UPDATE: Could this be another reason for slower than expected iOS 8 adaptation? (via MacRumors)
The wonderful anti-aging MacBook
I bought my 15" MacBook Pro in 2007, when I was a student and loved it from day one till the last day I sold it for $600, after five years! I sold it because I bought another MacBook Pro, not because anything was wrong with my older MacBook Pro. I upgraded the RAM on my older MacBook Pro to 8GB from the 4GB. I had AppleCare for it and hence had the LCD screen and the hard drive replaced, when something went wrong and I updated to the latest Mac OS as when Apple released them (the latest Mac OS X that this 2007 MacBook Pro saw was Mac OS X Lion). All this while my MacBook Pro kept churning out impressive performance, day after day. Only when I finally got my new MacBook Pro in 2012 and when I used both of them side by side, did I notice how much faster the new one was. But if I hadn't done this side by side comparison, I am sure I could have hung on to my old MacBook Pro for a few more years, before I felt the need to upgrade to a newer MacBook.
The iPad mini not aging too well
Fast forward to 2014 and when Apple released iOS 8 for its iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, I updated my 2012 iPad mini (with no Retina display) to iOS 8, at the same time I updated my iPhone 5S to iOS 8. The scenario turned out to be much different this time around. My iPad mini became almost unusable after iOS 8 installation, as it became so sluggish. The graphics on it, started stuttering, even simple scrolling on webpages happened in discrete steps, rather than than the smooth scrolling we have loved and gotten used to on all Apple devices. It was so bad that I was getting a headache (literally) using my iPad mini with iOS 8. I tried turning off animations on iOS 8 to see if that improved performance, but had no luck. I compared the performance on my less than a year old iPhone 5S and was actually surprised to find that even my iPhone 5S on iOS 8 felt slower than my wife's iPhone 5S on iOS 7, though much less so than my iPad mini. I had to look for the sluggishness on my iPhone 5S running iOS 8 to notice it, but on the iPad mini, I had to stop using it because it was so slow! Again to reemphasize, I was not expecting my two year old iPad mini to have comparable perforamcne to my less than a year old iPhone 5S or the latest iPhone 6, running iOS 8, but it should not be too sluggish for me to even barely use it!
So since I am going to upgrade to an iPhone 6 soon and I don't use my iPad mini for anything intensive, I was not going to upgrade my iPad mini to a newer model anytime soon (the October iPad refresh might change my mind, though). So I had to get my iPad mini back in usable condition somehow or the other. So I tried a clean install of iOS 8 deleting all my data on it (after backing up to iCloud of course). Without installing anything from my iCloud backup I tried using the iPad mini, that was now setup as a clean new device and I did notice a significant improvement in its performance with iOS 8. It is still not as fast as my iPhone 5S running iOS 8, but that is ok as the iPad mini is a weaker (technical capability wise) device than the iPhone 5S. The difference between it running iOS 7 and iOS 8 is very little now. But the price I paid for it? All my data! I did not want to restore my older iCloud backup on it again for the fear of making it sluggish. But since I did not have anything significant on my iPad mini that I needed, I am ok with installing a bunch of Apps again on it and using it as a fresh device.
So what's wrong or is there even something wrong?
But if you read the first paragraph of this post, you can clearly make out the difference between Apple's MacBook Pro scenario and its iPad (or its "i" device) scenario. Apple's yearly refresh of iOS is hugely welcomed and coupled with its yearly hardware refresh of the "i" devices, Apple is leaping forward in terms of its performance in huge strides. But all these benefits seem to be only for the latest and the greatest "i" devices. Older "i" device models are being left out and sometimes in bad, unusable conditions. This issue has been brewing for sometime now and no Apple is not deliberately sabotaging your "i" device performance to force you to upgrade to its newer devices (I am not linking to that stupid article in my blog, nope). But there is an issue here that at least needs to put out there. While traditionally Microsoft with its "we welcome all computers of all ages to our new operating system" fared well for a while, with its extensive backward compatibility, it was at the cost of a lot of things for its customers. Windows now is pretty much the same thing as Windows was more than ten years ago and while that is good for people with more than ten year old computers, it is horrible for people buying the latest hardware. So while Microsoft's lenient legacy policy stands at one end of this issue, does Apple's aggressive latest and the greatest policy deserve the other extreme end of this spectrum?
A whole lot of questions
What else can Apple do? And why is the situation so different with its "i" devices than its computers? If a five year old MacBook can run the latest and the greatest Mac OS, just fine, why can't a two or a three year old "i" device run the latest and the greatest iOS, even barely? Is it because of the fact that the computer operating systems have evolved over many years to an extent that there are no major overhauls and that the smart devices are just a few years old and are still evolving significantly every year, hence older computers have much less trouble running recent OS upgrades? Is Apple's hardware "specs" not able to keep up with its software improvements? Is Apple's tight control on say profit margins limiting forward looking "stronger" specced "i" devices (for example is the so called paltry amount RAM on the iPhones making it unsuitable for more than a couple of years)? Should Apple dial down on "significant" leaps with every year iOS refresh and/or improve the hardware specs of its "i" devices to a higher degree to make them a little more future proof?
In conclusion, the scenario with the "i" devices in terms of them being future proof is definitely different than the scenario with traditional computers. While there is no conspiracy behind this, there is a perceivable issue here and I am certainly not alone in this (though my experience is what, that got me to write this column). Will Apple put in some effort to make its "i" devices as future proof as its MacBooks or is it just going to wait out for iOS to reach Mac OS's maturity levels, that will take are of this problem by itself? Only time will tell...