Skip to main content

#SwitchToiPhone: For timely, far-reaching security updates

A few weeks ago Apple released iOS 9 that, in addition to all the new features, contained numerous security improvements and updates. And they were available immediately to every iPhone 6s, iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5, and iPhone 4s owner, in every region, on every carrier. Since then, Apple has pushed out iOS 9.0.1 and iOS 9.0.2 as well. Again, to every iPhone model Apple has sold since 2011. All at once. Done.

It wasn't a unique occurrence either. It's what Apple has been doing month after month, year after year, since the original iPhone launched in 2007. And it's what they're continuing to do—iOS 9.1 is already in beta and expected to be released in the next month or so. That's an enormous amount of added value enjoyed by iPhone owners and not only is it unmatched by Android or any other platform; it's unmatchable. It's also one of the very best reasons to switch to iPhone.

The update challenge

Android allows for an amazing array of different models, in different shapes and sizes, manufactured by different vendors, and mediated by different carriers. That's an incredible amount of diversity and choice, and the primary reason Android has spread so far, so fast. Diversity, however, is hard to manage. All those customized versions of Android, on all those hardware variants, on all those carriers need to be updated, sometimes on a model-by-model basis. And not every manufacturer or carrier is incentivized to do that, especially not for older versions and models.

Back in May of 2011 Google tried to improve things. As part of the Google I/O keynote they announced:

New devices will receive the latest updates for 18 months after their release — if the hardware allows.

Unfortunately, nothing much seemed to change. Now, however, following the Stagefright vulnerability, Google is once again promising more timely updates:

Lead engineer for Android security at Google Adrian Ludwig has announced a big step in the right direction with the creation of the Android Security Updates Google Group.

I hope it works. I really do. Phones are our computers now but even more powerful and more accessible. They keep us connected, but they also keep our data. Everyone deserves a phone that's as safe, secure, and private as possible.

But it means Google has to develop patches, manufacturers have to apply them, and carriers have to agree to allow them for each and every model of each and every phone. And that's inherently a more complex problem to solve.

Yet the only indicator we have for future behavior is past behavior. Samsung's 2011 Galaxy S2 only officially supports Android 4.1.2 Jellybean, the 2012 Galaxy S3 only officially supports Android 4.3 or 4.4 Jellybean, depending on the variant. It's not until the 2013 Galaxy S4 that we start to see updates to the most recent version of Android, 5.1.1 Lollipop.

Even the traditional wisdom of "stick with Nexus" doesn't always help here. Google's 2011 Galaxy Nexus is stuck on Android Jellybean, never got KitKat or Lollipop, and almost certainly won't be getting Android M.

If you bought both a GNex and an iPhone 4s in 2011, Google cut you off back in 2013 while Apple will be updating you to iOS 9 this fall. So, in hindsight, "stick with Nexus" wouldn't have been very good advice.

The difference is enough that security writer Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai—who has historically been very, very hard on Apple and the iPhone—recently announced he's switching.

So when the original iPhone came out a few years ago, I swore in multiple heated discussions with friends and strangers that I'd never buy an iPhone. Since then, I've only owned Android phones. First a few HTC ones, now a Sony phone.Well, I'm sick of it. And I'm ready to go to the dark side.

So, if it's important to you that the software running on your device be up to date, that you get all the new features and fixes as soon as they're available, and that you continue to get great new features for years to come, then it should be important to you to switch to iPhone.

Apple has made it easier than ever with the new Move to iOS app on the Google Play Store.

