iOS 4.1 Upgrade Guide

iOS 4.1 for the iPhone and iPod touch is set to roll out this week, which means there’s plenty for users to think about before updating. We’ve put together this guide to help you decide when to upgrade, and what you need to do to be prepared when the time comes.

Should I Upgrade?
Even if you don’t install the iOS 4.1 update right away, you’ll still want to consider making the move soon, assuming you have compatible device. Currently, iOS 4.1 is compatible with the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and post-first generation iPod touch models.

First generation iPhone owners are out of luck, and iPhone 3G users can’t take advantage of all of the features in iOS 4. Unfortunately, iPad owners will have to wait until iOS 4.2 is released in November before they can take advantage of any iOS 4 features.

The iOS 4.1 update is free for for iPhone and iPod touch users, and when iOS 4.2 ships in November, it will be free, too.

Here’s some of what you can expect to see once you install the iOS 4.1 update:

  • HD video upload support
  • HDR photo capture (iPhone 4 only)
  • Game Center
  • TV show rentals
  • AVRCP in-car control support
  • Proximity sensor bug fix
  • Bluetooth audio bug fixes

Even though iOS 4.1 has already undergone extensive testing ahead of its release, it’s probably not a bad idea to wait at least a day or two for all the edge-case problem reports to come in before upgrading. Of course, we’ll be upgrading as soon as Apple’s servers start dishing out the update so we can start digging for problems and bugs that may have slipped through the beta testing process.

Update Your Apps First
Before updating to iOS 4.1, make sure you have already updated to iTunes 10 on your Mac or PC. Mac users can go to Apple menu > Software Update, and Windows users can choose Help > Software Update to make sure the most recent version of iTunes is installed. iTunes 10 is also available for download at the Apple Web site.

Next, pay a visit the App Store in both iTunes and on your iPhone and make sure you have the latest versions of all your apps. Most iPhone and iPod touch apps have already been updated with iOS 4 compatibility, but a quick check to make sure your apps are up to date won’t hurt.

If you aren’t sure how to update apps on your iPhone or iPod touch, check out our Quick Tip to help you through the process.

Check for iOS Compatibility Issues
We suggest making a point of checking developers’ Web sites for any mission-critical apps you run to make sure they aren’t warning about any show stopping compatibility issues. If you find any issues with apps you simply can’t live without, we recommend delaying your iOS 4.1 update until the developers release compatibility updates. That said, we haven’t heard of any critical compatibility issues yet.

Backup, then Backup Again
Updating to iOS 4.1, or any iPhone OS for that matter, can wipe out your phone and then restore it. Just like the data on your computer, the information on your iPhone or iPod touch could be forever lost if it isn’t backed up. iTunes backs up your handheld’s data every time you sync with your Mac or PC, so you should already have a copy of all your important information safely tucked away.

You can make doubly sure your iPhone data is protected by backing up your backup. If you already have a strong backup process in place, odds are your iPhone and iPod touch backups are included. If not, or if you aren’t sure if your handheld data is included in your computer backup, check out our Quick Tip on backing up your iPhone’s data.

Save Your Settings and Notes
While the update to iOS 4.1 shouldn’t wipe out any of your settings, it’s still a good idea to go into the Settings app and note anything you might not otherwise remember if things go south. An easy way to make sure you have an accurate record of all your settings is to use the screen capture feature to take snapshot pictures of your iPhone and iPod touch settings. We have a Quick Tip that details how to take iPhone screenshots and what to do once you have those pictures.

We also recommend emailing yourself any notes you can’t afford to lose even though they should be syncing with Mail if you use Apple’s built-in Notes app. To email a note to yourself, tap the Notes app icon, select the note you want to email, and then tap the envelope icon at the bottom of the screen.

Copy Your Data Back
Although it’s unlikely, after you update to iOS 4.1 there’s a chance that some of the applications, music, or videos that you expect to see won’t be there if, at some point, you told iTunes to stop syncing and disabled its warnings. Re-enabling warnings in iTunes will gives you the opportunity to transfer apps and media back from your iPhone that otherwise might get missed.

Resetting warnings in iTunes
To re-enable warnings for your iPhone or iPod touch, connect your handheld to your computer, Ctrl-click or Right-click on your device in the Library list, and then choose Reset Warnings from the pop-up menu. We have a Quick Tip that details the process, too. Once you’ve reset the warning, perform another sync, and iTunes will obediently display any warning dialogs that were previously hidden.

Updating to iOS 4.1
Now that you’ve covered as many of your bases as is reasonable, go ahead and tell iTunes to install the iOS 4.1 on your iPhone or iPod touch. iOS 4.2 will be available in November, so iPhone, iPod touch and finally iPad owners will get to go through the update process again.

The OS download and update process will take some time. Afterwards your phone will need to be reactivated online, so make sure you’ve got plenty of bandwidth (and battery power, if on a laptop) to get the job done.

Once the update is complete, go through your iPhone and make sure your settings are correct. The two places we suggest checking right away are Mail accounts and Calendars because those are areas where users have had issues with prior iPhone operating system upgrades.

To check your Mail and Calendar settings, go into Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and confirm that the Accounts section contains exactly what you expect. Next, scroll down to the bottom of that preference list and confirm that Default Calendar is also set properly.

Post-Update Advice
Most early reports are showing that the upgrades have been downloading and installing without a hitch. We do, however, recommend you wait to do anything in iTunes until after your iPhone’s display shows that it has completed the update and the initial post-update Sync.

Once you’ve updated your iPhone it will, in theory, be fully functional, and all of the data that was there before the upgrade will still be in place. In fact, you’ll likely even find that all the web pages you had open in Mobile Safari are still there.

Because the update completely replaces the firmware on your iPhone, the first post-upgrade Sync will trigger a backup that will take a long than usual time. Depending on how much data is stored on your iPhone or iPod touch, the backup process could take 15 minutes or longer.

Since you’re already in down time-mode because of the upgrade process, this is a good time to go ahead and let that first backup happen in case something goes wrong later. Simply plug your iPhone back into your computer, let iTunes do its thing, and then you’re off and running.

Dive In and Let US Know What You Think
After you finish the update process it’s time to start playing with the new features in iOS 4.1, then come back and tell us, and the rest of your fellow TMO Observers, about it all in the article comments.