How Long Do iPhones and iPads Stay Fresh?

Here’s a look at the iPhones and iPads that got the most iOS updates, and the ones that got ditched the quickest

Published Sept. 15, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. ET
Related: iPhone 7 Review: The Anti-Anxiety iPhone | iOS 10 Review: You Don’t Have to Buy a New iPhone

Every time Apple brings out a new version of its iOS, owners of older iPhones and iPads are put on notice—some won’t get the slick new software tricks engineers whipped up.

With the release this week of iOS 10 and iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, we reviewed all of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, to see how long each was able to refresh the software. The perception is that Apple drops support for older products, to encourage new sales. In fact, the company is supporting more of its products longer. (Maybe that’s bad news if you’re fishing for reasons to ditch your iPhone 6.)

The big winner was the iPad 2, which launched in spring 2011 running iOS 5. Apple continued selling the tablet for three years, and it was compatible with fresh iOS versions even longer. Though Apple hasn’t sold the iPad 2 since 2014, its 2,013-day run of current-iOS compatibility ended this month with iOS 10’s debut.

The longest-running iPhones thus far? The iPhone 4s, which also just got bumped, and the iPhone 5, which continues its run with iOS 10.

But the first-generation iPhone and iPad lost iOS upgrade eligibility and support far sooner, as did the iPhone 3G.

While every new iOS version strands a few devices, the overall number of models supported is rising. That number peaked at iOS 9, which supported 20 iPhones and iPads. With iOS 10, Apple appears to have cleaned house: The software works with 18 iPhones and iPads, but not on any device that doesn’t have the Lightning charging port.


Cut off
Currently sold

The number of days until iOS cutoff starts on the day the product was available for sale in U.S. retail stores, and ends on the debut of the first annual iOS release that does not support that device. We are assuming, based on the past nine iOS annual releases, that iOS 10 will have a lifespan of approximately one year from the date of its release. As such, we assume a lifespan of an additional 365 days for devices compatibile with iOS 10.

For the first chart, we did not include any devices that Apple began selling in 2013 or after, because they are all still supported. And for this review, we did not include any models of iPod Touch or Apple TV, which also run versions of iOS.

Source: Apple.