Yesterday, Apple released iOS 9.1, its first major point updateto iOS 9. Apple typically takes a few months to put a coat of polish on its major updates, and this one is dropping unusually quickly — as the chart below shows, iOS 9.1 spent much less time in beta then any OS update since 8.1. OS 9.0 had a fairly quick turnaround as well, particularly considering that Apple promised to evaluate its performance on a wider range of devices and has gradually increased the number of products that each OS runs on.
Apple’s list of bug fixes and changes for the new operating system is shown below:
- Live Photos now intelligently senses when you raise or lower your iPhone, so that Live Photos will automatically not record these movements
- Over 150 new emoji characters with full support for Unicode 7.0 and 8.0 emojis
- Improved stability including CarPlay, Music, Photos, Safari, and Search
- Improved performance while in Multitasking UI
- Fixes an issue that could cause Calendar to become unresponsive in Month view
- Fixes an issue that prevented Game Center from launching for some users
- Resolves an issue that zoomed the content of some apps
- Resolves an issue that could cause an incorrect unread mail count for POP mail accounts
- Fixes an issue that prevented users from removing recent contacts from new mail or messages
- Fixes an issue that caused some messages to not appear in Mail search results
- Resolves an issue that left a gray bar in the body of an Audio Message
- Fixes an issue that caused activation errors on some carriers
- Fixes an issue that prevented some apps from updating from the App Store
My own personal phone is an iPhone 5c that I bought in December, 2013. I’ve been quite happy with the phone overall, but the last update I installed to it was iOS 7.1. Over the last few months, I’ve begun to have significant browser stability problems; Safari would often crash repeatedly when accessing webpages that formerly caused no problems. Resetting the device and clearing data hadn’t solved the problem, and while I don’t upgrade to the first version of any operating system, I figured 9.1 would be a decent test case.
The upgrade process
Upgrading to iOS 9.1 was mostly painless, though there were a few snags along the way. After jumping through the usual hoops of clearing enough space on the phone and backing it up, I was prompted to install the latest version of Apple’s iTunes. iTunes has been getting steadily worse for years, and the latest version (18.104.22.168) is no exception. Apple has evidently decided that quaint functions like menus and playlists were obsolete and stripped the last vestiges of the classic iTunes view out of the application. Playlist view is still available, but no longer the default method of grouping content.
The iOS 9.1 update crashed halfway through the first time around. I had to restore my phone to factory settings before I was able to continue the process. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to grab a screen shot of the error — I was too busy watching a dead progress bar on my phone and praying to the Update Gods that I hadn’t just bricked it. Fortunately, things restarted without incident after that. The entire process (including clearing space, restarting the upgrade, and upgrading iTunes) took about two hours. I restored a backup of previous applications, notes, photos, and video once I had iOS 9.1 installed, which also added some additional time.
Once I had the phone back up and running, I was pleasantly surprised. Every scrap of data, down to previous session cookies in Safari and Notes I’d written in iOS 7 imported perfectly. The Notes app received a major upgrade in iOS 9, but my old notes were rolled into the new application without incident. Generally speaking, everything has “just worked,” and while I’m not going to run down an exhaustive list of every difference (especially not since I’m jumping to iOS 9.1 from iOS 7.1, not iOS 8), the changes and improvements I’ve seen thus far have beenimprovements. UI transitions are a hair slower than they were, but I can live with the difference…
With two, seemingly related exceptions. And they aren’t small ones.
The keyboard and Bluetooth conundrum
Apple’s new operating systems typically don’t improve the performance of older phones, but these problems are typically confined to app performance or UI transitions. My iPhone 5c has no problems there. Its keyboard performance, however, absolutely tanked. iOS 9.1 enables predictive typing by default, but it was impossible to type with that mode enabled; it took half a second to a second for the text I typed to appear on-screen.
Disabling both the “Predictive” option shown below improved performance, but there’s still a noticeable input lag between when I type a key on the default iOS keyboard and when the key appears. This problem becomes particularly noticeable if you use a pair of Bluetooth wireless earbuds. Under iOS 9.1, characteristic keyboard “clicks” aren’t transmitted as quickly as they should be. Instead, they’re delayed and often crowd together at the end of a message. Instead of hearing a steady “click-click-click,” the sound is transmitted as “click—click—click—clickclickclickclickclick.” Combined with the still-noticeable delay, it makes typing on iOS 9.1’s default keyboard feel extremely clunky.
The keyboard problem, at least, can be solved by switching to a third-party application. Neither SwiftKey nor Swype suffer from the same delay, Of the two, I’d recommend Swype — while it costs $0.99, SwiftKey slaps a banner across already-limited screen space begging you to give it full access to everything you type, and locks some of its more useful functions behind that particular permission. Swype does neither.
I’ve been unable to fix the Bluetooth problem. It’s only a problem when typing on the keyboard, other audio, like Netflix or audio streaming, works perfectly. Still, keyboard and audio playback are both fairly basic functions; I’m surprised to see a phone stumbling over these issues as opposed to higher-level performance. The update does, however, appear to have fixed my Safari crashes — I just would’ve preferred not trading my keyboard and Bluetooth support for it.
If you choose to update to iOS 9.1, feel free to sound off with your experience. As upgrades go, this one was fairly painless, but I’m hoping a solution crops up for the keyboard woes.