During its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple took the wraps off iOS 16, the next generation of its mobile operating system. While it’s only available as a developer beta right now, the new release is filled with interesting and exciting new features and enhancements. These include an all-new lock screen experience, Live Text in videos, shared iCloud Photo Libraries for families, and more.
Unfortunately, as with any major software release, there comes a time when older devices need to be left off the list. Such is the case with iOS 16. It’s been a long time since Apple has dropped support for older iPhones, so it’s fair to say the writing has been on the wall for a while.
iOS 16 marks the end of the road for any iPhone released before 2018. This includes the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, first-generation iPhone SE, and even the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. This means the oldest iPhone models supported by iOS 16 are the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. This also naturally includes all iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 13 models, and the second and third-generation iPhone SE.
However, iOS 16 will also mark the first time since iPhone OS 1.0 that not a single iPod device is on the list. The first iPod touch came out in September 2007 with iPhone OS 1.1. Apple retired the iPod touch family for good last month, and even though the last iPod touch was released in 2019, it uses the same A10 chip as the iPhone 7.
Apple’s record for software updates
Four years is still a long time to support an older phone model with major software updates. It’s also the minimum bar for Apple, which already does far better than its competitors in this area. Consider that the iPhone 6s, which came out in 2015, has lived through six major software updates. It was released with iOS 9 and can still run iOS 15 today. It beat out the record set by the iPhone 5s, which ran iOS 7 through iOS 12.
Most believed that this year’s iOS release would mark the end of the road for the iPhone 6s and the original iPhone SE, both of which contained the same A9 chip. The iPhone 7 lineup was a bit more of a surprise, but it’s clear that Apple is drawing the line at the A11 — the first Apple chip to feature a Neural Engine for machine learning processing. That’s significant since so many of the new features in iOS 16 rely on machine learning. Even some features introduced in last year’s iOS 15 release were only available on newer iPhone models. The older ones lacked the artificial intelligence power to handle things like Live Text in Photos and on-device speech processing for Siri.
Those features actually require the A12 chip introduced with the 2019 iPhone 11. That’s because the original Neural Engine only had two cores. Apple upped that to eight cores in the A12 and later 16 cores in the A14. That second increase is why only the iPhone 12 and later support the iOS 15.4 feature that lets you use Face ID while wearing a mask.
Technology marches on, and sooner or later, Apple has to draw the line somewhere. Even today, folks who bought their last iPhone when Barack Obama was President and Star Wars: The Force Awakens was hitting theatres can still enjoy iOS 15. That’s a pretty good run when it comes to smartphone updates.