iOS 4.1 on an iPhone 3G

As Steve Jobs announced at the keynote on September 1, the iOS 4.1 update (released last Wednesday), among other fixes and new features also addresses the performance problems affecting the iPhone 3G. From what I’ve gathered, after the original iOS 4 update, the overall performance on the iPhone 3G kind of went downhill, but not in the same way for everyone. I was rather surprised to hear that for some iPhone 3G users their device had basically become ‘unusable’. Yes, I noticed some degradation on mine, but not system-wide, and not consistently. Sometimes things would get remarkably better after a force-reboot, other times it was enough to clear some caches and do a sync with iTunes. And more importantly — as I wrote in July:

As more and more apps were updated and made iOS 4-compatible by their respective developers, I couldn’t help but notice (wait for it) a progressive performance improvement. The iPhone keeps feeling snappier. Transitions and animations are smoother, more apps seem to open a tad faster than before, the virtual keyboard feels more responsive, and (again, wait for it) the iBooks app itself has mysteriously improved to the point of being actually usable.

Of course, when you start getting used to a certain performance degree, you tend to be a bit forgiving with what we may call ‘minor annoyances’. Having a usable iPhone is better than having an unusable one, but it’s not at all like having an optimal user experience. I didn’t stay on iOS 3.1.x and I refused to downgrade to it because I thought that the improvements brought by iOS 4 were worth the upgrade, especially the ability to have folders and a unified mailbox view. So I accepted the tradeoff of having a slightly less responsive iPhone 3G.

After a week with iOS 4.1, I can safely say that performance and responsiveness are back to iOS 3 times. In particular, I’ve noticed the following:

  • The iPhone 3G boot time seems shorter. There were times before when it seemed it was taking forever to go from the Apple logo to the Springboard.
  • UI animations and transitions are smooth once again. I mean, really smooth. This is especially true for the animation effect on big sliders like Slide to unlock, Slide to power off, etc. The responsiveness of such sliders has once again improved and they actually move with your finger like they used to.
  • The virtual keyboard is back to being snappy. Before iOS 4.1, this was one of the annoyances that were quickly getting frustrating. In whatever app I was (even in the Spotlight search interface), the keyboard just couldn’t keep up with my typing, at least visually. I would type three or four letters with no animation at all on the virtual keys (thus I didn’t know if I had tapped the right letters), I would pause for a second, and then watch the letters being entered all at once with an irksome delay. Now this appears to be fixed for good.
  • Apps (especially the built-in ones, especially Settings) open faster than before, and they close instantly when you tell them to, without delays or animation hiccups.
  • Scrolling is smooth again. Before iOS 4.1, flipping my finger on a long list to scroll faster resulted in awkward pauses and staggerings of the interface. This didn’t happen regularly, but boy was it annoying when it did.
  • Generally speaking, all gestures are now performed instantly and without delays: pinching, reverse-pinching, double tapping, swiping… All is back to normal.

If you own an iPhone 3G and haven’t updated to iOS 4.1 yet, I recommend you do. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!