So your iPhone has stopped receiving updates, now what?

Leszek Kobusinski/

Apple supports iPhones for about seven years before they stop receiving major iOS updates. So what are the implications of an iPhone that can no longer upgrade to the next major release every fall?

Your iPhone will eventually stop receiving updates

According to current estimates, Apple provides around seven years of support for the iPhone. The iPhone 6s and iPhone SE were released in 2015 and 2016 respectively, running iOS 9. Both of these models were able to upgrade to iOS 15 in 2021, meaning they received seven iOS upgrades and at the time of writing, they are still receiving ongoing. Support.

The iPhone 5s launched in 2013 with iOS 7 and eventually stopped receiving updates after the release of iOS 12 in 2018, equating to a support period of six major releases. Earlier iPhones like the iPhone 5 only saw five major revisions of iOS. So, over time, Apple has supported its smartphones for longer periods of time.

Closeup of an iPhone 5s held in a person's hand
Lukas Gojda/

But age eventually comes around for all of us, and your iPhone is no different. Eventually, Apple will stop supporting your device with major iOS updates. That means you won’t be able to upgrade to the shiny new version every fall. It’s hard to predict when that will be even with current estimates, as only Apple can tell.

Newer devices may last even longer than older ones, especially as the hardware that powers the iPhone becomes more efficient and capable.

Unsupported devices may receive security updates

The good news is that even devices that no longer receive major iOS updates receive over-the-air updates from time to time. You can check Apple’s security update log to see proof.

For example, iOS 12.5.5 was released in September 2021, targeting iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 (as well as some older iPad and iPod Touch models), around the same time iOS 15 was rolling out. . This update addressed known security issues in Safari and other areas of the operating system.

iOS 12.5.5 Update Log

Unfortunately, these updates only target the most critical issues. Smaller bugs and lower priority security issues will not be fixed as Apple focuses development on the latest version of iOS. For this reason, running an older device is always a security risk, especially if the device is stuck on a much older version of iOS.

The problem with outdated versions of iOS

Security risks are by far the biggest concern with outdated software of any kind. These could allow attackers to run unsigned code on your device through a web browser, which could compromise the privacy of personal information. An attack could even cause your device to completely shut down (as was the case with an iMessage exploit that was patched in 2019).

Along with exposing yourself to security issues, you’ll also miss out on the new features Apple rolls out each fall. This can range from simple iOS formula tweaks and improvements to major new releases of built-in apps like Notes and Safari.

Apple Notes Tags

In the case of Safari, you may find that some websites no longer display or behave in a predictable way. In iOS 15, Notes introduced a feature that lets you use tags to organize things, but on older versions of the Notes app, any notes that use tags will be completely hidden.

If you use AirPods, you might miss features that arrived post-launch, like one that lets your headphones automatically switch between devices. You might miss new features that are coming with emerging technologies or formats like spatial audio using Dolby Atmos which was delivered via an update before the release of iOS 15.

Enable spatial audio

Some Apple features may stop working or behave erratically. For example, Continuity features let you pick up where you left off on a Mac or iPad, or copy something on your iPhone and paste it on your Mac (and vice versa). The best way to ensure these features stay functional is to use the latest software on all your devices.

Some third-party apps may also stop working as they will rely on newer versions of iOS. Apps list the minimum required iOS version in the “Compatibility” section at the bottom of their App Store listing. It varies from app to app. For example, at the time of writing, Minecraft runs on iOS 10 or later, while Among Us requires at least iOS 13.

Problems can even extend to devices like the Apple Watch. Since the watch depends on iOS to work, it needs to be updated wirelessly using the Watch app that resides on your iPhone. You may miss Watch features and updates if your iPhone is stuck on a previous version, as new versions of watchOS need to be applied after installing the latest version of iOS.

Support finished? Consider upgrading your iPhone

There’s not much you can do about an iPhone that no longer receives major updates. On a Mac, you can err on the side of caution and use a patch to install unsupported versions of macOS anyway, even if it drastically reduces your performance.

On a Mac, you can install a lightweight Linux distribution to regain some performance, or install Windows if your hardware allows it. The iPhone does not have this luxury since Apple locks down the bootloader to only accept Apple firmware. You can jailbreak your iPhone if there’s an exploit available, but you probably shouldn’t jailbreak unless you have a good reason to.

The only real option that lets you use the latest version of iOS is to buy a new or used iPhone that still has support. Being stuck on an older version of iOS is one of the best reasons to replace your iPhone. If your device is old enough that software support has expired, you’ll likely see big improvements in performance, features, camera quality, and more. when upgrading.


You can save money on a replacement by buying used or refurbished, but keep in mind that the older the replacement, the sooner you’ll lose support. Try to buy a device that is no more than a year or two old to strike a balance between value for money and future software support.

Research all potential purchases to see what version of iOS they launched with, then compare them to the latest version of iOS at the time of purchase. Although this is just an estimate, Apple has currently supported iPhone models for about seven years, which should give you an idea of ​​how long your replacement will last (assuming the hardware holds up). .

Or just keep using your old iPhone

There’s a case for sticking with an iPhone that always turns on and does the basic things you expect it to do. If you only use your iPhone for calling and texting, with no real concern for app compatibility or web standards, you might want to consider continuing until your device gives up ghosting completely.

This is also true for anyone who doesn’t exclusively use Apple’s ecosystem. If the device still works with the apps and services you use daily (for example, Google services like Gmail and Google Photos), you might not see a reason to upgrade. Your money might be better spent replacing the battery.

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