It’s time to ensure any older Apple devices still in use by you or your company run the most recent version of the operating system available. That’s because Apple wants users to upgrade to the latest version of the device OS as the company works to expand its product ecosystem.
Upgrade the best way you can
To persuade users to upgrade, Apple plan to turn off access to services for devices running older versions of macOS 10.13, watchOS 4, iOS/iPad OS 11, and tvOS 11, a leaker claims.
It’s not a death sentence. Not only will those devices still be able to access iCloud, but it’s only necessary to upgrade the device to the latest version of the OS available to them. For example, an iOS 11 iPhone must be on version 11.4.1 to access those services. Apple will inform affected users before implementing the change.
Those devices not upgraded will no longer enjoy access to the App Store, Maps, Siri, and other Apple services.
For most users, the impact of the change will be limited. Apple’s own data shows that 87% of all the iPads and 92% of all the iPhones in active use worldwide already run operating systems released in the last two years (iOS 15 or 16). When it comes to iPhones shipped in the last four years, 96% already run the most current version of the system.
Secure the endpoints
Those running older iterations of the operating systems shouldn’t do so because they could risk exposure to security vulnerabilities usually secured against within these updates. The very small number of users running legacy iPhones will be affected if they run older versions of the OS, but those devices would be at least nine years old.
Businesses still running fleets of older devices will need to upgrade those devices, or replace them if they cannot be bought up to specification. Enterprises that rely on such legacy devices are already exposing themselves to risk. Threat actors have far more vulnerabilities to exploit on older devices running old versions of Apple’s operating systems, after all. Using older devices is a security risk.
While security is clearly a driver for Apple’s change, it is also possible the company is preparing to implement major changes for its online services that may not be supported by older devices or on older operating systems.
Is Apple planning a more fundamental change?
It seems plausible, at least when it comes to mobile devices, that the company might want to constrain mobile device support to certain processor families. The first Apple-designed, TSMC-made iPhone chips began to appear in 2014 with the iPhone 6, which will continue to run Apple services so long as it is upgraded to the latest OS.
In related news, iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 are expected to abandon support for the iPhone 8, iPhone X, first-generation iPad Pro and fifth generation iPad when it ships later this year. This suggests Apple has defined its active support window for iPhones as around five years, meaning fleets must be upgraded to iPhone XR or later to access any new features introduced with iOS 17.
This also suggests that part of the rationale behind these changes is the introduction of services features that require a more modern processor. If that is the case, I can’t help but speculate this may relate to the Neural Engine on iPhones dedicated to AI and machine learning tasks.
The first Neural Engine appeared on the A11 processor in the iPhone X, a device expected to lack support for iOS 17. It is interesting to note that engine held two cores that could perform at up to 600 billion operations per second. This saw a big upgrade in the A12, which had eight cores and could handle up to 5 trillion operations per second, with big implications for creatives. The Neural Engine in current iPhones zips through 17 trillion operations per second, and we have no real insight into what the next chip will deliver.
Might Apple’s decision to constrain the number of supported devices and operating systems capable of accessing its services reflect a desire to finally unleash all that computational power?
Maybe, maybe not.
But the bottom line for any enterprise running fleets of older devices must be that support for these is rapidly approaching an end, and some hardware investment may be required.
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