Note: Updated for iOS 9.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

86 Comments
  • Thanks Rene for this article. And I agree, I have enjoyed having an up to date iPhone every since launch day in 2007.
  • Or buy a Nexus device
  • Apple just updated all iPhones going back to 2011. The Nexus that launched in 2011 was the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy Nexus didn't get Kitkat, didn't get Lollipop, and seems unlikely in the extreme to get Android M. (Marzipan, please!) So, if you bought both a GNex and and iPhone 4s in 2011, Google cut you off in 2013 and Apple will be updating you to iOS 9 in 2015. In other words, "buy a Nexus", in hindsight, wouldn't have been very good advice.
  • Again not taking sides but maybe Google has good reason for not pushing out an update to an older device. Maybe they feel it will not be in the best interest of the custormer to push an update that will cause their device to run slower. You have people who complain about Apple devices running slower with a newer OS, I'm pretty sure you've read about it here on this site. Maybe Google just wants to avoid those complaints. Not ruling out that as the reason but it could be a possibility. Google has so many different partners who produced devices every year that's a lot of huddles to go through when your trying to make sure everyone has the newest OS. I'm pretty sure one day they will get there but Apple doesn't have to deal with that.
  • Any or all of those things could absolutely be true. But it's just like I say about Apple when explaining how hard things are: It's their problem to solve. We, as customers, simply deserve it being done. (You can also pile on in the other direction, for example even if Google updates a 2012 Nexus, if anything goes wrong, it's not like a non-tech consumer likely bought a Nexus, and if they did, it's not like they can just walk over to the Google Retail Store and have a Smartypants help them out.)
  • Rene also leaves out, probably purposely, that the Galaxy Nexus (and Nexus One) have still been getting Google App and Play Services updates for years. Firmware updates are one of 3 ways that things get updated in the Android world.
  • Can those things fix Stagefright and Web View? If so, wonderful. If not, like App Store and Apple Services updates for iPhones prior to 2010, necessary but not sufficient. :)
  • The Galaxy Nexus runs KitKat fine including Lollipop and those are from roms itself in XDA Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • People shouldn't have to flash software to keep their devices secured. Also going down this route carries the risk of bricking your phone. Most users are not competent enough to do this anyway. Sent from the iMore App
  • What good is an update if it ruins the usability of a phone? iOS 8 running on my iPhone 4s is virtually unusable. My niece got so frustrated with it that I just ended up buying her a Moto G. She couldn't be happier. Sometimes hardware gets too dated to run new software well.
  • My wife's 4S is running perfectly fine on iOS 8. Zero slowdown or unusability. Maybe a clean install is in order for you?
  • I did a clean install of iOS 8 on my iPhone 4s and it runs okay. iOS 9 will supposedly run better but I'll wait until the release version to test for myself. My Nexus 7 has gotten punched in the jaw by updates, so I feel you :)
  • My Nexus 7 2012 is virtually useless. I understand it had some hardware defects with the NAND memory chip. However, my Nexus 7 2013 runs the latest version of Lollipop like a boss.
  • So does my 2013 Nexus 5. Got the Stagefright patch flashed on my phone the day they released the factory images. Once again, Rene spreads half truths and fear mongers. BTW if you are still rocking a phone from 2011, any brand or build, I feel BAD for you.
  • It's a half-truth that 2011 isn't 2013? Because both start with 20? And way to be mean to people with 2011 phones :(
  • I have the Nexus 7 2013 as well, and like you said, runs great.
  • I'm lucky I sold my nexus 7. It was meant to replace my ipad 2 and it got slower and battery dies in 3 days and times when it refuse to charge. My ipad 2 now runs iOS 9.02, a bit slow but that's ok, it's just my air play machine. Sent from the iMore App
  • The Galaxy Nexus also had a Texus Instraments processor and because they got out of the consumer mobile processor game, the binaries could not be updated and supported for future versions of Android. Thankfully, the other Nexus devices do not have TI processors. Thanks for leaving out crucial information once again to paint a pretty picture just for Apple. You do not disappoint again in spreading weekly FUD. Click bait achieved this week. Great work.
  • Just because a chip maker doesn't make a chip anymore doesn't mean a software company can't compile a patch for software running on it.
  • Yes it does mean just that. For Galaxy Nexus to Run KitKat, it needed to have updated GPU binaries provided by Texus Instraments (TI) which didn't happen because TI went out of chip business.
