When the question comes up, Apple regularly denies that it’s deliberately making, or sabotaging, older gear to become obsolete; there is no nasty planned obsolescence plot that will force you to buy a new model before its time.
But it’s not that Apple hasn’t done things to foster that impression. It almost always seems as if the newer OS is slower than the previous one on older gear. So is Apple doing nasty stuff under the hood to make it run that way? Or is it just a matter of having more features, and exploiting the capabilities of newer hardware to do things quicker?
There is also that notorious update, which first appeared in iOS 10, to manage a problem with sudden shut-downs on some iPhones. What Apple failed to explain at first was that this problem only occurred in units with failing batteries, and thus Apple opted to reduce peak performance to fix it. At least until the battery was replaced. But it also meant that many users would suddenly see a huge dip in performance, made crystal clear in benchmarks.
It fueled class-action lawsuits, even when Apple explained they were trying to make performance more reliable on the affected iPhones. Of course, the symptoms would disappear with a battery replacement, and performance would return to normal. A few sentences in the releases notes would have clarified all this. Indeed, Apple took a step that should have been done long ago in iOS 11.3, which was to add a Battery Health indicator, and allow you to turn off the throttling if you decided to take your chances.
The lawsuits are still active. The lawyers are no doubt hoping Apple will pay them off to settle, thus resulting in huge paydays. Those who joined the class will get coupons, perhaps a discount on a battery replacement. Of course you already have a discount of $50 until the end of the year.
Another method to convey the impression your Apple gear is obsolete is to remove it from iOS and macOS update support. My wife’s still-functioning iPhone 5c is stuck with iOS 10. But she mostly focuses on phone calls, checking her email, and an occasional Google search. Whenever I mention the possibility of buying her a new iPhone someday, she barely notices.
But in response to frequent complaints that the oldest supported hardware will run slower with a new iOS release, Apple has made a big move to address the problem in iOS 12. There is the promise of a huge boost in app launch, keyboard launch and camera response across the board. These are key factors in judging how fast your iPhone or iPad runs. What’s more, Apple will allow its next OS to run on the same gear as iOS 11. That includes the iPhone 5s from 2013 and the last iPod touch.
Will it slow user upgrades? Will it encourage more people to buy such gear because it’ll be supported for up to six years with annual OS upgrades?
Compare to users of Android hardware, where the chance of buying a new device with the latest OS is extremely slim, not to mention the chance it’ll ever receive an update.
It’s not that Mac users will see the same level of support, however. Evidently some of the key features of macOS 10.14 Mojave, such as Dark Mode, Dynamic Desktop and Stacks, evidently require Metal graphics. But older Macs don’t have graphic chips with that support, and since Apple is deprecating Open CL and Open GL, it means that most Macs released prior to 2012, except for a couple of Mac Pro models with the right graphics cards, are going to be abandoned.
Such as my 2010 MacBook Pro. It will still run macOS High Sierra with good performance, since it has an SSD and maxed out memory, but the handwriting is on the wall.
Then again, offering OS support for an average of six years and seven years before the next macOS arrives in 2019, is really nothing for which an apology is required. Apple should not be expected to abandon potential improvements because older hardware won’t support it. Besides, it’s not as if running an older OS suddenly renders your Mac inoperative. The only concern might be the fact that security updates may stop coming after a year or two.
But to expect Apple to avoid innovation in favor of giving older hardware a longer lifespan is hardly logical for a profit-making corporation. The lifetime of Apple gadgets is pretty good as it is. How many people have eight-year-old PCs that still work great with the newest apps and OS installed, or at all?
Indeed, one reason that Apple has cut back on allowing customers to swap RAM and storage devices to many recent Macs appears to stem from the fact that only a tiny percentage of customers ever attempt to upgrade. There’s also the promise of more reliability and making it thinner, although such design considerations may be lost on most people.
Yes, I’d like to be able to swap out RAM, if not the storage device. Then again, I suppose Apple could max out memory on more models, so it wouldn’t matter.
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