Do I Really Need to Update My Phone's Operating System?

Jeff Blevins

The way we use phones has changed dramatically over the last few years, and with those changes come many options to consider.

Updating your phone’s operating system (OS) is, at the very minimum, important for security purposes, and to keep your associated software as current as possible. Your device’s OS software is constantly being bombarded and hacked by people who could potentially steal information from you, hack your email, credit card info, or even steal your identity. To combat that, developers continuously update their software to make it safe and secure. So where security is concerned, updating your OS is best. Updates can also be effective in fixing bugs in previous OS versions, which can (hopefully!) result in improved speed and/or performance.

Remember that not every update is necessary. In fact, there are often arguments against doing certain ones, for various reasons. For example, there are theories out there that updating your OS is actually designed to slow your phone down, in an attempt to hurry you into upgrading your phone. In other words, to make you spend money you might not really need to spend yet. Sometimes the upgraded OS has a whole new set of bugs that will need fixing, so waiting could be beneficial if that’s the case.

Once you see a prompt for a software update, if you have any reservations, or just want more information before you hit “yes,” talk to friends who’ve upgraded, look for online user feedback, or go to a wireless store you trust and talk to a technician.

Apps are a little different. If you’re like most smartphone users, you probably have an assortment -- some you use more frequently than others. Many, if not all, of these apps are continuously being tweaked and improved upon. To take advantage of these improvements, you need to update. But you usually do not have to update them if, for whatever reason, you just don’t want to. Most (but not all) will still perform fine, even if your version is not the latest. Eventually, however, you might be forced to update certain apps in order for them to function.

Be aware that some OS updates can affect the current version of some apps. You might need to install updates for any apps that the new version of your OS cannot accommodate. Once a new OS is introduced, most app developers create any fixes that might be necessary to make sure it functions -- but that is not always guaranteed.

Most phones let you choose if and when to do software and app updates (with or without a prompt), just like most give you the option of having them download and update automatically if that is your preference. This is all based on the settings you have set up on your phone. If you’re not the most tech-savvy, don’t worry. You do not need to be Bill Gates to handle updates on your phone; they’re usually pretty simple.

It is also a good idea to backup your phone prior to any updates – just in case. If anything goes wrong during the download, you can always reset the phone to its original factory settings and then reinstall everything that was saved.

Jeff Blevins is a published author who's left his footprint in the digital and scripted worlds. An entertainment industry veteran, his writing includes biographies, sports, automotive, education, and pop culture. The Seattle native -- and his keyboard -- live in Los Angeles.