Upgrade season is right around the corner — Public Betas have already arrived. If you need to update your iPhone, you’ve come to the right place.
Like everything on iOS, keeping your iPhone up to date is not as simple as it used to be. There are many ways to back up your phone and apps, depending on how you prefer to work with your iPhone.
Before You Begin: Backup, Backup, Backup!
Before you make any changes, you need a backup. There are two ways to back up your iPhone: iCloud and iTunes. Neither is perfect, but they are easy to set up.
1. Backing Up via iCloud
Backing up your phone to iCloud is not an option if you have not upgraded to a paid plan — that is, unless you have absolutely no data. Be assured though, once you pass 5 GB of data, Apple makes you pay up to keep backing up your data. The plans run from $1 to $10 per month, from 50 GB to 2 TB of space.
To turn on your iCloud backup, open Settings on your iPhone. Tap on the banner at the top of the app to get to your account management, then tap on iCloud. At the bottom of the Apps Using iCloud section, tap on iCloud Backup. Tap the slider to green, and a pop-up warns you that your phone will no longer automatically sync with iTunes. After that, tap Back Up Now and the progress bar appears telling you how long you have to wait.
Once that completes, you can move on to the next steps. If you have already turned on iCloud Backups, this screen already has the slider set to green. You can just tap Back Up Now to make sure iCloud has the latest copy of your data.
2. Backing Up to iTunes
Backing up to iTunes does not require much setup. Plug your device into your computer, and wait for the device button to show up in the toolbar. Click that button and then click your phone’s name to go to the main device page in iTunes.
The second table entry on the device page is Backups. On the left are the two options for automatic backup: iCloud and This Computer. Make sure that This Computer is selected to that your iPhone backups every time you plug it in. If you check the option Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi, your phone backs up whenever it is on power.
Note: If you want to restore from your backup with all of your passwords and accounts saved, you need to select the Encrypt iPhone backup and set a password for your backup. It is an extra step but saves you time if you ever need to restore your phone.
Click Sync if you need to transfer data to or from your phone, otherwise just click Backup. (If you made any changes to the settings on your iPhone, you need to click sync to update them.)
Deciding Between Over-the-Air vs. Wired Updates
Deciding whether or not to apply an update on your iPhone, or to use iTunes, depends on a couple of factors. The first and most vexing is having enough free space on your phone to update. While you can go through and delete apps and data to make room, it is often a lot easier to use iTunes instead.
There are a couple of other catches. Your phone does not even download the update unless you connect to Wi-Fi. Your battery needs to be over 50 percent, or iOS asks you connect to power before updating.
Updating using just your iPhone is convenient, but it is still an “in-place” upgrade. If you have had any weird performance issues, you may want to make sure that you install the full OS via iTunes. Using just your iPhone for updates installs only the changes.
The general rule of thumb is: iTunes updates are going to be more work, but have the least amount of restrictions. Updating iOS right from your iPhone is easier but has stricter requirements.
Updating on Your iPhone
Updating from within iOS is a simple process. Open the Settings app and tap General. Then tap on Software Update. You see the details of the update on the next screen. If your phone has not automatically downloaded the update, tap Download and Install. If it already downloaded, it shows Install Now instead. A dialog will pop asking your to confirm by tapping Install.
If you keep getting errors about verifying the update, you may need to re-download it. You can remove the update data by going back to General in the Settings app. Tap on Storage & iCloud Usage, then under the Storage section tap Manage Storage. You should find the update under the list of installed apps, tap on it then tap Delete Update. You can then try and re-download the update again.
Updating via iTunes
Even if your phone is set to sync via Wi-Fi, you need plug it in using a cable before you can update. Once you connect your phone via USB, the device indicator in iTunes pops up again. Click on it and select your phone.
On the device page click Check For Updates. A pop-up notifies you of the new version, click Download and Install. If you use a passcode, you need to enter it before applying the update.
Restarting and Fixing Update Issues
Regardless of the method you used, your phone has to restart to apply the update. This screen is an Apple logo with a progress bar. Once that finishes, your phone goes to the “Hello” screen. From there, you may need to click through some menus to agree to any changes and re-enter some iCloud info.
If your phone hangs at the Apple logo, you may need to restore. You can try restarting it if it has been sitting at this screen for a long time (wait around 30 minutes or so, to be safe).
After that, reboot your phone. If your phone then goes to a screen with the iTunes logo and a USB cable, you have to restore your phone. Connect it back to iTunes and click Restore iPhone… on the same screen where you update your phone. Sometimes the update will continue from where you left off and complete as normal after a forced restart.
Updating Your Apps
If you just need to update the apps on your phone, you can do this either on your phone or through iTunes as well. If you want to update your apps on your phone, open the App Store. Then tap Updates in the bottom navigation bar, then on the next screen tap Update All.
If you want to update through iTunes, click the media type drop down and select Apps. Then click Updates once that loads, click Update All Apps. The updates apply next time you sync your iPhone.
Your apps will update automatically, provided you’ve enabled this setting under Settings > iTunes & App Store > Updates.
Your Most Personal Computer
Apple allows iPhone users to update their software in the way they are most comfortable. That choice can make it somewhat convoluted for newer users. The iPhone lives untethered from the iTunes and Mac almost entirely these days, so it might not be intuitive to plug your phone into a computer to update it.
What is your preferred method to update your phone? Is there another iPhone process you think is more confusing than it needs to be? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: PIMPAN via Shutterstock.com