  • Burn!
  • That's not the consumers problem. They were told to "Buy Nexus!" because they'd get faster, longer term updates. They did, and then they didn't. (I skipped the GNex and went from Nexus One to Nexus 5. Really happy I did.)
  • They have been for all Nexus models since 2012 =]
  • Nice Try Rene. Galaxy Nexus didn't get Kitkat because the Chip maker, Texus Instruments left the business and stopped providing updates for its GPU binaries not because Google didn't want to update it.
  • Who cares folks, the GNex was a total piece of $HIT. I bought it and returned it a few days later, pissed as hell. The camera was a joke, the battery life terrible, and the keyboard was useless in landscape because it slowly developed a lag that became entire seconds between letters. The GNex should never have existed.
  • Whether it was a good or bad phone is irrelevant. Rene was trying to give Galaxy Nexus as an exmaple of how Google doesn't provide updates to old phones which was an inaccurate and misinformed example as usual.
  • It is an example of EXACTLY that. Reasons aren't excuses. It got updates or it didn't. What's a GNex owner who was told to buy Nexus supposed to do? Get out and push. It has nothing to do with me or you. The phone got updates or it didn't.
  • Yeah lets switch to iphone because a 4 year old Nexus didn't get an update due to it's chip manufacturer.And lets forget the fact that every Nexus after 2011 is getting prompt updates. Petty justifications to swtich.
  • It wasn't a 4 year old device when it stopped receiving updates. It was 2 years old. Sent from the iMore App
  • Not really when unofficial the phone runs fine on KitKat and lollipop which it runs from roms.... Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Perhaps XDA developers doesn't have the responsibility or the liability of Google/Apple.
  • It doesn't matter who's fault it is. It still Happened and it shouldn't have. This kind of thing wouldn't happen with an iPhone because apple make the hard ware and the software. Sent from the iMore App
  • Read up on Google play services Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I agree. Whilst nexus devices are updated quicker and for longer than other android devices they still lag behind considerably compared to iPhones/iOS devices. Even the iPod touch is supported for longer than any flagship android phone. Sent from the iMore App
  • For the last time Rene, the Galaxy Nexus is not supported because the SoC was made by TI who no longer makes commercial chips and could not update the binaries for newer version support. Not to mention you have to be nuts if you want to run ANYONE'S 4 YEAR OLD PHONE. Stop using this retort. It doesn't work.
  • Good that they keep an up to date OS available. However, they should not stop signing updates so quickly, they should keep older updates available for those who have problems, or simply don’t like with the newer ones.
    What really irks me is that in the Apple stores some of the equipment they use runs iOS6 or earlier, so it’s alright when it suits THEM.
  • Going to shock you and myself, I actually agree with you. I will be honest I still don't really want an iPhone - some of your switch articles are just plan silly- but there is a problem with some android phones and updates. I don't know what the solution is but as you say I hope Google promises work and they can get updates out. I will say that some androids phones are better for updates like Motorola and the nexus line.
    As android fan I am not so blind to know that there is no problem and that Apple has the lead on this. Here comes the but... :P It's great that iPhone and ipads get the latest updates but I was shocked how slow my mum in laws ipad 2 was running compared to my ipad mini 2 both running the same ios version.
  • The reason for the iPad 2 running slower than iPad mini 2 has a lot to do with what's under the hood. To be more specific it has to do with the cpu on the device. The iPad 2 has an Apple A5 processor with 512 MB DDR2 and 1 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9, where the iPad mini 2 has an Apple A7 processor with 1GB LPDDR3 DRAM and 1.3 GHz dual-core Apple Cyclone. Apple has good intentions with making every update compatible with older devices but we also have to realize that the with every new OS that comes out year after year, each new OS requires a faster processor to run smoother and if you have iPad 2 running ios 9 and the ipad mini 2 running the same OS you will more than likely see the difference. There's good and bad when it comes to the benefits of a new OS. Yes we like it because it runs faster but at the same time will my device function properly, this doesn't only pertain to Apple, Microsoft and Google all have the same problem. Prime example Windows 10.
  • For older devices, clean installs of more recent operating systems can help them perform as well as possible. iOS 9 is looking to address that with more modularity and significant slimming down of binaries.
