DsGdm2bMajor software updates have always been a tricky thing, and for the most part Apple has handled them about as seamlessly as possible during the course of the iPhone and iPad's existence. