Should You Upgrade Your iPhone 4 to iOS 7?

upgrade iphone 4 to iOS 7?
image credit: iPhone photo and iOS 7 logo, Apple Inc.

If you own an older iPhone, there's always a question that arises when Apple releases a new version of the iOS: Should you upgrade? Everyone wants to get the latest and greatest features from the new OS, but sometimes those features need more power to work well than older phones can offer.

This is the scenario facing owners of the iPhone 4. Should they install iOS 7

To help you make an informed decision, I've compiled the reasons in favor of and against upgrading an iPhone 4 to iOS 7 below.

Reasons to Upgrade iPhone 4 to iOS 7

Here are some of the reasons that support upgrading to iOS 7:

  • No more OS upgrades. iOS 7 is the last version of the iOS that runs on the iPhone 4, so you won't be able to upgrade to 9, 10, or beyond. If you want to really max out the capabilities of your iPhone 4, iOS 7 is the way to do it.
  • iOS 7.1 is tuned for iPhone 4. The 7.0 release received a lot of complaints from iPhone 4 owners who said that it bogged their phones down so much that they were almost unusable. Apple heard those complaints and addressed them in iOS 7.1, which is substantially faster on the iPhone 4
  • Key new features. iOS 7 introduced some major new features to the iPhone that we now take for granted. Do you really want to skip features like Activation Lock, Control Center, iCloud Keychain, and the new design and interface options? To get them, you need iOS 7.
  • Bug fixes. Every release of the iOS fixes bugs and security issues. If you upgrade, you won't leave your iPhone exposed to problems or potential attack that could be protected against.

    Reasons NOT to Upgrade iPhone 4 to iOS 7

    The arguments against upgrading include: 

    • Performance problems. The iPhone 4 is the oldest device that iOS 7 can be installed on. The iPhone 4 is six generations old at this point and Apple doesn't even sell it anymore, so it's far from the latest, greatest, or fastest iPhone on the market. It's got a slower processor, less memory, and a smaller battery than the newer models.
    • Missing features. Because the iPhone 4's hardware is older, there is a number of cool iOS 7 features that don't work on it. These include Panoramic photos, AirDrop, Siri, Traffic information in Notification Center, and Filters in the Camera app.
    • You can't downgrade. If you upgrade to iOS 7 and find you don't like it, you can't downgrade your phone to iOS 6 again
    • There are better upgrades. Why waste time upgrading your OS when you could upgrade to a new phone for little or no money? Check out the end of the article for more information on new phones.

    The Bottom Line: Should You Upgrade?

    Whether you upgrade your iPhone 4 to iOS 7 is up to you, of course, but I'd be cautious. If you upgrade, you'll be putting the latest OS, which requires a lot of processing horsepower and memory, onto a device that's coming close to the end of its usable life. The combination will work, but it may be slower or more problematic than you'd like.

    If you're willing to live with some bugs or slowness and just have to have the latest OS, go for it. Otherwise, I'd consider holding off.

    A Better Upgrade: A New Phone

    The iPhone 4 was released way back in 2011. In terms of modern consumer technology, that's ancient.

    New phones are much faster, have bigger screens, can store much more data, and have better cameras. Other than the cost, there's really no reason to continue to use an iPhone 4 at this point.

    I recommend upgrading to a new iPhone. That gives you the best of both worlds: you'll get a fresh, fast new phone with all the latest hardware features and the latest version of the iOS. I'd much rather pay a few hundred dollars for all those new things than having a poor experience on an old phone.

    The latest model, the iPhone 7, has a lot of great features. Read our review of it here. If you're looking to spend less money, the iPhone 6S (read review) or iPhone SE (read review) are both still available for lower prices.

    I always recommend buying the newest and best phone you can afford since it will last the longest. Still, any model you upgrade to from the iPhone 4 will be a major improvement.