How to Turn on Automatic App Updates on the iPhone and iPad

Screenshot of Apple's iOS Settings

The iPhone and iPad have become such low maintenance devices that they can even keep themselves relatively up-to-date for you. No, they can't quite install operating systems updates (yet!), but they can automatically patch apps and install the latest version of your apps and games. The automatic app update feature is also a great way to eliminate the need to download dozens of new updates at once. Once you turn the feature on, new versions of your apps will be automatically downloaded and installed for you as they become available.

How to Turn on the Automatic App Updates Feature

  1. First, go into your iPad's settings. Find out how...

  2. Choose iTunes & App Store from the left-side menu. You may need to scroll down this menu to find the option. 

  3. Automatically updating apps is the last setting under Automatic Downloads. Tap the button to the right of Updates to turn the feature on or off.

Yes, it's that simple. Once you have the setting turned on, your iPad will occasionally check the App Store for any updates to apps you have installed. If it finds an update, it will automatically download and install it for you.

If you are on an iPhone or an iPad with 4G LTE, you will see the option to use cellular data to download automatic updates. It might seem like a good idea to turn this feature on, but some apps -- especially games -- can take up quite a bit of bandwidth. This means a single update could use up a good chunk of your monthly allotment if you have a data plan limited to 1 or 2 GB per month. It's usually best to leave this option off. Even with an unlimited plan, it could take a while to perform updates over 4G, which could slow your device down for other services such as browsing Facebook or getting turn-by-turn directions.

What Else Can You Have the iPad Do to Make Your Life Simple? 

You can also turn on automatic downloads for music, apps, and books. These settings will allow you to automatically sync your purchases across every device you own. But these settings are a little different, so you might want to think about it before turning them on.

Automatic downloads will synchronize your downloads across all of your devices, and in the case of music and books, this also includes your Mac. When you download an app on one device, such as your iPhone, it will automatically be downloaded on your other devices, like your iPad or iPod Touch.

If you are a couple or family sharing the same Apple ID, this may not be the best feature to turn on, especially if you have different tastes in books or apps. And having music synchronize to all devices can quickly run you out of storage space, especially if you only have 16 GB or 32 GB on your device. But if you are the only one using that particular Apple ID or if you have the storage space to spare, these settings can save you a lot of time downloading each new purchase to each new device.

How to Turn on Touch ID for Downloads

Another time-saving feature that you might expect to find in these settings is the ability to use Touch ID, which is Apple's fingerprint sensor technology, to download apps from the App Store. But while you might assume the setting for allowing Touch ID to substitute for your passcode when downloading an app would be in the App Store settings on your iPhone or iPad, this switch is actually found in the Touch ID & Passcode section of settings.

You can turn this setting on by opening the Settings app, choosing Touch ID & Passcode in the left-side menu, typing in your passcode when prompted and then tapping the on-off switch next to iTunes & App Store. You may also want to flip the switch next to iPhone or iPad Unlock, which lets you use your Touch ID to unlock your device.