The iPhone 4s will receive an iOS 9 update
iPhone: How long are Apple updates available?
With the iPhone, Apple is an absolute pioneer when it comes to long-term support for their own smartphones. No other manufacturer also provides their older smartphones with updates for such a long time and reliably. The current iOS 14 from 2020 still runs on the iPhone 6s from 2015.
Apple: Exemplary when it comes to updates for the iPhone
Apple primarily benefits from two factors: On the one hand, the manufacturer produces its A chipset itself and is therefore not dependent on the support of external partners. On the other hand, Apple has comparatively few smartphone models on offer, so that the effort for the development departments can be better managed.
This effort is worthwhile: The long-term supply of updates supports the value of iPhones on the used market. While no or only very late updates are available for many older Android models, iPhones promise security on this point.
But there is no official update guarantee from Apple. When it comes to buying older second-hand iPhones, many users are concerned with the question: How long will models such as the iPhone 6S, iPhone SE or iPhone 7 still receive iOS updates?
iPhone: Up to five updates to new iOS generations
Since Apple has not officially made a detailed update promise, as Samsung did in 2020, only a look into the past remains. Various conclusions can be drawn about the future from the update supply for previous iPhone models.
The following Statista graphic shows the historical overview of how long Apple has provided iOS updates to older iPhone models. It becomes clear that Apple has expanded its support over the years. Apple will give its smartphones up to five of the major iOS updates that appear annually from the time they are released.
A look at all iPhones that have received the latest update to iOS 14 reveals that Apple is currently providing smartphones from 2015 with a new version of the operating system with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. These models currently have the highest risk of not receiving an update to iOS 15.
iPhone: Minor updates and patches even after years
However, this only affects the major feature update. Because Apple continues to deliver smaller updates even after the major version updates - and sometimes even after years.
In 2019, for example, the manufacturer released a patch for iOS 9 to fix GPS problems. iOS 9 is still running on the iPhone 4S from 2011, which received a software update eight years after its launch. There are still patches for iOS 12 for the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6, most recently in January 2021 on iOS 12.5.1.
Empirical values for future iOS updates
Based on the update history shown above, it is now possible to estimate how many updates the current iPhone generations will still receive. Since this information is based solely on empirical values and Apple can decide differently at any time, we cannot make any definite promises. However, the estimates should still be able to help with purchase decisions, as they show a clear tendency with regard to the expected update security.
Our chronologically sorted list includes all iPhone models that currently support iOS 14. For this purpose, we name the year of release, the expected year for the last iOS version update and the most likely last iOS version counted. Smaller updates can therefore still be available for a year longer. All iPhones that are currently still officially sold by Apple are shown in bold.
How long will my iPhone be updated?
- iPhone 12 / mini / Pro / Pro Max: 2020 to ~ 2025, iOS 19
- iPhone SE (2nd generation): 2020 to ~ 2024, iOS 18
- iPhone 11: 2019 to ~ 2024, iOS 18
- iPhone 11 Pro / Max: 2019 to ~ 2024, iOS 18
- iPhone XR: 2018 to ~ 2023, iOS 17
- iPhone XS / XS Max: 2018 to ~ 2023, iOS 17
- iPhone X: 2017 to ~ 2022, iOS 16
- iPhone 8/8 Plus: 2017 ~ 2022, iOS 16
- iPhone 7/7 Plus: 2016 to ~ 2021, iOS 15
- iPhone SE (1st generation): 2016 to ~ 2020, iOS 14
- iPhone 6S / 6S Plus: 2015 to ~ 2020, iOS 14
Attention: no guarantee! The information given in the list is based on the assumption that Apple will maintain its update support at approximately the current level. Of course, this could change in the future. Because recently the performance of the chipsets increased faster than the requirements of the operating system. It is therefore conceivable that the update supply will continue even longer in the coming years. On the other hand, as with the iPhone 6, Apple could surprise with only four updates.
Special case: iPhone SE
While we forecast around five years of updates for the normal iPhone generations, the iPhone SE steps out of line. Here we estimate only four years of new iOS versions.
The reason for this is the release date and the technology installed. The cheaper iPhone SE models appeared in March, but are still equipped with the Apple SoC from the previous year. We therefore assign them to the iPhone with the same chipset when supplying updates.
The release of the 2nd generation iPhone SE in spring 2020 also supports this assumption, which will now finally replace the 1st generation. However, there will probably only be real clarity with the announcement of iOS 15 in 2021.
iPhone: How long is the warranty?
Not to be confused with an update guarantee is the normal Apple guarantee, which the manufacturer in Germany grants for two years. This applies in addition to the statutory warranty from the date of purchase and includes access to telephone support.
iPhone: How long will spare parts be available?
But it's not just the software that has to work on an older iPhone - the hardware too. For the supply of service and parts, Apple maintains its own official list of obsolete and vintage products. This includes products that have been in use for more than five but no more than seven years (Vintage) or more than seven years (discontinued / obsolete) are no longer officially sold.
Conversely, this means that after Apple stops selling an iPhone, official spare parts will still be available for five years. After that, all that remains is to go to independent workshops.
Apple currently counts these iPhones as "Vintage":
- iPhone 4 (8 GB)
- iPhone 4s
- iPhone 4s (8 GB)
- iPhone 5
- iPhone 5c
Apple classifies these iPhones as obsolete / obsolete:
- iPhone 3G 8 GB, 16 GB
- iPhone 3GS (8 GB)
- iPhone 3GS 16 GB, 32 GB
- iPhone 4 CDMA
- iPhone 4 CDMA (8 GB)
- iPhone 4 16 GB, 32 GB
- iPhone 4s (8 GB)
If you are unsure which iPhone you are holding, you can determine the variant using the model number. You can find this on the back of the housing. If this can no longer be read, the official iPhone list from Apple provides help on the features of the individual models.
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