Can You Upgrade to the ‘Last Compatible’ iOS Version

Apple surprised everyone by finally offering ‘last compatible’ versions for those running an older iOS. But is there a flaw in this?

So you pick up an iPhone 3G and it is running iOS4.2.1 – the last version of iOS it supports – and go to the App Store and download the Facebook app. You are prompted by the new ‘this app requires iOS 6 would you like to download the last compatible version’ – a handy new option, and it gives you the last version to run on iOS4.2.1.

This is a brilliant new strategy from Apple. It enables older iDevices running iOS 4 upwards (as this doesn’t work for OS 3) to continue to be used, creating an even bigger iPhone user base and saving many old iPones from being thrown in a drawer.

But after my last few articles on the subject (‘Last Compatible’ App Versions Now Offered for Older iDevices and Apples ‘Last Compatible’ Policy Updated), a reader sent in a very good question.

If you have an iDevice on iOS 6 or earlier you have to manually update apps when an update arrives – unlike iOS 7, which can auto-update in the background. However, what happens if you are a bit slow updating and an even newer iOS 7 version comes out, despite you not having the latest iOS 6 version installed.

Will you be stuck on an older version, or will you be prompted with an update to the latest version to run under iOS 6.

Let me show you an example of what I mean:

You have an iPhone 3GS running iOS 6.1.3. My favourite app is SuperCoolGiraffeGenius, and I am using version 4.2. However, I haven’t updated to version 4.4, which is the last version to run under iOS 6, as version 5.0 requires iOS 7.

Will my iPhone tell me there is version 4.4 available to upgrade to, or will I have to theoretically delete SuperCoolGiraffeGenius from my iPhone and then use Apples ‘last compatible’ trick to download version 4.4.

It is an interesting question, and as the above was just an example, I cannot answer that personally. I own an iPhone 4 running iOS 7.

If it turns out you have to delete and reinstall, that would be fine for the odd app, but it could be seriously time consuming if you have lots of apps on your device.

If any readers out there find themselves in this position, I would love to know the answer.


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4 thoughts on “Can You Upgrade to the ‘Last Compatible’ iOS Version

  1. I believe the “last compatible version” download functionality requires iOS 4 as a minimum (I’m still meaning to try Whited00r on an old 1st gen touch…)

    I have an Applescript setup to backup versions of iOS apps as they are updated: I’ll backup my iPad 1st gen and its “current” apps to its own 5.1.1 iTunes library, load some known old app versions via another, and then see if I am given the option to update them to the last iOS 5 compatible version knowing that many are iOS 6 and 7 only now. When? I’m not sure, but that’s the plan! I’ll post results when I know.

  2. I have iOS 5 on my 3GS. For a while now, it’s shown updates that are only available for later OS versions (“requires iOS 6”). Since this “last compatible version” feature came out, I tried to update one of those iOS6 only apps. It offered to update me to the last compatible version. So, it’s pretty seamless in the update front. 🙂 I just hope you don’t get stuck with a buggy version. :-\

    App developers should totally not roll big bug fix updates into a new iOS version requirement release. 😛

    • Interesting. On my iPad 1st gen with 5.1.1 I remember the App Store used to show iOS 6 only updates as greyed out (like you mention), but at some point it stopped showing them altogether, hence my question as to how I would track down which of my apps had updates to a last compatible version.

      Since this feature came out, there has been a consistent glitch on the aforementioned iPad, an iPod 5th gen on iOS 6, and a coworker’s iPhone 4S on iOS 6 where the App Store shows the update badge but when checked no updates are available. I discovered this morning that if one goes into the Purchases section and looks down the list of iCloud-arrow-download icons and Open buttons, there will be (based on our sample of three) a number of ‘Update’ buttons equal to the mystery badge number on the App Store app. Pressing Update will then ask if you want to install the last compatible version. The App Store badge decrements as an app finishes downloading and all appears well.

      So, fairly convenient, but the bug resurface within a minute as the badge returns to its previous number and the app in the Purchases section continues to ask if you’d like to Update, but no updates appear in the Updates section.