iOS 8.1 Update: Do It. Here’s How.

Updated January 7th, 2017.

The iOS 8.1 update came out yesterday. I’ve installed it on my iPhone 5s and iPad 2 and it’s solved some iOS 8 problems for me, including performance issues which were very evident on the iPad 2. If you’ve already installed 8.0, 8.0.1, or 8.0.2 on your iPhone or iPad (or iPod touch) the 8.1 update is something you should do right away. As my friend Sondra would say, “It’s a no-brainer!”

If you’ve been waiting to install iOS 8 until I told you it was time: “it’s time.”

You can go to Settings/General/Software Update and begin the update “OTA” (that’s “Over the Air”)– unless you can’t. Apple might let you know that you can’t by telling you that your iPhone/iPad/iPod is too full. If you get that message, you probably can do the update “OTW” (“over the wire”), even if your iPhone/iPad/iPod is close to full, by connecting your device to your Mac and updating it through iTunes. The process is the same whether you’re installing 8.1 from some other version of iOS 8, or from some version of iOS 7 (or even iOS 6). You should try this method before trying to free up space by deleting things on your device– it will save you a lot of time and trouble.

Here’s how you do an iOS update using the USB cable and iTunes. (“The USB cable” is the one that you charge your iPhone/iPad/iPod with– just pull it out of the charger. Yes it comes out. You laugh but trust me, this is going to help someone.)

  1. Connect your device to your Mac with the USB cable
  2. Wait for iTunes to start, or start it yourself
  3. Click on your iPhone/iPad/iPod in iTunes
  4. Click Backup to back up your iPhone to the Mac
    (if asked, yes, you do want to transfer purchases from the iPhone to the Mac, and if you’re presented with a dialog box asking you to “authorize” the Mac use the name and password you use when buying apps from the App Store)
  5. Check the box that encrypts the backup. An encrypted backup stores passwords, which makes things easier for you down the road. You’ll be asked for a password to lock the backup– that’s the encryption part– and whichever password you choose, I recommend checking the box to save it in the Keychain.
  6. Click Backup again (we did the first backup in case you forget the encryption password)
  7. Click Update after the backup is done
  8. Sit back and wait for the update to finish

It sounds complicated but it’s not. Take your time and go step by step.

Doing the update over the wire requires much less space than doing it over the air. You get a better result too– a brand-new iOS 8.1, freshly installed, rather than an older system that’s patched with updates.

Here are the release notes for 8.1, provided by Apple. The bolding and italicizing– that’s by me.

This release includes new features, improvements and bug fixes, including:

  • Apple Pay support for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (U.S. only)
  • Photos includes new features, improvements and fixes
  • Adds iCloud Photo Library as a beta service
  • Adds Camera Roll album in Photos app and My Photo Stream album when iCloud Photo Library is not enabled
  • Provides alerts when running low on space before capturing Time Lapse videos
  • Messages includes new features, improvements and fixes
  • Adds the ability for iPhone users to send and receive SMS and MMS text messages from their iPad and Mac
  • Resolves an issue where search would sometimes not display results
  • Fixes a bug that caused read messages to not be marked as read
  • Fixes issues with group messaging
  • Resolves issues with Wi-Fi performance that could occur when connected to some base stations
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent connections to Bluetooth hands-free devices
  • Fixes bugs that could cause screen rotation to stop working
  • Adds an option to select between 2G, 3G or LTE networks for cellular data
  • Fixes an issue in Safari where videos would sometimes not play
  • Adds AirDrop support for Passbook passes
  • Adds an option to enable Dictation in Settings for Keyboards, separate from Siri
  • Enables HealthKit apps to access data in the background
  • Accessibility improvements and fixes
  • Fixes an issue that prevented Guided Access from working properly
  • Fixes a bug where VoiceOver would not work with 3rd party keyboards
  • Improves stability and audio quality when using MFi Hearing Aids with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
  • Fixes an issue with VoiceOver where tone dialing would get stuck on a tone until dialing another number
  • Improves reliability when using handwriting, Bluetooth keyboards and Braille displays with VoiceOver
  • Fixes an issue that was preventing the use of OS X Caching Server for iOS updates

Some features may not be available for all countries or all areas.

For information on the security content of this update, please visit this website:

If you have an iPhone 5 or 5s, or an iPad newer than the iPad 2, iOS 8.1 is a good update for you. Older devices (such as the iPhone 4s– Zach– and the iPad 2– Mom) might be a little too slow for any version of iOS 8, though 8.1 is definitely the fastest 8 so far. iOS 8.1 feels like the system Apple wanted to release when they rolled out the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus– polished, with all features functioning. Throw in the Return of the Camera Roll and it’s a very compelling system.

Copyright 2008-2023 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.

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