At every Apple developer conference, there’s a heart-stopping moment when we find out if Apple’s prized kit will be removed from the list of supported devices. And to give Apple its due, the company has historically done better than its rivals when it comes to mobile device longevity.
Android users have frequently been saddled with phones that never received a major update, to which richer Android users scoffed that perhaps those people should have paid more than 12 pence for a phone. However, even the flagships fared poorly, sometimes being abandoned after as little as two years.
By contrast, Apple’s operating systems from last year were still compatible with the new iPhones from 2015 and the new iPads released in 2014. Sure, those devices may not be fully featured, but their owners could at least happily push an upgrade button and win another year. use of them, knowing that they would receive current security fixes and not have to sulkily isolate themselves from the world.
This year, however, will be a comparative bloodbath. With the A11 Bionic chip now Apple’s baseline, the original iPhone 6s, 7 and SE are gone, along with the seventh-generation iPod touch. The fourth-generation iPad Air 2 and Mini, which are clinging to 2014, are also on the chopping block, their A8-series chips no longer capable of delivering an experience Apple finds acceptable.
These ads hurt if you love your iPhone 7 or iPad Air 2. But technology moves on and it’s probably time to upgrade. However, a second look at the list of obsolete devices shows that they are not all created equal: the iPod touch was still for sale last month, but it will never receive another major OS update.
If you think that’s bad, think of anyone who recently bought an Apple Watch Series 3. The upcoming watchOS 9 drops support for that wearable. Selling a known obsolete product this September feels so un-Apple that you almost expect Tim Cook to rip his face off to reveal a five-year-old Android logo underneath.
It’s not good enough. At the time of the announcements last September, in my opinion the Series 3, originally released in 2017, had no place in Apple’s lineup. Even a year earlier, it was a relic, sporting the old-style screen, lacking fall detection, and incompatible with Family Setup. Users complained that it was rattling, struggling to load apps. It existed so Apple could hit a price point and say the Apple Watch “starts from £179”, even though the Apple Watch SE is a much better buy for the money.
The point is that this tactic plays. The Series 3 remained, and still is, popular because it’s cheap. But nobody who has bought one in recent months would have imagined that it would be discarded technology in the fall. And that’s still the case after WWDC’s reveal of watchOS 9, given that the conference has little mainstream presence beyond people gawking at Apple’s shiny new laptops.
Naturally, watchOS 9 won’t see every Apple Watch Series 3 break free from its owner’s wrist and head out into the sun. Well, not unless Apple’s marketing has Really aggressive lately and their engineers have been up to mischief. But when devices are no longer updated, things are more likely to go wrong when used with those running the latest operating systems.
So again, Apple deserves credit for giving devices a longer lifespan than most; but it’s also worth whatever outrage comes its way from buyers of last year’s Series 3.