iPhone 6S

Apple 2021 WWDC keynote: iOS 15 gives iPhone 6S another year of life

Apple held its annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) a few weeks ago. Most of the product announcements consisted of new features more than new hardware. I suppose nothing would top last year’s WWDC announcement that Apple was switching from Intel to homegrown processors. Broadly:

  • iOS 15, which offers improvements to FaceTime, a redesigned weather app, updates to Messages, etc.
  • Live Text, an on-device feature that can read text in photos.
  • Storing your driver’s license or ID card in Apple Wallet. Among other things, this will allow you to use your iPhone at airports.
  • Improved privacy features for Apple Mail and Safari.
  • Siri will work offline, as well as on third-party devices.
  • Improvements to AirPods, Apple Watch health features, and sharing functions between Apple devices.
  • iCloud Plus, which includes (at no extra cost to current iCloud plans) throwaway email addresses and a simplified VPN.
  • Updated device support for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15.
  • MacOS Monterey, the new version of MacOS, due later this year.

Since most of this year’s announcements feel incremental, I thought I’d focus on just the updated device support for iOS and iPadOS.

Older device support extended for iOS and iPadOS

2020 M1 Mac Mini
2020 M1 Mac Mini. Photo by Anthony Dean.

Apple released a list of devices supported by its various operating systems. For iOS, the oldest devices supported include the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and first-generation SE. For iPadOS, it’s the iPad Mini 4, iPad Air 2, and fifth-generation iPad. Finally, for MacOS Monterey, the oldest devices supported include the 2015 MacBook Air, 2016 MacBook, and 2014 Mac Mini.

Note, of course, that the latest features are only supported on the newest/current generation models. For the Mac line, that’d be anything with the M1 Apple processors; for the iPhone line, it’s the iPhone 12.

To my surprise, it seems Apple’s decided to support most of its oldest devices for another year. This includes the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, which I was sure would be at the end of the road this year. So sure, it’s one reason I bought a 2020 iPhone SE early this year to replace my aging 6S Plus. Apparently I could’ve waited another year. I wonder if the pandemic might be a reason Apple didn’t drop more older models?

Looking at my own Apple devices:

  • The aforementioned iPhone SE (2020) will support everything except 5G-related functions. As I don’t (currently) care about 5G, there’s nothing lost.
  • A 2020 M1 Mac Mini, which will support Monterey fully as a current generation model.
  • A 2018 sixth-generation entry-level iPad, which will support everything save Live Text plus the improvements to Siri and FaceTime.

One reason I switched to Apple mobile devices was for their long support lifespan. I’d grown tired of seeing my Android devices lose support quickly, often within months of purchase. (That happened to a Motorola phone I bought, as well as a Samsung tablet.) If I’m buying tech, I may as well get my money’s worth via a longer support period.

Granted, I’m still not getting every feature in the newest versions of iOS/iPadOS, but I don’t care about most of said features. Especially on the iPad, which I use for: watching videos; reading ebooks/digital comics; and light web surfing/social media. While more iPad storage space (than its base 32GB) would be nice, it’s otherwise a “use it until it breaks/grows too sluggish/stops being supported” device.

“iPhone 6S launch Riga” by Janitors is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

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