How to approach updating software on iPhone and iPad

First time checking out this series? You’ll get the most value by starting at the beginning, however you can also use the series overview if you’d like to go buffet style.

Note for regular readers, the already tech savvy, and IT professionals: this series is designed as a resource you can share with those you are helping or for those looking to become tech savvy on their own.

Background, Expectations, & Best Practices

Staying up to date with software can sometimes be a confusing and frustrating task, but fortunately it’s a more straight forward process with iOS than compared with macOS.

First, let’s define some of the vocabulary we’ll be using. Software can refer to both the applications (apps) or the operating system (iOS) for your iPhone or iPad. We’ll define apps as computer software designed and written to fulfill a particular purpose.

Concerns about updates

A common concern that is often shared is that updating apps and especially operating systems will cause a problem. Often times this fear is caused by the past experience of an issue after doing an update or hearing stories from others. This is definitely up to personal preference, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind…

Operating system and app updates typically provide bug fixes, security updates, and introduce new features. While it’s possible that installing an update may cause an issue, it’s also possible that not installing the update could cause problems. This is a good reminder that anything can fail and you should have a backup strategy in place. Even robust systems that power the internet like Amazon Web Services can and do fail.

As a general rule of thumb, I typically install updates as soon as they are available. However, if you’re a bit more hesitant, you can wait a week or so to see if others run into any problems and then continue on performing updates. Just don’t wait too long as this can cause more security and compatibility issues the longer you postpone.

From my experience there seems to be a bit more anxiety with software updates for iPhones than iPads and Macs. This is likely because we rely on our smartphones so much and it can feel crippling to not have our primary communication device functioning normally. You can always keep an eye on our homepage to see if there are issues with an update, we’ll typically know within a few hours of the software release.

Do This

Let’s look at updating both iOS and individual apps. Follow along to build experience, exposure, and confidence with updating your software.

Updating iOS on your device

Usually the easiest way to update the operating system of your iPhone or iPad is wirelessly and directly to your device through Settings. However, you can also perform updates through iTunes (connect your device to your computer with your Lightning to USB cable→ open iTunes and click on the icon of your device → click Summary, then click Check for Update).

Whichever method of updating you choose, make certain to have a backup of your device before moving forward. Below are the quick steps to updating iOS followed by a detailed walkthrough:

  1. Find and tap on the Settings app (make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi)
  2. Tap on General → Software Update
  3. Tap Download and Install

How to update software on iPhone and iPad

You may not always see the red badge indicating that a software update is available as shown in the images above.

How to update iPhone and iPad software

Once the software update appears, you can tap on Learn More to discover what new features and bug fixes are included. Tap on the link just above Learn More to read a detailed description of the update that will include all of the security fixes.

How to update iPhone and iPad software

Tap on Download and Install, enter your passcode (if applicable) and wait for the download to complete.

How to update iPhone and iPad software

Once the software update has downloaded to your device, you’ll have the option to install now or wait until later. If you select Later you’ll get the choice to update your iPhone or iPad while you’re sleeping or to receive a reminder later (if you choose Update Tonight make sure it’s plugged in).

Updating apps on your iPhone or iPad

Updating the built-in Apple apps as well as third-party apps has become really easy, you can even automate the whole process if you’d like to. You can also feel confident that what you’re downloading is safe and will normally work as described as Apple vets and approves all apps in the App Store.

It’s possible to install apps on your device from other sources besides Apple’s App Store, but this can become risky. Unless you’re really confident in what you’re doing it’s safest to stick to the App Store for downloading apps.

  1. Tap on the App Store application
  2. Tap on Updates in the bottom right corner
  3. Tap Update on individual apps or Update All in the top right corner

How to update iPhone and iPad software

In addition to updating apps individually or all at once, you can tap on the What’s New text to the right of the application icon to learn more about each app update. Below Pending Updates you’ll also find a list of previously updated apps.

If you’d like to enable your apps to automatically update instead of doing so manually follow these steps:

  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Scroll down and tap on iTunes & App Store
  3. Tap the toggle to the right of Updates to make it green

How to update iPhone and iPad apps

This won’t apply to iOS (the operating system) but just to your apps. You can also choose to have Music, Apps, and Books & Audiobooks download automatically across your iOS devices from this screen.

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