iOS 9 on the iPhone 5

For the past couple years I kept iOS 7 on my iPhone 5, not wanting to needlessly slow it down by installing a newer OS. Recently, however, I had to upgrade to iOS 9 in order to use iCloud Drive with an iPad running iOS 9. Without upgrading my iPhone, moving documents from one device to the other would be challenging. After taking a deep breath, and reading the dire warnings on 9to5Mac, I upgraded my 5 to iOS 9. Does it work? Yes. Am I dissatisfied? Slightly (details below). Knowing what I know now, would I have upgraded? Yes.

Contrary to most reports that I have heard, my iPhone 5 is capable of running most transitions without dropping frames. The one exception to the general rule is the multitasking screen, where entry and exit is usually (but not always) a little rough, while zooming through the last gazillion apps I used is usually perfectly smooth. On the graphics front, it’s way better than I expected. This is the kind of performance I expect from an iPhone, and it’s great to see this coming from the 2012 iPhone 5. I hate referring to it as old because it’s not, but technology, eh!

If you were blessed with the opportunity of using iOS 6, you will remember that Reader in Safari would let you adjust the size of the typeface. This tiny but welcome option is back once again, along with the option to change the typeface itself to one of eight options. Reader also offers four background colours much like iBooks does.

While we’re talking about small things that make big differences, I’ll mention my favourite feature which was evidently deemed to be a bug: with the flashlight on, waking the iPhone and tapping the camera shortcut on the Lock screen would turn the flashlight off. In iOS 9, this no longer works and I miss it. Aside from the lack of customisability in the Music app, this is really the only thing that has been “improved” in a not-so-great way.


Update November 6: After using iOS 9 for the past few weeks, I am going to cast judgement upon two items. Firstly, animations don’t remain perpetually silky-smooth on iPhone 5. Rather, as you use the device, the animations become slightly choppier as RAM fills up. Once you restart your device, though, things are back to normal. Secondly, I am not a fan of these seemingly monthly mash-ups of the Music app. This time ’round, we can finally add a song directly to a playlist from its listing in an album or while it’s playing. However, gone are the options to customise how music is organised. I can’t say I just want to see albums or playlists, and Recently Added hogs the top 1/2 of the screen. I never use it — if I add something else, I won’t be able to find the songs I used to navigate to from there, so why bother adding the temporary steps to muscle memory? Still, iOS 9 has numerous improvements over iOS 7, one of my favourites being the ability to work on a draft in Mail and then tuck it into the bottom to sneak back to a different message.

Another small issue is that, on finicky Wi-Fi networks secured with WPA2 Enterprise (virtually any wireless network where users have unique logins rather than one global password), iMessage often reports a message as sent. The bar has swept to the right. I then disable Wi-Fi and/or trot outside of Wi-Fi range to await transit. About seven to eight minutes later, my phone vibrates. Message failed to send. What? This is annoying, to say the least, but I attribute it primarily to the lame WPA2 Wi-Fi which even drops the connection if I walk down the hall. Overall, I rate iOS 9 as “upgrade,” even for iPhone 5 users on iOS 7.

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