We all get those annoying notifications to update our phone but what you might not know is how essential those updates are to your smartphone’s operation. While it may not seem like there are many changes from one update to the next, underneath the hood there’s a lot going on.
You should always update your phone’s software because updates add essential features, patch security flaws, and remove bugs that will help your phone stay secure and reliable.
While it may seem like a nuisance, these updates can improve your overall experience when using your device. Updates are a great way for developers to add new features, benefits, and fix errors quickly and efficiently. Modern smartphones seem to continually be rolling out updates, which can seem excessive, but there is a good reason for them.
The Benefits of Updating
We all know that annoying feeling of our phone poking and prodding us to give it permission to run yet another software update or whether we should accept the website cookies (our answer to that). And for a device that is in constant use, even just a few moments of downtime can seem like a lot.
But what you need to understand about software updates is that they are designed to do more than just add new features for you to play with. These software updates are often doing more complicated things including updates for security, and if you’re the type of person who stores passwords on your phone like we’ve talked about before, this is for you.
How Updates Improve the Security of Your Device
Our phones are more crucial in our lives than you might think, in fact, some people even wonder if they should reduce screen time or avoid wearing glasses when looking at their phone because they’re constantly looking at it (our answer). While the device may seem like a simple computer, the reality is that your smartphone has an intimate knowledge of your data. This is serious business.
We use our phones to send information, check financial accounts, and even store credit and debit card information (you may even want insurance – our guide). Because of this, developers must be constantly aware of the threats against the software’s privacy.
There’s a constant battle between those who aim to keep your data secure and those who want to steal it. This means that developers have to consistently improve and change their software to better combat these risks. Cybercriminals are always cracking security protocols and encryptions to gain access to your data. Being up to date on your software is the best way to combat those crooks.
How Updates Improve the Functionality of Your Device
For most of us, our smartphone’s inner workings seem complicated and hidden behind the icon-filled touchscreen that we use daily. To truly understand the complexity of all that these devices do for us and how they accomplish the increasingly mind-bending tasks would take a lot more understanding than your average consumer cares to have. Frankly, the beauty of these devices is that you don’t need to be super tech-savvy to operate a smartphone.
Nevertheless, your phone is in charge of completing some very complicated computational tasks while at the same time communicating across multiple networks and providing you, the user, with a smooth operating experience. This takes a lot of work and constant tweaking. This is another reason why updating your software is so essential to keeping your phone healthy. It is much like regular maintenance on a vehicle.
Here are some things a firmware update might improve and how they can impact your day-to-day experience:
- Improved Memory Usage – New updates help your phone manage the finite amount of memory across apps and system functions, allowing everything to load and run faster.
- Power Efficiency – Much like the memory issue, more efficient firmware can help apps run better using less power, extending the battery life of the device.
- Improved API – This just means that the protocol for apps to communicate and work with your firmware is improved, so, over times more apps can talk to each other and do more complicated and interesting things.
How Updates Add Convenient User Features
Software updates do a lot under the hood that we, as consumers, rarely notice. But what we do often see is the new user features that these updates come with. Our smartphones are packed with features, things like voice recognition, biometrics, and smart assistant technology. All of these came through software updates.
It is often the little things that help add convenience to our lives that we usually take for granted. Features like a suggested reply or smart screen brightness management make the use of our phones easier, but most great, intuitive features including screen protectors (our guide) seem like they may have always been there. It’s easy to forget that all the little ways you interact with your phone weren’t there just a few years ago as the operating systems continue to grow and evolve.
Even more recently, with Android 10, we saw an overhaul of Android gestures for controlling the phone and updated permission systems that allow for better control of third-party apps. With Apple’s recent release of iOS 14 on most models of the iPhone (on Amazon), we saw a refreshed widget system, improvements to the compact UI system, more messaging functions, and everyone’s favorite: new emojis.
