In 2018, we believe that Apple should take a hard look at how they support legacy iPhone hardware and iOS mobile application development for the good of both themselves and their users. Apple has invested a lot of time and energy into supporting legacy iOS devices with OS updates for three to four years after their original release, and they have done this for quite a few years. This has always made marketing sound good and is a handy talking point when compared to Android platform. However, we think that now may be a good time for Apple to pull back the reins a bit.
There is an ongoing argument against companies supporting legacy software or hardware for an extended period. It can be quite difficult to have high-quality support for that long.
The expectations in the mobile industry are very different, but the challenges are the same in both software and hardware. Procuring and producing older components becomes a challenge after two years. That may sound weird, but in an industry set by new features and lighter, thinner, faster year after year, there is just a little room for first party legacy support. So, producing and supporting old hardware isn’t as easy and costs more.
Engineering, programming and design talent is the lifeblood of Silicon Valley, and there is strong competition between both the startups and leading tech companies to bring it in. The biggest attraction is working on new products that will be groundbreaking. Massaging OS updates to fit old hardware is not a task that is going to maintain top talent on your payroll.
Beyond the retention and acquisition of top-tier talent, there is also the question of just how large Apple has become and the labor challenges that come with that. Their software and hardware offerings have been leading over the past ten years. Also, the size of the company has grown to match. Unluckily, that expansion has brought organizational, and management challenges that Apple has yet to master fully.
We aren’t suggesting that these problems are easy to solve and that Apple is failing where everyone else is succeeding. On the contrary, we want to emphasize that those are very difficult challenges that many large companies across different industries struggle with. Some ways to make management easier is to clear out and offload clutter programs, services, and features that are unnecessary.
iOS updates are the root of many user complaints
You have no idea how many people are complaining about updates causing problems or slowing older phones down. In the majority of cases, the user didn’t care about upgrading to gain security patches or additional features. They did it because their phone continually notified them to do so.
That’s the problem with the way Apple approaches iOS upgrades. Most of Apple’s most sophisticated and knowledgeable users are going to be more likely to either have the latest iPhone model or upgrade at least every two years.
The average user who is ambivalent about Apple and doesn’t care about technology at all is going to be less likely to understand the potential impact of an iOS upgrade on their device. These users will also be more likely to hold onto older hardware.
There is an easy fix that Apple could implement to help their users. If Apple would just end the constant notifications and add the ability to decline the update, users who are happy to continue using the previous version of iOS might do so. It doesn’t make sense to push updates because a lot of users who are not interested have the highest chance of being dissatisfied with the results.
One and two upgrade cycles per year
When two-year cell phone contracts were a staple of the industry in the USA, there was an expectation that many users would hang onto their iPhones longer than just two years. The big reason for that was high up-front cost. But all of that has changed due to the end of two-year contracts and device subsidies, and the start of device payment plans. Apple also provided their own iPhone Replacement Plan, which works the same way. Most of these plans also offer the client the option to upgrade yearly. With more users upgrading regularly, there is less need to support a three-year-old iPhone with a new update.
Benefits of continued legacy support
Many people praised Apple for providing customers with iOS development and multiple updates covering three or more years. However, none of these updates have run better on the old hardware than the previous version. In some cases, they only slowed the devices. In others, they have caused minor issues, but the experience got worse. Other than adding some security updates, these legacy upgrades usually do more harm than good.
The possible issues
If Apple made this change, we don’t think it will have much of an impact in Europe or North America. Most people who are satisfied with older iOS hardware version will stay on it. The only issue that might sooner or later affect them would be App Store support (app updates).
But such changes may have a potential negative impact on sales in developing markets. Apple is selling older iPhone models, both refurbished and new, at reduced prices in many areas of the world. For example, the iPhone 6S is still for sale as a new device because of its more appealing price point for areas where Apple has usually been far too luxurious.
We think that the downside of this move would be minimal. Apple would still guarantee that the greater part of its iPhone purchasing customers would see either one or two iOS upgrades for their devices. Users who are upgrading on a one or two year cycle as part of a payment plan would never be affected by this. But there is a potential negative impact in regards to selling older phones at lower prices in rising markets. When all is said and done, we think both Apple and their users would benefit from locking iOS upgrades in two years.