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Apple’s iOS 12 saved my old iPad mini

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Until yesterday, I was thinking of turning my old iPad mini 2 into a digital photo frame. The tablet worked, but it was painfully slow. Launching an app always had an unacceptable lag, and any serious multitasking was near-impossible. 

Then I updated it from iOS 11 to iOS 12, and suddenly the little guy was nearly as good as new. 

I did not expect this, despite Apple’s claims that iOS 12 increases performance on its devices. The company says the same thing for every major release, but the differences have historically been negligible. In some cases, the iPad got slower after updating — but not this time.

I also updated my iPhone X to the iOS 12 beta a few weeks ago, and I haven’t seen any major performance improvements. But the iPhone X, which came out last year, was fast to begin with; the iPad mini 2 is five years old. 

Don’t get me wrong: My iPad mini 2 isn’t nearly as fast or fluid as a brand new iPad, especially the Pro. And not everything is perfect; firing up my favorite writing app Ulysses takes more than 10 seconds on the first go (it was considerably faster the second time around, but still slower than I would’ve liked). 

But at least my iPad mini doesn’t stutter as I swipe on the main screen. At least I don’t have to constantly fear my apps are going to crash. Because that’s been the case for the past year or so.

Perhaps all these improvements were only in my head — or specific to my particular iPad. But judging by what I’ve heard from friends and colleagues who updated their old iPhones and iPads to iOS 12, as well as this quick Twitter poll (below), most people feel the same. 

For some hard data on performance improvements between an iPad mini 2 and older iPhones on iOS 11.4.1 and iOS 12, check out Ars Technica’s excellent comparison. I’m not sure those figures tell the whole story, though. More important, to me, is my overall experience while using the device, and it has simply been a lot better — more fluid, more responsive, far less stuttering. 

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I also have to commend Apple for even including the iPad mini 2 in this update. In fact, iOS 12 is available for all devices that run iOS 11; not one of them was left behind. The iPhone 5S and the iPad mini 2 came out in 2013. Five years of support (and counting) is the type of commitment that’s expected for premium gadgets like these, and Apple delivered. 

All the iOS 11-compatible devices can run iOS 12.

All the iOS 11-compatible devices can run iOS 12.

Image: Apple, Stan Schroeder

This has not always been the case. Apple launched iOS 10 in 2016, and the original iPad mini — then a four-year-old device — was not supported. And from my experience, none of the major iOS updates significantly improved performance on iPhones, iPad or iPods, new or old. 

The official release of iOS 12 is, thus, a big step in the right direction. It doesn’t bring a ton of flashy new features, but, perhaps for the first time, it improves old iOS devices by a significant margin, and this is something a lot of users will appreciate. 

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