Three Ways to Keep Your iPhone Apps Up to Date

update iphone apps
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There are a lot of reasons to keep your iPhone's apps up to date. On the fun side, new versions of apps deliver great new features. From a less fun—but maybe more important—perspective, app updates fix bugs that may be causing you problems. 

There are three ways to keep your apps updated, from manual techniques to automatic settings so you never have to think about updates again.

Option 1: App Store App

The first way to make sure you're always using the latest version of your apps comes standard with every iPhone and iPod touch: the App Store app.


To see which of your apps are ready to update, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the App Store app to open it
  2. Tap Updates in the bottom right corner
  3. At the top of the screen, there is a list of apps with available updates. You can:
  • Tap What's New to get details about the update
  • Tap the app icon or What's New description to view the app in the App Store
  • Tap Update to install the new version of the app.

Option 2: Automatic Updates

Sen. John McCain once teased Apple CEO Tim Cook that he was sick of always having to update his apps. Thanks to a feature introduced in iOS 7 he—and you—never have to tap Update again. That's because apps can now automatically update.

This is great in terms of efficiency, but if you're not careful it can also result in downloading large files over cellular networks and using up your monthly data limit. Here's how to turn on automatic updates and conserve your data:

  1. Tap the Settings app 
  1. Tap iTunes & App Store
  2. Scroll to the Automatic Downloads section 
  3. Move the Updates slider to On/green
  4. To ensure that you only download over Wi-Fi (which won't count against your monthly limit), move the Use Cellular Data slider to Off/white. 

The Use Cellular Data setting also controls automatic downloads of music, apps, and books purchased from the iTunes Store, as well as iTunes Match and iTunes Radio.

If you need cellular data for any of those features, you may want to avoid automatic app updates. Downloading a song or book is usually a few megabytes; an app might be hundreds of megabytes.

Option 3: iTunes

If you spend a lot of time in iTunes, you can update your apps there and them sync them to your iPhone. To do this:

  1. Open iTunes on your computer
  2. Click the apps icon in the top left corner of the window (you can also click the View menu and select Apps or, using the keyboard, click Command+7 on a Mac or Control+7 on a PC)
  3. Click Updates in the row of buttons near the top
  4. This lists all the apps on your computer with available updates. This list may be different from what you see on your iPhone because it includes every app you've ever downloaded, not just the ones currently installed on your phone. Also, if you've updated on your iPhone and not yet synced with your computer, iTunes won't know you don't need this update
  5. Click on an app to get more details about the update
  6. Click Update to update the app
  7. Alternatively, to update every app that's eligible, click the Update All Apps button in the bottom right corner.

Bonus Tip: Background App Refresh

There's another way to keep your apps updated that you may appreciate: Background App Refresh.

This feature introduced in iOS 7 doesn't download the latest version of an app; instead, it updates your apps with new content so you've always got the latest information.

Let's say you have this feature turned on for your Twitter app and you always check Twitter while eating breakfast at 7 a.m. Your phone learns this pattern and, if the feature is turned on, will refresh your Twitter streams before 7 a.m. so that when you open the app you're seeing the freshest content.

To turn on Background App Refresh:

  1. Tap the Settings app
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Background App Refresh
  4. Move the Background App Refresh slider to On/green
  1. Not all apps support Background App Refresh. You can control which get their data refreshed by moving their sliders on and off.

NOTE: There are two reasons you may want to avoid this feature. First, it uses cellular networks and can use a lot of data (while it can use Wi-Fi, you can't make it Wi-Fi only). Second, it's a serious battery drain, so if battery life is important to you, you may prefer to keep it turned off.