These functions help improve how you operate your smartphone daily. Without these constant updates, you would be stuck using stagnant features with little to no support if they are buggy. Regular updates are essential if you want the latest features on your phone.
Why Updates Come More Often Now
If you have lived through the early age of the smartphone, then you already know how infrequent and troublesome software updates used to be. These days, it is simple and straightforward. Still, for those who bought the early versions of the iPhone or Android smartphone, you know all too well the experience of downloading the update on your computer, manually connecting the device, and waiting for the update to install.
Because of the extra steps involved in installing a new update, developers would usually try and make the changes significant enough and infrequent enough to help users get the best software more often. What has changed in recent years is the accessibility of devices like smartphones across the internet.
This, combined with more advanced computing power in devices, means that smartphones produced today can update over the internet without the need to be tethered to a more powerful device. The name of the game is convenience. Adding the convenience of an easy update means developers can get more features out to more users and continuously tweak and improve the software to better run on your smartphone.
In essence, smartphones are just portable computers. They have all the same components that make your laptop run and require the same amount of critical updates to keep running smoothly. Firmware updates help your device in many ways both under the hood and for you to use. The more often they can get these out, the better the devices that rely on the software will run. Now that it’s possible to update regularly, companies are taking advantage of it.
With all the advantages you gain by updating your smartphone, you may be wondering if there are reasons you might want to stick with the software you already have. This isn’t a strange idea. Many people like to wait to see how the newest software updates roll out before they decide to update, especially when they have third-party software or plug-ins installed.
Usually, they are on the lookout to see how new features function and whether or not the update’s development is stable enough to use without any issues. Here are some other potential drawbacks to updating constantly:
- Less functionality with certain apps – Sometimes, it is the case that when you update to the newest firmware, you can lose access to certain apps. This is because app developers need to fix the bugs that can be caused by the latest update.
- Change in the interface – Developers are continually trying to improve your experience. Sometimes, this means updating the look and feel, so you may consider not updating if you are partial to the current GUI (graphical user interface), and you know the new version is extremely different.
- Potential Slowdowns – Firmware is continuously updating to utilize the current generation of hardware; this sometimes causes older phones to get updated with a firmware that is not optimized for their components. This can cause slowdowns and loss of functionality, like a rapidly draining battery.
There have been some reasonably famous instances where manufacturers were accused of slowing phones down with new updates. In 2017 Apple was fined by a French fraud watchdog for admitting to slowing down iPhones with firmware updates. Apple claims this was to help prolong the device’s life, but some have accused the company of planned obsolescence.
This is when a manufacturer intentionally sabotages an old device with software or faulty components to get you to buy the newer model. While there is no definite proof that companies are involved in this type of activity, if you are worried about the drawbacks, it should be explored. This is especially the case if you have an older device.
How to Update Software on iOS Devices
The updating process has come a long way since the early days of the iPhone. Now you can easily install the latest updates wirelessly. But if you are more accustomed to using your computer, that option is still available. The only constant that has remained the same is that you usually need to be plugged into a power adaptor to update.
How to Update Your iPhone or Other iOS Device Wirelessly
- First, your device needs to be plugged in and connected to the internet.
- Navigate to settings and then find the general tab.
- Here you should find the option to start a software update.
- Tap Update.
- If your phone needs more space for the install, you may need to delete some apps or files.
How to Update Your iPhone or iPad with a Computer
- On your computer, open the latest version of iTunes.
- Connect your phone to your computer using a USB cable.
- Locate the device on-screen.
- Click General or Settings.
- Select Update.
- You should then see the update download then install it.
How to Update Android Devices
To update your Android device, follow these brief instructions:
- Make sure you have your phone plugged in and connected to wireless.
- Navigate to the Settings.
- Select the about phone option on the screen.
- Click this option, and your phone will check for the current update.
- If an update is available, you will see an update now button.
- Select to install.
- Your phone may need to reboot to finish installation.