Along with the new devices Apple announces once a year, there is also a software update that introduces exciting new features.
The software that runs your iPhone and iPad is called iOS. The OS stands for Operating System. iOS is everything you see when your iPhone is brand new and you first turn it on.
You might be thinking, wait a minute. I know I get notified about an iOS update more than once a year! It seems like I’m getting asked to update my iPhone or iPad every few weeks!
You are correct. Apple introduces new updates all year long, but not all updates are created equal.
Here are 5 things you should know about the annual iOS update:
1 - The number changes.
You know the update is a major one when the number changes (i.e. iOS 10, iOS 11, iOS 11). There are also minor updates, like iOS 12.1 and iOS 12.2 which are released monthly (or as needed) to fix problems and introduce new features).
The iOS 11 update in September of 2017 redesigned the control center, revamped notifications, and provided significant iPad updates. In September of 2018, iOS 12 was announced with the new Screentime and Group Facetime features, plus major updates to performance and quality.
2 - There are more features packed inside.
The Apple developers have been working hard on the software update and it shows. You can expect major overhauls of some features, usually aimed at making them easier, faster, and more useful.
Apple always showcases the features at their annual event, and also recaps the details on their website. Every major tech publication also takes the opportunity to share their opinion on the new features, so you’ll likely hear something.
3 - The update was tested for several months
Long before the update is available to the general public, Apple releases it to a core group of developers who get to work testing the features and reporting problems. Apple developers promptly fix the features and release a new version.
This process is repeated until it’s ready for Beta release to the general public. At that point, anyone if free to download and give the new features a try, so additional issues with the update can be reported and fixed.
4 - Make sure you have a backup
It is always a good idea to make sure you have a good backup of your iPhone or iPad before doing a software updated, but even more important for the annual update.
You can verify your iCloud backup by going to Settings > Selecting your Name (very top) > iCloud > iCloud Backup (scroll down) > make sure iCloud Backup is turned on.
Verify the last backup date, and if not in the past 24 hours, select Back Up Now. It may take 10-15 minutes to back up your device, depending how much storage you’re using.
5 - The update takes longer
Because of all of the features packed in to the annual iOS update, it typically takes longer for your iPhone or iPad to update. Instead of 3-5 minutes, it may take 10-15 minutes to update.
When updating, make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi and your device is plugged in.
There are two steps to the update, downloading the software, and performing the update. When the update is compete, your device will be automatically restarted and you’ll get a series of screens that describe the new updates.
The annual iOS update is the biggest update of the year, and being prepared for more changes, making sure your device is backed up, and allowing more time will make it easier.
When you're ready to do your software update, check out the iOS Software Updates cheat sheet.