Following on from my previous article regarding How Long Will Apple Support Your Mac, this article looks at the support for iDevices.
We all know how over the past 10 years Apple have moved into the portable world, first with music players and then smartphones and tablets. How long can we expect Apple to support its iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices?
Support for these devices is a totally different story compared with the Mac. As I have written in the past, when Apple releases a new version of iOS, its mobile operating system, and developers update their software to require that new version, older versions of their app disappear from the App Store. For instance, if you own an iPhone 3GS, which is being cut when iOS 7 is released, and Facebook update their app to require iOS 7, unless you have a backup of the iOS 6-compatible version, you won’t be able to download it. Older versions disappear from the App Store.
This puts a whole new spin on the term support.
Don’t get me wrong: I have an original iPhone. I love older devices, but then you have to resort to jailbreaking or backed up apps to shoehorn older apps onto them.
For instance, Firefox for desktop operating systems offer older versions for download. While a G4 running Mac OS X 10.5 won’t run Firefox 22, you can find Firefox version 3.6 on their site, download it, and use it. You can’t do the same kind of thing on iOS devices.
Let’s look at the iDevice support table. You will see support for these is a lot shorter than for Macs, but then they are generally lower in price – even a high-end iPhone will cost around the same price as a bottom-end Mac mini.
iPhones are Apple’s flagship portable product, and from the 3GS onwards they receive around four years of iOS versions and updates.
The original iPhone received 3 years and 5 months, but the iPhone 3G only received just over two and half years. The iPhone 3G was one of Apple’s worst products and definitely their worst iPhone. Rushed through, it felt like the original iPhone with 3G and GPS bolted on . . . and bolted on badly. Battery life was terrible, and the whole iOS 4 fiasco is another story. It is one of the rare products that was terminated mid-iOS, mainly because it ran iOS 4 so badly, even after later updates made it a little better.
Four years of support for a phone is marvelous. The 3GS shipped with iPhone OS 3 and received iOS 4, iOS 5, and iOS 6 – and ran them well. The iPhone 4 shipped with iOS 4 and received iOS 5 and iOS 6, and it will run iOS 7 when it is released later this year.
Very few other smartphones receive two new versions of their OS, and cheaper budget devices are likely to only see one new version – although in defence of Android and BlackBerry you can download older versions of apps for older versions of Android. For example, even if you have the very first Android device, the HTC Dream, running its maximum official version of Android (1.6), you can still download the Facebook app that runs on 1.6 from the Google Market, whereas the original iPhone can’t – unless you jailbreak it and run custom firmware like whited00r, which has its own App Store for older versions.
The iPod touch follows the lines of the iPhone. A much cheaper device and averaging three years of updates/support – with the exception of the second generation iPod touch, which, like the iPhone 3G, was cut mid-iOS 4 and only received 2 years 5 months of updates. My wife has a second generation iPod touch, and it runs iOS 4.2.1 very well, nowhere near as bad as the iPhone 3G. It must be the additional phone functions that drag the iPhone 3G down.
The iPad is not a budget device. It is an expensive tablet. There is less consistency in support length for the iPad. The original iPad only received 2 years and 8 months of support before it was dropped at the launch of iOS 6. A lot of people were annoyed about this, especially as the iPhone 3GS, released a year before the original iPad, received iOS 6. The iPad 2 will receive iOS 7 when it is released, but it probably will not see iOS 8. The iPad 3 should see iOS 8. However, I don’t think the iPad 4 and iPad mini, released only last year, will receive iOS 9, due for release in 2015, as this would break the three year lifecycle of iPads – but you never know with Apple.
For iDevices, an iPhone receives on average a year longer support from Apple than an iPod touch or iPad does, which generally receive about three years. Does the extra expense of an iPhone outweigh the price of an iPod touch?
It all depends on what you need it for of course, and not forgetting that very few people actually buy their iPhone outright, but generally receive it free or heavily discounted as part of a mobile phone contract. Mobile phone contracts are generally two years, by which time most other smartphones have come to the end of their support cycle – in fact some of them are ditched by manufacturers before your contract is renewable, leaving you trapped in a contract with a handset that won’t run the latest OS.
However, with an iPhone your handset is still current and supported once your contract has finished its term, making its resale value still very high. This gives you the option of keeping it for a while longer, thus cutting out the expense of a new handset, or selling it on as “current” and making a tidy sum on its return.
How Long Will Apple Support It?
Make what you want of this article and its companion, How Long Will Apple Support Your Mac. It is an interesting look at just how long you do get out of an Apple product. As mentioned, before support is meant as currently supported by Apple and able to run the latest OS.
A device is useful depending on the needs of the user. Some people need a top end brand new i5 based Mac or an iPhone 5, however some people can get by using a PowerBook G4 or an original iPhone.
Further, Apple does offer hardware support for six years from the date of release, so even when iOS leaves your iDevice behind, service will still be available.
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