Apple should push security updates out to older iOS devices

Apple have released several security updates to iOS 12 devices such as the iPhone 6 and 5S over the course of the year, and they should continue doing this in the future for other iOS versions.

Apple has always been good at promising iOS updates. Last year, it supported iPhones as old as the iPhone 6S and as small as the SE in iOS 13. In 2018, it supported 2013’s iPhone 5S in iOS 12.

There’s no denial Apple has always came top when it comes to updates. Samsung have only been providing two major OS upgrades to even its flagships, an issue that needs to change. Last year Google released Android 10 to the original Pixel and Pixel XL, making them the first Google phones to get three major OS upgrades, and last year OnePlus also released Android 9 to 2016’s OnePlus 3 and 3T, making that the third major OS upgrade.

However, it’s a fact that iPhones have better software support. However, if Apple want to be able to boast about how good its software support is, it should be providing updates for older but still popular iPhones which have lost out on the latest major iOS upgrades.

A history of Apple security updates

In 2014, Apple released iOS 6.1.6 to devices incompatible with iOS 7 to fix a major security issue

Apple are great when it comes to updates. Updates arrive in all regions and for all supported phones at the same time, unlike Samsung, Google, and OnePlus who sometimes have to wait on carriers too to approve updates.

In 2013 Apple discontinued support for the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 4th generation with iOS 7. These devices remained on iOS 6.1.3 although the iPod Touch 4th generation later got updated to iOS 6.1.5 to fix a FaceTime bug which was caused by Apple pulling the plug on FaceTime for iOS 6 devices, the reason for which is unknown.

However, in 2014, an SSL security bug that allowed a hacker to modify data in internet sessions protected by SSL and TLS. In other words, allowing hackers to gain access to passwords and other data. Apple released an update to iOS 6 devices to fix this, called iOS 6.1.6, while iOS 7 devices got the fix in the form of iOS 7.0.6.

iOS 7-compatible devices such as the iPhone 4 could not download iOS 6.1.6, which is a shame considering the iPhone 4 is much faster on iOS 6 than 7. Even if an iPhone 4 was still on iOS 6, attempting to install updates would prompt the user to simply install the latest iOS 7 version.

Years later in 2019, a GPS time rollover caused lots of devices to require updating for essential functionality such as GPS and time to continue working. Apple released updates to its older iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 devices to incorporate the new GPS functionality which had not been incorporated in previous updates. The update came in the form of iOS 9.3.6 for iPhone 4S and iOS 10.3.4 for iPhone 5. This saved many devices from losing the ability to access the internet, app store, and iCloud.

iOS 12 updates for devices incompatible with iOS 13

The iPhone 6S is one of the devices dropped in iOS 13

Since the release of iOS 13, Apple have been releasing updates for devices that stayed on iOS 12, including the iPhone 6, 5S, and iPod Touch 6th generation. The first update came in the form of iOS 12.4.2, which fixed an issue allowing applications to read restricted memory. Several other updates followed.

Considering there are still users out there using the iPhone 6, and a lot of them still don’t intend on parting ways with the 2015 iPhone, Apple should still continue updating them. Even if they stop, they should still update them in the case of an emergency security bug, like in the case of iOS 6.1.6. Even Samsung do this with their phones in the case of an emergency security issue. Even after ditching support for the Galaxy S6 in 2018, a few security updates patching up emergency security bugs were released throughout the year.

Security updates for iOS devices that will lose support

The iPad Mini 4 is currently the oldest iPad supported in iPadOS 13, but it may not receive iPadOS 14 this year

iOS 14 is to be announced soon, but over the internet because of course the current circumstances. What devices will stay and what devices will go is unknown. However, I can guess the iPad Mini 4 could lose out on iPadOS 14, considering it is the only supported device in iPadOS and iOS 13 to have an Apple A8 chip, all other devices having lost support.

However, is the iPad Mini 4 still popular? Absolutely. A lot of people are still using this device as its successor, the iPad Mini (2019) was only released last year. Although making the iPad Mini 4 run an OS that may overwhelm it is worse than deciding to end support for it on a stable iPadOS 13, the iPad Mini 4 deserves some sort of security update support considering its wide userbase.

Forcing the iPad Mini 4 to run an OS it just can’t run and forcing its users to upgrade to that OS to have a safe OS is unfair. But so is discontinuing security updates for the device and leaving it on an abandoned iPadOS version.

It’s time for a change

It’s time for Apple to start releasing security updates to devices that get dropped in iOS updates. These devices still have a lot of users, and leaving them at risk is nothing short of unfair. Even just for a year or two, older iOS versions deserve love just like the old ones. I am glad to see how Apple are handling updates on iOS 12 devices, and I hope this doesn’t end with other devices and versions in the future.

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