Do you have an iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus or the 2016 iPhone SE? Then we have some bad news for you: it looks like you won’t be able to upgrade to iOS 15 when it ships with the iPhone 13 later this year.
The news comes via French iPhone site iPhoneSoft, whose “developer friend at Apple” has previously provided reliable information to the site. This time out the friend claims to have access to the device list for the iOS 15 beta, and iPhones with Apple’s A9 processor aren’t included.
It’s not a huge surprise to see Apple drop ongoing iOS support for the iPhone 6s because it will be six years since its launch by the time iOS 15 comes around, but both it and the first-generation iPhone SE were on-sale until late 2018, so for some people it will be only three years from buying it to the upgrades stopping. It’s worth bearing that in mind with future iPhone purchases: a new iPhone with a previous-generation processor is likely to lose OS support more quickly than other iPhones bought on the same day. So what does losing support actually mean?
What happens when you don't get the new iOS?
At first, nothing happens: your phone isn’t going to lose features or stop working overnight. But over time things will become more difficult. Apple won’t make any more updates to the iOS on your phone, so you won’t get any more bug fixes or performance patches. And you might find that apps written for later versions of iOS won’t work properly on your device, or won’t be available for it at all. That’ll make your iPhone slightly harder to sell and worth a bit less as a trade-in too.
You’re very unlikely to encounter any major issues in the short term, but into 2022 things will start becoming more of a pain. By then, of course, Apple hopes you’ll have bought an iPhone 13.
The main concern with an unsupported iPhone is security. Operating system security is an ongoing game of whack-a-mole, and if Apple is no longer whacking moles on your particular model of iPhone then the risk of a security breach starts to increase. In the past, Apple has released security updates for older versions of iOS on on 'out-of-date' devices, but that's no guarantee that it will in the future.
If you're wondering what you might upgrade to, we'd recommend the iPhone XR or iPhone SE (2020). The iPhone XR uses an A12 processor from 2018, so will probably have a good three years or so of updates after iOS 15. The iPhone SE is even cheaper, but has an even newer processor – the A13, from 2019 – so should be safely updated for an even longer period before Apple stops offering updates. That's our main pick, if you want to keep it low-price. Of course, the iPhone 12 is very nice indeed…
Of course, this is just a rumour right now anyway, so you've got time to wait and find out before you make any moves – the announcement will likely come at Apple's WWDC event, which is usually in June.