How to Get Older Versions of Apps on Older iDevices

It was pretty exciting news when Apple made it possible to install older versions of iOS apps on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but if you’ve tried to download a new app that requires a newer OS than your device has, you’ve probably been stumped.

It happened to me recently. I was looking for ways to get more Dropbox space for my wife, and if you download the Mailbox email client (Gmail only at present), Dropbox will give you an additional 1 GB of space. That’s pretty good for just downloading an app!

I sent a Dropbox invitation from her Mac to one of my less used email addresses, created a new Dropbox account, and attempted to download Mailbox on my iPhone 3GS for that extra gigabyte of storage.

Sorry, the App Store informed me, but this app requires iOS 7, so you can’t load and install it on your old iPhone running iOS 6. After all I’d heard about the App Store allowing you to download the last version of an app to support your iOS version, I was frustrated. What good is this new feature if it doesn’t really work?

The Solution

I emailed Dropbox asking what to do, and while waiting for a response, I decided to install Mailbox on my iPhone 4S, which is running iOS 7, and get an extra gigabyte of storage for my main account. The app installed and ran without a hitch, and my Dropbox account now has over 20 GB of free storage!

After that, I went back to my iPhone 3GS with iOS 6 to try installing Mailbox again – and it worked. I guess that’s because I had previously downloaded a current version of Mailbox, even if it had been just a few minutes earlier and it was a version that doesn’t work with iOS 6.

So here’s the solution to installing new apps to your old version of iOS, and it won’t work for everyone. You’ll need to use an iDevice with a version of iOS that supports the current version of the app, make sure you’re logged in with the same ID on both devices, and simply install the app on the newer device.

Now when you try to install an older version of the app with your iDevice running an older version of iOS, you should have no problem. The App Store should show you the cloud-with-arrow icon indicating that you’ve previously downloaded the app to some iDevice with the same user ID.

It’s an odd workaround, and perhaps Apple will eventually make it possible to install previous versions without having to use an iDevice with an iOS version that supports the current version of the app, but until then, at least we have a workaround.

Keywords: #lastcompatibleversion

Short link:

searchword: previousversion

4 thoughts on “How to Get Older Versions of Apps on Older iDevices

  1. I haven’t really tried it but I’m guessing it should also work if you download the app via iTunes since the phone will also show the cloud with arrow icon, i used that trick a few months ago when WhatsApp was still a paid app and they made it free for a few days since there’s no iPhone 3G support i couldn’t download the app but I was already planning to get a newer device so I downloaded the app using iTunes on my Mac and months later when I got an iPhone 4 i downloaded the app for free since it showed the arrow icon indicating I had already purchased the app.

  2. So, basically, you just need to have purchased the app at some point, and you will be presented with the latest version of the app for the iOS you have.

    If you’re wanting to get an old version of an app that you haven’t purchased before, you’ll also need an iOS device that can run the latest iOS to purchase the latest version of the app.

    Seems reasonable, although I don’t know why Apple couldn’t just make the App Store show the latest version that works with your iOS when you are buying apps.

  3. It appears that iOS 4.2.1 users don’t need to pre-purchase their apps on a Mac or PC or newer iOS device; this is only an issue for iOS 5 devices and up, like the iPhone 3GS and 1st gen iPad. I’ve downloaded several “last compatible version” apps to my iPod Touch 2nd gen. without having to purchase them on another device.

    I found this article a little puzzling when I first read it last month, since I never had this problem. It makes sense now, though. A lot of people are freaking out that they can’t download the Facebook app on the 1st gen iPads they presumably received as after Christmas hand-me-downs.

  4. I think you just got lucky. This doesn’t work because apps that really need iOs7, won’t work without the API’s present in iOs7.
    I tried to do your method And the one in the comments above with iTunes, and neither worked. I just need a way to get the Podcasts app on my iPod touch 4g with iOs6. You would think an iPod would have the app installed by default, but it doesn’t. What a waste.

Comments are closed.