iOS 15 update choice could mean big changes in iOS 16

One of the benefits of an iPhone is that you get iOS updates for five or more years. But when it comes to the iOS 15 update, Apple is for the first time offering iPhone owners a choice of two options.

You can either upgrade to iOS 15, or you can choose instead to remain on iOS 14 but still get security updates. That’s a slightly odd option to offer, and Macworld has a theory about it …

Background

Apple has long ensured that iOS updates work with older phones. For iOS 15, as with iOS 14, no additional iPhone models get left out. If your phone could run iOS 13, it could be updated to iOS 14, and the same is true this year – any model capable of running iOS 14 will also be able to run iOS 15.

That means iOS 15 is available on models launched as far back as 2015:

  • iPhone 6s/6s Plus 2015
  • iPhone SE 2016
  • iPhone 7/7 Plus 2016
  • iPhone 8/8 Plus 2017
  • iPhone X 2017
  • iPhone XS/XS Max 2018
  • iPhone XR 2018
  • iPhone 11 2019
  • iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max 2019
  • iPhone SE (2nd Gen.) 2020
  • iPhone 12/12 mini 2020
  • iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max 2020

Support for older models, coupled with automatic prompting for updates, means that a huge percentage of iPhone owners update.

iOS 15 update – a new choice

But for some reason this year, Apple is providing two options.

iOS now offers a choice between two software update versions in the Settings app. You can update to the latest version of iOS 15 as soon as it’s released for the latest features and most complete set of security updates. Or continue on iOS 14 and still get important security updates until you’re ready to upgrade to the next major version.

That’s a little odd, and Macworld’s Jason Snell presents a couple of theories for the decision. The first is that not all major updates proved popular – with iOS 7 the poster child.

I’m not sure I buy that. I mean, yes, some people hated it – at least at first. But iOS 15 isn’t a radically different look, so why make a change in 2021 in response to a 2013 problem?

His second theory makes much more sense to me.

I also have to wonder if perhaps this move is a precursor to a forthcoming iOS update, perhaps iOS 16, breaking compatibility with a bunch of older devices […]

By building a second update path into iOS, Apple is visibly committing to a separate update track for iOS. The next time Apple marks a bunch of devices as incompatible with a future update—and surely the time for pre-iPhone X models is coming soon—it will be able to park those devices in an update track that will still get major security updates.

Apple has revolutionized its iPhone and iPad hardware in recent years; perhaps it is now finally planning to do the same for the software? Something many have been calling for, especially on the iPad side. If so, it wouldn’t be surprising that a dramatic boost in iOS and iPadOS capabilities wouldn’t be able to run on older devices.

Apple wouldn’t want to leave owners of older devices in the same position as many Android users – left with insecure devices after two or three years. Separate feature and security upgrade paths would solve that problem.

Do you think he’s right? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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