Apple’s big WWDC event is right around the corner, and what better way to kick off the festivities—which we weren’t invited to, as always—then by contemplating all the fun features you might not be able to use on your ancient iPhone.
Apple has been pretty decent about extending support for newer iterations of iOS to older devices. Take iOS 12, for example: You can play with fun features like Group FaceTime, Screen Time, and the updated Photos app on devices as old as the iPhone 5S—from 2013. That’s a ridiculous amount of support for a device that shouldn’t work very well by now, especially if it has been your primary carry device for the past five-and-a-half years. (Your poor battery.)
This brings us to this week’s question for Tech 911, sent in by Lifehacker reader Robert:
“I am proposing a hypothetical situation:
I have a 3 year old iPhone SE which I use only to send occasional emails and surf the web when idle such as sitting in a doctors waiting room. I still have 100% battery life. The majority of my reading/emailing is done from my iMac.
Let’s hypothesize that the next iOS update could exclude my iPhone SE as well as other older models. I realise there would be no further updates to iOS 12, specifically security patches.
Given my rather light usage, would it be advantageous to me to keep the SE/iOS 12 or upgrade to say the Xr which would have iOS 13?
I like all this “hypothetical” talk. It makes me feel like we’re about to come up with some super-secret plan that nobody else will know about, save for the thousands of people reading this column. Joking aside, I think it’s fair to assume that your iPhone SE might be on the chopping block for this latest iOS update.
What makes me think that it’s safe is that the iPhone SE is still a newer device—launched in March 0f 2016. It’s possible that Apple might just cut out the iPhone 5, the oldest device that currently supports iOS 12, or possibly even the iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus (which use A7 and A8 chips, respectively).
I’m not entirely convinced that Apple will go after the “A9” devices—the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and your aforementioned iPhone SE—especially if the company is pushing hard on performance enhancements and bug fixes in iOS 13, much like iOS 12. Unless Apple is looking to launch some planned obsolescence, it makes sense that an A9 chip—two steps above the slowest processor that supports iOS 12—should work with iOS 13.
I’m just speculating, of course. As I said, Apple has been great about making sure that the latest iOS releases are compatible with a long list of older iPhones, but it’s possible that they might cut a wide swath right through their older product line. I doubt it will happen. I’d be a little nervous if I was sitting on the very bottom of the list (sorry, iPhone 5s owners), but I think the iPhone SE will survive this round.
At least, I hope so—it makes sense for Apple to continue iOS support until the rumoured iPhone SE II launches in 2020. (I’d merge it with the iPhone X nomenclature and call it the iPhone Xse, to give Elon Musk a thrill, but that’s just me.)
As for your question, I’d hold on to the iPhone SE at least until next week, where you’ll surely hear the final word about iOS 13 compatibility from Apple itself. Even if your device doesn’t make it to iOS 13, I wouldn’t upgrade in your situation. It sounds like you only really use your iPhone sporadically. And while it’s important to have the latest and greatest security updates for your smartphone when possible, I feel like it would be a lightning-strike-like chance for you to get hacked when you’re doing simpler things like checking your email or browsing the web.
If you’re stuck with iOS 12, you can always switch away from Safari (or Chrome, or whatever) to a browser that focuses hard on privacy and security, like Brave. Tor is a decent alternative, too, if you don’t mind the slower speeds. You don’t really need an antivirus or antimalware app on iOS, so don’t bother with those. And, as always, a strong password manager is worth incorporating into your digital life no matter what. These tricks aren’t a perfect cure for potential issues going forward, but they’ll help you stay as safe as you’re going to get.