Apple has revealed which of its iPhone and iPad devices will be compatible with its new iOS 8 system software when it’s made available as a free download in the fall. Most existing users will be happy, though a few may be furious. Newer software is written under the assumption of more powerful hardware, meaning that significantly older devices can’t be expected to run the new software adequately, prompting Apple to block it from being installed. But that only applies mostly to devices from other eras. To the surprise of no one, iOS 8 is compatible with current iPhone 5S and 5C, last year’s iPhone 5, and the iPhone 4S from the year before that. But then it gets dicey.
Those still using the iPhone 4, which debuted in 2010, will not be able to install iOS 8 and will need to upgrade to a newer iPhone if they want to use the new system software. Apple’s argument is that the iPhone 4 is too old and slow to run iOS 8 and is four years old anyway. But some skeptics may point to the fact that as recently as nine months ago, Apple was still selling the iPhone 4 as a free-with-contract option. However, the greater controversy may be on the iPad side.
Every iPad mini model is compatible with iOS 8, as is the iPad Air. Last year’s “iPad with Retina Display” (known more popularly as the iPad 4) is also included. So is the iPad 2, which until recently Apple was selling as a bargain model. But the iPad 3, which is more powerful than the iPad 2, has been excluded because Apple discontinued it nearly two years ago. Will iPad 3 users cry foul, knowing that they’re being shut out of iOS 8 for reasons that have little to do with processing power? And will Apple have to relent between now and the fall launch?
But regardless of the impending iPad 3 controversy, the long list of current and past devices supported by iOS 8 makes it perhaps Apple’s most broadly backward compatible mobile system software to date. The bigger question is just how much or little of the core iOS 8 feature set will find its way onto those older “compatible” devices. Apple has a habit of making new iOS versions work on older slower hardware by leaving out any new whiz-bang features which require too much horsepower. But still, users of older iPhone and iPad devices will nonetheless get the new iOS 8 look and feel, if not all the fancy functionality – and since it’s a free download they won’t have to pay anything for it.