) of the app(s) you're worried about losing and let them know. A lot of people are doing this right now, both publicly on Twitter and Facebook and privately through email. It is very, very likely that lots of developers either don't know this is coming or need their users to make a fuss in order to shift management into allocating funds for an update.
- See if there are other apps that can do the same task that are 64-bit. There is no guarantee that existing apps will update, so you may need to do this anyway.
If you are still itching to update to iOS 11, here are four other reasons why you should hold off:
- The iOS servers always get swamped the first few days and phones take forever to update. You should remind yourself that it is only an operating system update. It really is. It is not that exciting.
- Apple always screws up somewhere with its very first update. Sometimes it borks your device, sometimes it just kills your battery life. But there will be a problem. And in two weeks, iOS 11.1 will come out, fixing most of the issues. Why be a guinea pig? Why not just hold off?
- There is nothing in iOS 11 that is worth getting that excited about. Sure, you can customize your control panel a little bit, but don't imagine Android-style customization. Yes, there is finally a files app which may introduce a little sanity – but it's been 10 years, you can live without it for a bit longer.
- Notifications might actually get worse. Expect to see loads of them flooding your home screen. For some reason, Apple still hasn't found a way to group and simplify this setup. And of course, Apple decides how you want it – customization is possible but very time-consuming.
All that said, here are some reasons why you may want to upgrade this week:
- iOS 11 should bring with it some augmented reality apps that will be fun to try out.
- You don't use some of the apps that won't work with iOS 11 and so it will actually enable you to do a small clean-up of your system.
- If you have an iPad, iOS 11 will allow you to multitask – which could be really useful in some circumstances.
- You are attending a variety of social events in the next few weeks and iOS 11 will provide you with a few minutes of small talk.
- You can force your phone to require a PIN to unlock rather than a fingerprint – see the footnote here – which is useful, in the US, if s cop demands you unlock your device. You can't be forced to surrender a PIN but you can be forced to unlock by finger.
- Apple fixed a bunch of security vulnerabilities in the operating system within the iOS 11 upgrade. Safari for macOS was also updated to shut down some exploitable bugs.
Oh, and if you do decide to update straight away, please do the sensible thing and take a backup. This update is going to monkey around with a lot of different things, so the risk of you having some kind of problem is comparatively high. Be smart. ®
PS: Beware of issues with two-factor authentication on your Apple account and iCloud Keychain. If you don't use the keychain, you may get stuck in an endless loop while trying to approve the device for your Apple account.
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