Support for older devices running iOS 4.2.1 + Planned Obsolescence Rant

The last version of KanjiBox (2.1.3 currently in the store) finally cut support for iOS 3 and even jumped to requiring iOS 4.3. This was based on my (mistaken) assumption that all devices (except for 1G devices: stuck on 3.x) could at least run 4.3.

As it turns out, 2G devices (iPhone and iPod Touch 2nd generation) can only go as high as iOS 4.2.1.

Since it was reasonably little work to add back support for iOS 4.2, I just made the necessary changes, and a new update (KanjiBox 2.1.4) should soon be in the store, that supports all devices 2G and up.

Now if you are curious as to the reasons why KanjiBox is routinely forced to drop support for older devices (and why I love you but Apple loves your wallet more), feel free to read the rantish explanation below:

KanjiBox is not an incredibly CPU-heavy application and, most importantly, its CPU needs do not grow exponentially (unlike many modern applications and modern OSes): if anything, each version tends to be a little more optimised…

It also does not rely on very advanced features of the OS. And when it uses recent OS additions (such as Game Center), it does so in an optional way that does not break backward compatibility.

In such conditions, there is very little practical reason that KanjiBox should not run on nearly all previous versions of iOS (let’s say at least iOS 4 and up).

The only reason it does not, is that Apple does not want it to.

Apple has a well-documented, quasi-official policy of aggressive planned-obsolescence with its line of iDevices. It has rarely been more obvious than with the latest iPhone “4S” and its exclusive Siri feature, which is entirely server-based and could perfectly well run on absolutely every Apple device with a microphone and internet access ever made. But doesn’t, because Apple is a hardware company, and needs to sell you new hardware at regular intervals.

I wouldn’t care, and you might not either, except for another aspect of Apple policies: pushing App developers themselves to drop support for older versions of iOS, with each new release.

This is done by ensuring that each new release of iOS developing tools (necessary to build new versions of an app) only allow testing on the latest one or two versions of iOS: for no reason other than commercial, each new install of the iPhone SDK erases older versions of the SDK. For example, current SDK only lets me test my applications with iOS Simulator version 5 and 4.3, while the previous version allowed me to test on 4.1 and 4.2 (but did not support 5).

Although there are still ways to release apps with support for older devices, it requires a lot more effort to make sure they are fully compatible (with more uncertainty) and it is generally just easier and safer to bump up the iOS requirement. Which is just what Apple wants.

My general point is not that Apple is evil (or at least, no more evil than any company trying to sell you something), but that you should take with a big grain of salt anything that is meant to convince you that your 18 month old device is already completely outdated and could not possible run an application made today.

One Response to “Support for older devices running iOS 4.2.1 + Planned Obsolescence Rant”

  1. dakez says:

    I realize that this is a considerably older post but I figured I would post here anyway to express my frustrations with exactly this, the progressively planned obsolescence of Apple’s products. I recently purchased a brand new Google Nexus 4 to replace my old second generation iPod Touch (8 GB model). I wanted to give the older second generation iPod to my sister,

    I took extensive backups before hand, screenshots of everything, because I wanted the end result to be somewhat of a more optimized version of my older setup (which includes an array of meticulously chosen applications from Cydia and other various repositories contained within). What I found when I was trying to piece together the puzzle of my old iOS 4.2.1 installation (you can’t upgrade past iOS 4.2.1 on 2nd generation iPod Touches) is that some of the few programs that I needed from the App Store are now unavailable to me, citing that the newer versions require a newer iOS version.

    And I found this funny, because it wouldn’t be much more work for Apple to simply retain older versions of the software they offer in the App Store and then display a dialog box or something along the lines of “The latest version of this app for your current iOS version is x.x. If you want to upgrade past that, you need to upgrade iOS. Conitinue?”, and allow the customer to continue to download perhaps just an older revision of the same software. I mention this because I wanted to get back software from the App Store which I knew to be working in iOS 4.2.1, but since the App Store only contains the latest versions and doesn’t allow downloading older ones, and because one typically can’t find *.ipa files of free software online, I’m now stuck without MPoD, GMail and The Weather Network’s app (mind you, the latter two basically use a MobileSafari backend. I personally don’t use a lot of applications from the App Store, but I know that others do. This would be a bigger problem if there were more than just three apps I couldn’t download.

    The problem is made worse by the fact that Apple chooses to display the apps which are incompatible in the listings in the first place, and you must visit the app’s page, and attempt to install it in order to be greeted with an incompatibility message. The Android platform doesn’t do this. Google’s Play Store simply omits software which is non-compatible with a particular version of Android.

    This may very well be the last Apple product I purchase. It was the first. I am glad to have not coughed up any additional money to Apple over the 3.5 years or so I’ve owned this device for basic operational things such as firmware upgrades (yes, they tried charging for major iOS version upgrades back before its name was iOS), or software. Good riddance.

    I think it’s about time we realize that Apple is a company which, while manufacturing well-designed and cutting-edge products (although even this is taking a hit), their lifespans are cut short by a number of things including quality of materials and workmanship, software planned obsolescence, and a lack of general support for their older products.

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