Sunday, September 24, 2017

How Long to Keep a Favorite iPhone?

Late September welcomes in not only Fall, but New iPhone Season. However, the prices of the new iPhones gives one pause: $700+ for the iPhone 8 and $1000+ for the iPhoneX. 

My first inclination is my iPhone 5S remains perfectly fine for now – what if I just kept it until that's no longer the case? After all, we've had PCs for well over five years before replacing them. Maybe the same could be the case for iPhones?

However, keeping iPhones for years and years is not feasible. And Apple has a lot to do with this. The main culprits: annual iOS new versions and rapidly advancing technology.

Like clockwork, Apple releases a new IOS version every year in the Fall. We welcome new features and function that come along with each new version. However, these new features come at a price: each iOS requires more and more hardware and memory to run smoothly. Old phones gradually get slower and slower.

Each new iPhone release showcases faster chips, more storage and memory. Alas, your phone become slower and slower in relation to the current model. My iPhone 5S, state-of-the art at its 2013 release, now lags behind, only 25% as fast as the current models.

Typically after five years, Apple declares your iPhone "obsolete". It is no longer on the List of Compatible Devices and will not run the new version of iOS. The recently released iOS 11 will not run on iPhone 5, which was released in 2012, five years ago.

If you want to keep your iPhone longer than five years, it will have to run on a non-supported version of iOS. Is this a big deal?

One big concern: Apple will not make security updates for older versions of iOS. Knowing your phone is vulnerable to an ongoing open season for hackers is not a pleasant thought.

The other concern: the apps that are part of your daily life – Facebook, Netflix, messaging, financial apps, etc. – may no longer be available to you. Mainstream apps typically support one prior generation of iOS, i.e. if version 11 is current, they typically require devices that support version 10. The Apple App Store will not allow you to download an older version of the app that your phone may support. There is a clever workaround for this issue, but it won't suffice forever.

Battery life is another issue. Your Apple Store will tell you the batteries perform optimally up to 300 charge cycles. Very old batteries start to act weird: my son's 3-year-old iPhone 6 – with 600 charges under its belt – was powering down several times a day without warning. New batteries are available ($79 at the Apple Store; they will change it) but is that money better invested in a new phone?

There is no need to do the annual iPhone upgrade if you lack the resources. But the clock is ticking, and bit-by-bit your belle-of-the-ball phone is evolving into a pumpkin.