In fairness to Apple AAPL -0.02%, this one was necessary. After months of badly rushed (and problematic) iOS updates, the release of iOS 11.2.2 is timely because it addresses a serious vulnerability on iPhones, iPads and iPod touch.
But does iOS 11.2.2 cause any new problems which mean you shouldn’t upgrade?
Here’s everything you need to know…
Who Is iOS 11.2.2 For?
Just like previous iOS 11 releases, iOS 11.2.2 is compatible with the iPhone 5S or later, iPad mini 2 or later and 6th generation iPod touch or later.
You should be prompted to install iOS 11.2.2 automatically, but if this hasn’t happened you can trigger it manually by navigating to Settings > General > Software Update. Apple iOS beta testers, remember you may have to unroll your device for the update to appear – especially if you are running the mysterious iOS 11.2.5 beta.
iOS updates vary in size (features/patches apply to different devices) but iOS 11.2.2 isn’t a big update at roughly 60-85MB. Be aware that if you are still running iOS 10, then iOS 11.2.2 will also roll up the large iOS 11 update into a single major update causing it to weigh in at several gigabytes.
The Deal Breakers
Yes, committed jailbreakers you will have to avoid this one. While Google publicised a vulnerability to jailbreak earlier versions of iOS 11, it does not include iOS 11.2.2.
As for the initial iOS 11.2.2 stability reports, they are a mixed bag. Apple admits iOS 11.2.2’s security fix (more in the next section) will have a minor performance impact, but some users are reporting their iPhones have slowed dramatically. These aren’t all incidental observations either with a number of users pointing to major declines in benchmark results of 20% or more (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 etc).
On the flip side a handful of users are pointing to benchmark performance increases (1, 2, 3), though this is surprising given Apple has stated users should expect a hit.
Elsewhere complaints remain about iOS 11’s most lasting problem: bad battery life. At this point I’d suggest all affected users take advantage of Apple’s discount battery replacement pricing (purchase guide). Even unaffected users should future proof their phones if they are more than six months old. After all, after ten iOS 11 releases, it doesn’t look like Apple is going to fix this with software.
As always I will update this article if any of these problems escalate.
So What Do You Get?
Like iOS 11.2.1, iOS 11.2.2 is a dedicated bug fix. The official release notes simply state “iOS 11.2.2 provides a security update and is recommended for all users”. But there’s more to it than that. Dig out Apple’s official security page and it expands upon this, explaining:
“iOS 11.2.2 includes security improvements to Safari and WebKit to mitigate the effects of Spectre (CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715).”
Spectre is part of the now-infamous Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities affecting chipsets in PCs and mobile devices around the world. And the reason Apple states iOS 11.2.2 improvements “mitigate” rather than ‘fix’ the problem is because there is no single fix at present. More updates will come in future iOS updates, but this is a start (the first Meltdown mitigations were quietly introduced in iOS 11.2) and every platform is taking action.
Apple iOS 11.2.2 Verdict: Install If You Run iOS 11, Hold If You’re Running iOS 10
iOS 11.2.2 is an important update for users to install. The Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities are some of the most significant in computing history and it will take waves of patches to address them fully. If you’re running a version of iOS 11 right now there’s no reason not to upgrade to iOS 11 – the mitigations supercede the chances of a performance hit.
The flipside is for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users who are happy with fast, stable devices running iOS 10 (I know many of you have contacted me about this): you have greater reason to pause. You will suffer a performance hit upgrading to iOS 11 and there will be a further one with iOS 11.2.2. If you have an old device that may be a dealbreaker (especially since it is impossible to downgrade back to iOS 10) and some of you will be happy to take the risk of leaving your device exposed.
As such the only upside is experts agree the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are difficult to exploit. So if you want to wait a few days for my Great Secret Feature and Nasty Surprise follow-up reports you should be fine.
That said these exploits do exist and and they aren’t going away by themselves. With updates coming to all Mac, Windows, Android, iOS and Linux platforms it now makes the argument for staying on an older version of iOS difficult to justify long term. You’re taking a risk, pure and simple.
The Road Ahead
Following the release of iOS 11.2.2, Apple has issued a fourth beta of the mysterious iOS 11.2.5. Four betas in and Apple still hasn’t revealed a single feature it contains (beta testers are installing it purely on good faith). But its forward looking version number suggests it should offer something tangible when Apple reveals it, notably in response to the company’s promises to be more transparent about battery degradation in its devices.
After all once the distraction of Meltdown and Spectre have passed, I’d argue Apple really needs to step up with iOS 11 and deliver something truly essential…