  • Which also means that they can probably design the OS in such a way that we can get rid of bloat, (Game Centre anyone??). You always say that’s not possibe?
  • No, it means it won't try and install files the hardware can't take advantage of as it does right now. Google knows why kids love the taste of cinnamon toast crunch. And they're willing to sell it to you.
  • Can you get rid of Xbox Live or PSN from the Xbox One or PS4?
  • If you care about OS updates and security fixes on Android, you buy Nexus devices made by Google. All Nexus devices made since 2012 are getting updates to fix the stagefright bug.
  • Exactly. He of course points out the GNex which has a CPU by a company no longer in consumer mobile processors (so no updated binaries to support newer versions of Android) and fails to mention there is not feature parity on all iOS devices running the latest version of iOS or performance gaps between older and newer iOS devices (my dad has an iPad 2 on iOS 8 and it chugs).
  • Very true. But I'll still give the edge to Apple when it comes to OS updates and security fixes in general. However, it's certainly not a level playing field when it comes to updates on iOS and Android. When it comes to prompt Android updates and security fixes, Google does very well with their devices (Nexus devices) almost going toe to toe with Apple. Unfortunately, with third party Android OEMs, it's a different story. So, I think Google does need to rework their OS update strategy. To an extent, they're currently doing that with Google Play Services. What we need is an Android Core Services that eschews OEMs and carriers and that can be updated directly from the Play Store.
  • True. Nexus has improved though. That is why I go with them. Most analogous to iPhone in terms of security and updates while being the easiest to modify (since it is a reference device).
  • The only way Google could push updates though, is if all Android devices run stock Android. The OEMs doing want this though as they use their own versions of Android to differentiate their phones from the competition. Here lies the problem because the OEMs aren't interested in pushing out updates to phones that they got paid for a year or two years ago. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • You have some valid points, but in the case of security updates Google has some stepping up to do because they are in a roundabout way responsible for all of Android. And you can't tell me Google doesn't have the clout to make carriers bend to their will. Google knows why kids love the taste of cinnamon toast crunch. And they're willing to sell it to you.
  • I must admit thus is one of the top selling reasons to switch. I switched to Android From Windows Phone last October and I am appalled with the update cycle. Not only do the same model phones get updated at different times based on carrier but the OEMs even get to choose which features of the OS version they want to include. In my case with Sony I will never get to experience manual controls such as shutter speed control and manual focus or RAW capture on my Z3 even though the phone came out right after the Lollipop update when these features where available. Even the Galaxy S6 didn't debut with these features and these are flagships. At least with Microsoft true fans get the option of the Insider Program which also bypasses carrier release of updates but Apple is gold when it comes to updates and pretty quick at fixing huge bugs after a release. By the way I'm getting the T-Mobile Jump On Demand plan next month so I'll get to test drive both the iPhone 6S and the Microsoft Lumia 950 this fall and choose which device I'll stick with from there. The only thing giving Apple the edge over Windows Phone from my eyes is the app ecosystem and personally the Final Fantasy VII port coming to iOS. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • This will be my last comment for today so with that being said, we as consumers will probably more than likely buy an new device device every two years, unless you one of those who needs a new iPhone or android device every year. But my point is, is that theres probably a small percentage of people who own a device that is more than 3 yrs old and so when it comes to a newer OS companies like Apple and Google really don't look at it as hey let's make sure that Tommy over there with his iPhone 3GS can run iOS 9 cause the probability of someone using that device still is very unlikely and they realize that consumers are always willing to buy the newest and best when it comes to their cell phones or tablets.
  • I actually disagree with this. I see what you're trying to say however, Apple, Samsung, and Nokia continue to sell older devices. Not the 3Gs however, the 4s is still being sold.
