iOS 7.1 is likely the last update for the aging iPhone 4

iphone-4Apple released iOS 7.1 today to iPhone owners with an iPhone 4 or newer. While the new version runs spectacularly on the iPhone 5s, customers with an iPhone 4 may be wondering whether the update will improve or degrade their experience. According to Ars Technica, the experience is an improvement over iOS 7.0, but it still isn’t great.

The limitation for the iPhone 4 is its A4 processor, which is now almost four years old. The processor just doesn’t have the power to handle the animations and graphics in iOS 7.x. Apple has moved in a positive direction in iOS 7.1 by shortening the animation durations, thereby easing some of the burden on the processor. It also smoothed out most, but not all of the jerkiness in the UI that was present when opening apps or pulling up the control center window shade.

Apple also improved application launch times for stock iOS apps, including Safari, Camera, Mail and other. Ars Technica tested these launch times and found that iOS 7.1 showed a measurably improvement in all apps, with some even loading as quickly as they did under iOS 6.1.3.

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iOS 7.1 still can’t overcome the limitations of the A4 processor and consequently offers a limited iOS experience. Notably absent in the iPhone 4 are the following iOS 7.1 features:

  • 3D Flyover or turn-by-turn navigation in Maps
  • Panorama mode or Live filters in the Camera app (filters can still be applied in the Photos app after the picture has been taken)
  • AirPlay Mirroring
  • Siri
  • AirDrop
  • Graphical effects such as the translucency effects throughout the OS, live wallpapers, and the parallax effect of the Home screen

As pointed out by Ars Technica, this version is likely to be the last version of iOS pushed out the iPhone 4. Apple rarely moves beyond the x.1 version of the operating system and it likely won’t change that pattern with WWDC and iOS 8 right around the corner. This release is probably the end of the line for iPhone 4, with performance at a level that is bearable. If customers want the additional features that’ll land in iOS 8, then will have to update this handsets to the iPhone 4S or even better the iPhone 5s.

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