For some, it’s a daily ritual. For others, it’s a task put off for another day. I’m talking about updating the applications on your phone and/or tablet. It seems like every time I turn on one of my devices, there are apps that need updating. I don’t have many apps on my phone and tablet, but I seem to have a lot of updates on a regular basis. Instead of blindly hitting the update all button this time, I took a few minutes to actually check out what was being updated for each application. I was surprised at the number of apps that simply had “bug fixes,” while others were full-blown version upgrades with many enhancements. So when should you update those apps, and when is it safe to ignore them?
Why All These Updates in the First Place?
There are many reasons that developers update their apps. The most common are bug fixes and featured additions or enhancements. A good developer will listen to customers and update their apps on a regular basis to meet the needs of their users. This is important if you want to stay relevant among the thousands of apps that are available.
When It’s Recommended to Update
Security update: If you see anything in the update or change log about security, it’s imperative that you update the app. Security should be your first concern when it comes to applications. An app can have access to your contacts and their phone numbers, and also your text messages and email. This is data you probably want to keep private. A security hole in an application may allow a would-be attacker to gain access to this information.
A bug fix that’s affecting you: Any given app can have numerous bugs. Whether these bugs affect you may determine if you want to update the app or not. There are many features in some apps that I never use, so I may not even know there is a bug because it simply goes unnoticed. If you’ve been bitten by a bug and it’s causing you to stay away from the app, it would be a good idea to update.
New features you’ve been waiting for: New features and enhancements are always being added to an app that is maintained on a regular basis. In fact, it’s a good indication that the developer is actively working on the application. There is normally a long list of features requested by users, but only a handful make it into the application. Scan the change log to see if there’s something you’ve been waiting for.
Your operating system was updated: Any major update in the operating system (OS) of your device may cause issues with existing applications. Developers will try to have the update ready to go the same time the OS is updated, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Be patient and keep on the lookout for the update of your favorite applications.
When Not to Update
Read the reviews: As with most reviews, whether for apps or vacuum cleaners, you need to read between the lines. A series of one star reviews that start with “since the update…” is normally not a good sign. I’ve updated apps only to have them rendered worse, leaving some of them unusable. It’s always good to wait a couple of days before updating, just to make sure there are not going to be any issues, especially if you rely on the app for work or other critical uses.
Check your data usage: If you do not have an unlimited data plan, and are not connected to Wi-Fi, check your data usage before updating your cellular-connected phone or tablet. Today’s applications are quite large, especially graphic intensive games. High resolution displays capable of showing off detailed images are becoming a standard for devices nowadays. The higher resolution graphic, the larger the file size. This leads to more data consumption when downloading applications that contain these graphics. Your cellular carrier usually has an app of its own to tell you just how much data you have used, and how much you have left in the billing period.
You like the app the way it is: It’s easy to get used to the look and feel of an app, especially if it’s one you use multiple times a day. Despite a developer’s best efforts, sometimes a user interface update to an app is not always for the good. As developers try to keep their apps updated with a refreshed, modern look, they sometimes forget what made their app useful and popular in the first place. If you like the app the way it is, and it’s working fine for you, there’s no need to update.
What’s Your Update Strategy?
You may own several devices, each with dozens of apps. It can get tedious going through app updates every day. So what do you do? Weekly, monthly, every full moon? Let us know in the comments below.
My name is Nick Alonge, and I’ve been a software developer for the last 20 years, creating everything from websites, traditional desktop applications, and most recently mobile applications. I started my own business five years ago after working in a corporate environment for 12 years.