    You can also still get a Galaxy S5. I think if the vendor and the carriers are still selling these phones, they should get the updates out to the users. The bad part about getting an Android phone is you have no idea when the updates will end for you. It has nothing to do with when you bought your phone. Android users used to often tout superior hardware specs to those found on iPhones. If the hardware is so superior, you should get all updates. But this has nothing to do with Android since Google makes the updates available. I think this has to do with manufacturers and carriers not wanting to test the update on all of the various Android devices out there. I think they make a decision, possibly based on device sales to determine which devices they plan to test the update with. The amount of iPhones to test is small compared to the amount of Android handsets. This is why many Android customers are left out when it comes to updates.
  • Android users often *incorrectly* tout superior hardware specs to those found on iPhones. All most Android phones have over iPhones, in specs, is the quantity of RAM. But even that is a red herring because iOS will run equally on 1GB of RAM as Android will run on 2GB or more, especially given the bloated skins on many Android phones. Android phones NEED more RAM to run well, it's not a bonus. All you have to do is boot up a fresh Android phone and check the memory usage, it's at like 500 to 700MB or more before you do anything! iOS is simply far more memory efficient.
    And few Android phones have an SoC that is more advanced than Apple's A-series chips. The A8 runs circles around an off the shelf Snapdragon found in most Android phones and only the Galaxy S6 now beats the iPhone 6 in several performance benchmarks, but that will obviously flip again next month and iPhone's will hold the top spot in almost all CPU/GPU benchmarks.
  • Every phone has high memory usage at boot, that's called the phone always does stuff when you turn it on. Google knows why kids love the taste of cinnamon toast crunch. And they're willing to sell it to you.
  • Where is Apple selling the 4S?
  • I believe you can still get a 4s in other countries.
  • Ok, I didn't know. Thanks!
  • Apple stopped selling them, it's third parties that still have stock that still sell them.
  • iPhone 4s is no longer being sold by Apple. Some third party vendors with stock continue to sell it.
  • Whenever there is a release of iOS the release information just covers the stuff we generally "see" like iOS 8.4.1 was about Apple Music. What doesn't get covered are all the security updates for example in iOS 8.4.1: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205030 A lot of CVE IDs in this list just for iOS 8.4.1. I wish Apple and Google could release security updates outside of the big operating system upgrades because skipping the big upgrades for performance reasons means you miss all the security updates as well.
  • Mayhaps they do slightly better in security updates, but I don't see the point in claiming one gets an update when most if not all the everyday usable features are stripped out because the hardware doesn't run it well. That seems to be the main reason android phones are on a 2 year update. You rarely see an phone get updated and people make graphs about what x model can run. Google knows why kids love the taste of cinnamon toast crunch. And they're willing to sell it to you.
  • The usable features is just a bonus after a certain age of the phone, the hundreds of security updates is the most important part.
  • Google tends to handle security updates on the app and api level because of the deeper integration those things have. It's not often a full OS update is needed to provide a fix. These flaws do come around, and that's when it becomes an issue. But many of the iOS security updates are just the small fixes that on Android get patched through a Webveiw or Google Play Services update. So make your "hundreds" closer to say 5-6 for the actual large flaws that need a full OS update to patch. And then knock out about 4-5 of those because they'll happen during the updatable life of the phone. Google knows why kids love the taste of cinnamon toast crunch. And they're willing to sell it to you.
  • It's not just the what, it's the when and where. Everyone got the update, regardless of carrier or country, all at the same time.
  • I was looking for the first Samsung mention in the article. took too long to gt there. Should be on the third-sixth sentence.
  • I love the banner photo... remember how people bitched about the iPhone 6 camera "bulge"?? LMAO
  • Agreed. Apple will lose this edge IF and WHEN Google manages to do what Microsoft is doing by bypassing Dell, Sony, etc and offer updates / patches to their OS directly. But until that can happen, IOS/iPhone/iPad has one up on Google :).
  • ++ this is by far the most impressive aspect of the iPhone platform.
