Apple's iOS 7 downloads caused 'major' Internet traffic jams

Heavy downloads of Apple's iOS 7 update caused huge spikes in traffic for many service providers, according to a Web security firm.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read

Eager downloaders of Apple's iOS 7 update last week slurped up more than three times the amount of Apple-related Internet traffic as usual, and in some cases caused slowdowns for other Web activities.

That's according to Web security company Blue Coat, which tracks Web activity through various service providers. On Thursday, it said heavy iOS downloads created a "major traffic jam" in the first few days of the new software's release.

"Based on our data from appliances deployed around the world, in the five days following the release of the iOS update, customers saw a 265 percent increase in Apple.com traffic compared to the five days before," Blue Coat's Jeff Brainard wrote on the company's blog.

"For customers who typically saw Apple.com account for less than 4 percent of their traffic, the number tripled to more than 13 percent on average," Brainard added. "In at least one case, Apple.com traffic skyrocketed to over 32 percent of total Web traffic."

"In the five plus years I have been at Blue Coat, I've never seen a file update shake up the Internet like the iOS 7 update," Brainard told CNET. "Other updates like previous iOS updates, or Windows updates, can be detected as they create spikes, but nothing close to what was seen with iOS 7."

All that amounted to what the firm says was a general slowdown on speed, which took some by surprise, and could have been fixed with better caching.

Like other past updates, iOS 7 could vary in size depending on the device and iOS version users were upgrading from. For some users it could be just a few hundred megabytes, though for others (like Verizon iPhone 5 users) the download could weigh in at 1.2GB, and required nearly four times that much free space locally to install.

Brainard said downloads like iOS 7 present something "difficult to plan for," unlike general traffic from streaming video services like Netflix and YouTube. That appeared to be the case for Apple as well, with users reporting slow download speeds and issues activating devices -- problems that let up after the initial rush.

In Apple's case, it's not just people who are manually requesting iOS 7 downloads. Since iOS 5, the software automatically fetches updates when users are connected to Wi-Fi and hooked up to a power source, allowing for quicker installations later. That in itself has posed an issue for some users who have discovered that the sizable download cannot be removed.

Apple last week said it expects to sell its 700 millionth iOS device sometime in October. Earlier this week, it noted that more than 200 million users were already on iOS 7, which has seen the fastest adoption of any iOS version yet.