How Much Does a Free iPhone Update Cost?

This morning I downloaded an update on the software for my iPhone. As so often happens with software updates, it completely screwed up the device, requiring me to spend an hour with tech support trying to get things fixed.

One frequently faces the choice of whether to update software or not. The gains are some extra features. The out-of-pocket cost may be zero (as with the free iPhone download) or it may be substantial.

But in all cases there can be a substantial opportunity cost of one’s time, a cost that is often much larger than one expects (since in many cases things will not work right away).

Moreover, this opportunity cost is a fixed cost — it doesn’t seem to be any greater whether I download a new version shortly after its most recent predecessor, or if I wait for several new versions before updating. While the gain to updating rises the longer one waits to update — and the monetary costs may be higher too — the fixed costs of updating are constant.

That being the case, one needs to consider both types of cost before going ahead to update. I was attracted by the slight potential improvement to my iPhone, but I forgot about the fixed costs and paid the penalty of an hour of wasted time.

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  1. Craig says:

    I usually try to be a late adopter of such updates. That way bugs that are endemic to the software have a chance of being ironed out before I get the update. Then the bugs I experience should be related to only my device’s setup.

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  2. Mark says:

    As someone who has unlocked my iPhone, I think that the changes from one rev to the next may be small, but the changes after several revs may be very significant. E.g., I had to update my phone from 1.1.1 to 1.1.4 before the unlocker would work.

    Agreeing with 1st poster, that waiting on an update isn’t a bad thing, while updating regularly may be a better behavior.

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  3. AB says:

    There should be two tracks in the naming classification for software (alpha, beta, etc.). There should be a standard designation for updates that provide ONLY bug fixes without adding any new features (ie, new bugs). Anybody have a good suggestion for the sequence (probably something other than greek)?

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  4. JEP says:

    This is exactly the issue of why I brought my PC down to the basement and left it on the floor next to the furnace. And then went out and bought a MAC. My fixed costs for accepting Windows security updates and McAfee software updates (not DAT updates) was weeks of wasted time rebuilding my PC when the registry was corrupted multiple times.

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  5. Leslie says:

    I think it is an Apple thing. Trying to restore my iphone to its original factory settings because of some errors has been impossible because the update is about 165MB and my connection times out before it can be completed! I think when it is said that these services are free, the costs are usually waste of time, mental exasperation and at times phone bills-in trying to get tech support to correct the error they have caused in the first place!

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  6. MW says:

    I try to keep in mind opportunity costs, but when I start doing it too much I go crazy and end up not doing anything enjoyable. For example, I’ve probably expended two week’s worth of income in opportunity costs reading this blog this year. I know that if that cost were up front and real (and somehow I could get the time back instead), I probably wouldn’t subscribe to the blog. But I could say the same thing about most of my leisure activities, so in the end sometimes it is best to simply do what I enjoy.

    Software updates and the ensuing glitches, on the other hand, drive me absolutely nuts. They have not only the opportunity cost of the time but the emotional cost of putting me in a bad mood for the rest of the day, which my girlfriend would probably say ends up costing her as well having to put up with me!

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  7. Dan says:

    I disagree with the contention in paragraph four.

    Skipping updates can have a non-zero opportunity cost too (even exclusive of security considerations) — the combinatorial explosion of patch sets can result in certain sets that are not tested as well by the software deployment teams. A test team may do more testing on upgrading from original code versions and N-1 versions than they do from versions in between. For example, say you unbox a device at 1.1, patch it to 1.2 when you set it up initially, and then for whatever reason elect not to take 1.3. When 1.4 comes along your scenario may not be as well tested as 1.1->1.4 and 1.3->1.4, particularly with unusual configuration options or internationalized versions.

    But that’s not the whole story either. In many cases there’s value in waiting some amount of time to let the early adopters stumble over the issues caused by new releases. In certain cases badly tested code can be unleashed on the public, and the manufacturer has to either release a bulletin explaining a workaround or in severe cases remaster a release (1.2 -> 1.2b).

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  8. chrlstopher says:

    all thls over a measley hour wlth tech support? l mean, the beneflts of frequently updated software welghed agalnst a small chance that you encounter some error seems an easy cholce

    how often do these updates mess up your phone? lts worth lt, but sorry you lost an hour,

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