  • Despite Tim Cook's propaganda (swallowed hook, line and sinker by the tech media) the data shows that A) Android users are just as loyal to their platform as iPhone users if not more and B) when switching does occur, iPhone users are more likely to switch to Android than the other way around. http://www.cnet.com/news/android-users-more-loyal-than-ios-owners-study-... So, that explains this running series (and all the anti-Android FUD) from the iOS camp (and not merely from this blog!) and the distinct lack of it from the Android media organs. But hey, Apple is still the wealthiest, most profitable, most powerful and influential company in the world. I guess fans of that company will just have to settle for that. Poor things ...
  • 16% of Android owners is a whole lot more people than 20% of iPhone owners. So, more are going to iOS from Android. Simple math.
  • a greater PROPORTION of Apple users switch to Android than the other way around. Proportions are used when sample sizes are not equal. Absolute values don't mean anything when there is such a big discrepancy between the # of android users vs. iphone users. Statistics 101.
  • Huh? Okay, read it like you want..............still, more go to iOS.
  • You;re the one reading it fanboy style....these basics of statistics...when statistics are reported, absolute values don't mean anything without knowing how big the original population is. Example: If there are 5 people out of a tribe of 10 people with a rare disease, you can't say oh it's only 5 people, no biggie, because in reality 50% of that tribe suffer from a rare disease.. Proportions are what counts not absolute values.
  • Okay, so a larger % of iOS users have switched, but a larger number of Android users have switched. And that's an absolute! Glad we got that worked out.:)
  • Yup!
  • I cannot wait till the iPhone 6s is released. I switched to Note 3 from iPhone 5 and then upgraded to Note 4. Having to clear data and partition cache on a regular basis to keep the phone running smooth is crazy. Not to mention the laggy camera and stuttering skipping Bluetooth during music playback. Now throw on top of that the lack of timely updates and you have plenty reasons to go back to iPhone. Google releases updates to manufacturers, who tweak them for months, then the carrier gets there turn. It's just stupid! I am done! Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • #SwitchingBackToAndroid Sent from the iMore App
  • Hey Rene I have some bed time reading for you. Rage on >:D http://www.fosspatents.com/2015/08/us-patent-office-considers-apples-d67...
  • Since you insist on making everything about me (I'm so flattered), I'll give you a personal answer: I'm not a huge fan of the patent system as currently implemented. Copying with copying forward (adding something and evolving the state of the art) is bad for everyone, and I won't support it with my money (vote with the wallet) but ultimately that's a moral reason, not a legal reason. Question for you: You come up with the idea for an amazing app, spend a year and all your savings to build it, it launches and it's a huge success. Then 2 months later Google or Facebook put out a clone of the app, or Apple builds a clone into iOS, and you're left with nothing. How happy would you be?
  • I'd love to win the iPhone I've never had one and hve seen and heard so much about it
  • Thank you again Apple, that is why I enjoy your entire ecosystem.
  • On the bright side, Android users will soon have a more secure, more 'patchable' option in Priv by BlackBerry :)
  • Slow news day or somsomething? This article is a month old.
  • My Nexus gets monthly security updates. If you want to use Android, you can get timely updates if you buy Nexus from Google. Can flash factory images the day they arrive without wiping. Not difficult.
  • Thats like astrophysics to an Apple user.
  • #switchtoandroid for more features
    Micro SD expansion
    Proper NFC
    2k Display
    Front Facing Speakers
    Custom Launchers
    Icon Packs
    Widgets on the Home Screen
    Software Buttons
    AMOLED
    The Back Button
    IR Blaster
    And "OK Google"
    That's just scratching the surface Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • As a user of both iOS and Android devices I cannot disagree that having immediate updates is beneficial, but I also have to say Apple has made way too many blunders with iOS 8 and El Capitan that I questions their QC teams thoroughness. Still if Google had more control over Android as Apple does on iOS we would see far sweeping changes, yet the carriers remain the # 1 obstacle and Apple has made being able to sell the iPhone the # 1 reason the carriers will do anything Apple says. I would also add that each iOS update all the way back to the 4S is not a fair or accurate statement, since not every device can actually handle nor do they actually get the FULL iOS update so its not accurate. Still rapid security updates are critical and perhaps there needs to be someone else enforcing how the US carriers block security updates other than the OS OEM. Then again the Gov't wants backdoors and what better way than to insure updates are NOT timely enough on the most widely distributed OS.