#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
Contributor

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 excus