iOS 8 on iPad 2/iPad 3: first impressions

If you have an iPad 2 and read this article on Ars Technica, you’ll find that — although the piece is rather balanced — it may leave you wondering whether upgrading to iOS 8 is a bad idea overall. Some people in the comments appear to be more adamant: don’t upgrade, or you’ll run into issue x or y.

In our household we have an iPad 2 (32 GB, 3G + Wi-Fi), belonging to my wife, and an iPad 3 (32 GB, Wi-Fi only) that belongs to me. Currently, both devices have been upgraded to iOS 8 and, along the lines of what I said last year regarding iOS 7 and the iPhone 4, my very first impression is — it’s not bad at all. Both devices are quite usable and neither my wife nor myself are regretting the upgrade.

I haven’t run any scientific test or particular benchmark. What I’m reporting here is almost exclusively based on the general feel of using our iPads for doing the typical things we were doing before upgrading.

On the iPad 2

Navigating the interface, going in and out of apps, performing common tasks like browsing the Web, doing email, reading news with apps like the New York Times or Flipboard, using social apps like Twitter or Pinterest, and so on, feels pretty much the same as it felt with iOS 7. There doesn’t appear to be any noticeable decrease in performance and iOS 8 doesn’t feel ‘slower’ than iOS 7. Every now and then — I repeat, every now and then — the transition from exiting an app and returning to the Springboard may not be butter smooth and there may be a slight delay. But that sometimes happened under iOS 7 as well, and I guess it has more to do with how busy is the device at the moment in terms of open processes and whatnot. It doesn’t feel like an issue introduced by upgrading to iOS 8, if you get my drift.

Since it’s my wife’s device, I didn’t want to keep it too long to perform all kinds of tests, but I made sure to try one thing, since it was mentioned in the comments of the Ars Technica article: the Multitasking interface. User ‘anurodhp’ writes:

I am a developer and have been using iOs8 for a while now on my iPad 2. My verdict is different: do not upgrade.

You missed the worst thing about the update, multi tasking. double tapping on the home button takes about 3-4 seconds for the cards to stutter in. it takes so long with no response that i initially thought the double tap didn’t register and tried again causing things to pop in and out as the buffered key presses are registers. often hitting home causes a stuttered animation.

I repeatedly tried this on my wife’s iPad 2 and I never encountered these issues. Double-clicking the Home button triggered the Multitasking interface practically instantly and there wasn’t any stuttering in Multitasking-related animations.

Also, no annoying delays when using the iPad’s virtual keyboard.

As for the rest, I asked my wife whether she noticed anything peculiar after upgrading in day-to-day use — unusual delays, worse performance, worse battery life, etc. — and she told me that everything was fine.

Again, this is not a detailed overview of iOS 8 on an iPad 2 — this piece is titled First impressions, after all — but I guess that the gist of it is: if you have an iPad 2 and can’t decide whether to upgrade or not, my experience is that the device remains as usable as it was under iOS 7; that there aren’t any particular improvements or optimisations, but that there doesn’t appear to be any noticeable performance deterioration, either. I have to say I’m always amazed at how varying every mileage can be, so to speak. I don’t know why certain people find the iPad 2 ‘unusable’ under iOS 8 or what causes the sluggishness experienced by the afore-quoted Ars Technica commenter, but the iPad 2 in this household looks fine with iOS 8.

(Final note: the iPad 2 was simply upgraded over-the-air; no backup and restore-from-backup involved.)

On the iPad 3

My first impressions after upgrading my iPad 3 to iOS 8 aren’t much different from what I’ve already stated above. In a way, I was slightly more concerned about iOS 8’s performance on the iPad 3 than the iPad 2, because of the Retina display and the related GPU performance. But I haven’t found any particular sluggishness or general performance deterioration on my iPad 3, either.

Animations and transitions are fine. After two days of normal-to-heavy use, only once did I notice some stuttering when exiting an app. The virtual keyboard has the same good responsiveness it had under iOS 7. I’m quite satisfied with the traditional iOS keyboard and the way I type on it, so I haven’t felt the need to install third-party keyboards; maybe I’ll try a few of them to see how’s their responsiveness compared with the built-in keyboard.

(Funny thing about iOS 8’s predictive keyboard — it already knows me well. When I start typing “Q…” the first suggestion is “Quadra,” the second is “Quillink.”)

With regard to performance and general user experience, having iOS 8 on the iPad 3 doesn’t feel any different than when there was iOS 7 installed. So far, I haven’t encountered bugs or crashes — except with a few older apps that hadn’t been updated in a long time, so the fact they stopped working under iOS 8 didn’t exactly come as a surprise.

One weird thing I noticed after upgrading: the per-app Notifications preferences were a bit mixed up. That is, some apps for which I had previously disabled notifications, now had their notifications activated. And some apps I’d allowed to send me notifications, now stopped doing so.

Another thing I’ve noticed — and please take this with a considerable grain of salt — is that since upgrading to iOS 8, my iPad’s battery life looks improved. Throughout the day, I use my iPad a lot. Usage is typically heavy in the morning, light in the afternoon, and moderate in the evening. Battery-wise, this means that if I start the day with a fully charged iPad, at the end of the day the battery left is around 30-35%. Considering that after upgrading to iOS 8 I’ve been using the iPad more because I wanted to explore all the new features and do some informal tests to then write this very article, both yesterday and today the battery hasn’t gone under 40%. Nothing conclusive, but interesting nonetheless.

Brief aside on the Photos app in iOS 8

It’s not related to iOS 8’s performance on the iPad 3, but let me take a moment to mention one personal peeve about iOS 8’s Photos app: why oh why take away the Camera Roll? It was a very practical way to have a complete overview of all the photos taken on the iPad, plus all the screenshots captured and other imported photos. Another album that has disappeared (and was very useful to me) is All imported. What I have now is a very fragmented photo experience — and an arbitrarily fragmented experience at that. If I switch to the Photos tab in the app, I see images arranged chronologically, which isn’t useful at all, at least to me. Since I don’t take with the iPad as many photos I usually take with an iPhone, all I find is a long list of orphaned images to scroll through, because the arrangement looks like this:

13 March

[two thumbnails]

30 March

[one thumbnail]

12 April

[one thumbnail]

28 April

[two thumbnails]

…and so on. And I have 400+ photos and images on my iPad.

With the Camera Roll, finding a specific photo or image to examine, edit, and share, was significantly quicker. Now, everything feels more scattered and counter-intuitive.

Final note

I upgraded my iPad by downloading iOS via iTunes instead of doing it over the air. If you haven’t upgraded yet, whatever iPad model you have, I strongly suggest you do so via iTunes. The process is faster (once iTunes downloaded the package, the installation took 18-20 minutes), and you don’t have to free several gigabytes on your device as you’re forced to when performing an over-the-air upgrade. On my wife’s iPad 2, in fact, upgrading to iOS 8 over the air took almost an hour.

Again, these are first impressions, and if I notice something significant (good or bad) worth mentioning in the next days, I will update this article. If you own an iPad 2 or 3 and have specific questions, write me an email or contact me via Twitter or App.net (I’m @morrick on both networks.)

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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!