Saturday, December 3, 2011

iOS third party apps you may not wish to update

(Last updated, in whole or in part, on 10/28/13, when I was using iOS 5.1.1. Intended to be updated over time.)

Newer versions of apps sometimes function worse than their predecessors. Sometimes existing functionality is taken away or is changed in an undesirable way (sometimes breaking entirely).

Below are apps for which I consider or have reason (e.g., App Store reviews) to suspect that a non-current version(s) worked better. Having been burned in the past, in the App Store app's Updates section I long ago stopped using the Update All button in favor of updating apps individually. If this list grows too large for me to remember easily, it will be handy for me to check against when updating apps, to reduce the chance of updating an app for which I prefer an older version.

If an older version of an app works well, and there is no compelling or interesting new functionality offered in its newer version(s), I would not likely bother with much testing of newer versions. If someone using a newer version of any app listed below finds my comments about functionality to be incorrect, I would welcome a comment to that effect, which could prompt me to do additional testing and potentially revise this list.

If you made a backup of the iOS device to PC iTunes before updating an app on the iOS device, deleting the new version of the app (e.g., if you don't like it) from the iOS device, then using PC iTunes you should be able to get the older version back via either direct copy or sync (my Opera Mini 6.5.1 test on an iPad). If you don't take such precautions, you could be locked into the new version.  (10/28/13: has good information, and you can do a Google search for "recover old ios app .ipa", which is how I found that web page.)

I haven't investigated to what degree iCloud backup can be similarly helpful (as PC iTunes) for such things, but my understanding is that if the App Store no longer has an app, you will not be able to get it back from there. I have several free apps which are no longer in the App Store, but which I can still restore to my iOS devices from PC iTunes, including:
  • CEDictionary 1.0 (Chinese English dictionary which speaks pronunciation)
  • Go To There 1.1 (retrieves and formats public transportation information)

iOS 5:
  • Convert Units for Free - #1 Unit Conversion App 4.0. Version 4.1 was released 2/28/12, and the 5 "Most Helpful" reviews are all 1 star out of 5. Based on the content of those reviews, ads have proliferated wildly in the app. 14 of the 31 ratings are 1-star, outgunning the 11 that are 5-star. If those reviews are on the mark, its advertised "#1 Unit Conversion App" status is likely in jeopardy (if that was accurate in the first place, of course).
  • Flashlight (my blog entry) 5.1 This is the app from John Haney Software, which became Apps from Outer Space when 5.2 was released. 5.2 seems to have a slightly longer delay before the flashlight effect, which is a net negative since I want bright light as soon as possible. I expect I'd still choose 5.2 over other flashlight apps, but I plan to stick with my 5.1.
  • Google Search 2.5.2 Version 3.0.0, released 4/29/13, "[n]ow turns on Location Services. Even though the icon stays on, the app has minimal battery impact." While the calmer reviews in the Apple App Store seem to agree, the ones decrying the truth of that make me a bit leery of upgrading.
  • How to Tie a Tie Free 4.0 Some App Store reviews suggest that version 4.1 may now hammer you frequently to rate it, and provides a pre-written 5-star review for you to approve. No, I haven't rated it, but I also haven't truly used it to tie a tie, either, despite having loaded it quite some months ago, and only ever knowing one lame-looking knot. I don't need to be browbeaten to rate this app.
  • Mercury Web Browser Lite (my blog entry) 5.1 didn't show ads on the iPod.
    5.2 does show ads, though not continuously. I would probably not have upgraded, but I was dealing with a version problem with a different app when I synced with PC iTunes, and I hadn't paid enough attention to this app, which I use relatively rarely.
    5.2.1: The company's write-up in the App Store says "Remove ads for iPhone version". A review claims that 5.2.1 also took away User Agent spoofing, which can be pretty useful.
    I bought the paid version, which still has the User Agent spoofing. The developers have done good work, certainly worth 99 cents!
  • Mercury Web Browser Pro (my related blog entry) 6.0.1 preserves the last used brightness setting into the next session. A review claims that 7.0 starts up at full brightness, which night readers are likely to find undesirable.
  • Notespark 1.3.2 Version 1.4 (AND/OR possible changes on their server?) caused loss of data when I synced (I only sync manually) on at least half a dozen occasions in fewer than two months of daily (or practically daily) usage. I count myself very fortunate to have been able to revert back to 1.3.2, and will be watching to see whether I encounter similar loss of data now -- the syncing was virtually flawless for years before I (temporarily) upgraded to 1.4. (10/28/13: Notespark has been removed by the developers from the Apple App Store.)
  • ShuBook 1.4.2 appears to be markedly preferable to later versions. Some App Store reviews slammed version 2.0.
  • (my blog entry) 2.1.1 Some App Store reviews for 2.1.2 and 2.1.3 have made me leery of updating. The app works fine for me already, and supposedly there are some new legal agreement issues. Also, the 11/24/11 App Store review of 2.1.3 from joekul claimed that the history (of WiFi speed test results) feature went missing. I don't have specific plans to verify that; 2.1.1 still has that history, which is of some value to me.
  • The Weather Channel (my blog entry) 4.1.1 Some App Store reviews for the subsequent version have made me leery of updating. It sounds as if the ads have gotten more and more in your face (flashing, it seems) without meaningful gains in functionality.
  • Weather+ Free 1.6 includes forecasting of humidity levels for the coming days (accuracy not guaranteed, of course!). Version 2.0 (updated 6/21/12) no longer has that functionality. That functionality also seems to have disappeared in the paid version 2.02 (also updated 6/21/12), based on what I see in Apple's App Store.
  • White Noise 5.4.2 The 5.5.1 update introduced a bug which prevents the alarm from sounding if you are using the Music Alarm Event (through which you select Music from your device's Songs collection to which to wake up). Also, I prefer the fake big LED clock digits of 5.4.2 over the slim digits of 5.5.1. With 5.4.2, I already have all the functionality I need from this app, so there's really no significant utility in updating further (indeed, there is risk, as I discovered with 5.5.1).
  • Yahoo! 2.3.8 At least two Apple App Store reviews suggest that in 3.0 (released 4/22/13), they removed Mail from the menu, which I use to mark messages as spam. The Yahoo! Mail app, which they suggest you use instead, requires iOS 6. I'm staying with iOS 5 as long as possible for multiple reasons, one of which is because the accompanying text for podcasts is truncated in iOS 6 (and was initially truncated from the Podcasts app in iOS 5).
    They had previously removed Mail from the menu in version 2.3.7, but with 2.3.8 (released 3/22/13), they restored it due to "popular demand" ("popular outrage" might be more accurate). Given the history, I can't muster any enthusiasm to even bother trying version 3.0.

iOS 4 (I'm only listing a couple of apps and am unlikely to add more, since I'm in the iOS 5 world now):
  • OverDrive Media Console (my blog entry) 2.3.2 Version 2.3.3 apparently introduced a bug that prevents download of e-books to the iPod under iOS 4.3.5. It may even wipe out existing e-books, but I cannot confirm that.
    (Version 2.3.3 can, however, download e-books to the iPod under iOS 5.)
  • Stanza (my blog entry) 3.1 Version 3.2 of Stanza doesn't work under iOS 4.
    (Version 3.2 is needed under iOS 5, which would not run 3.1.)

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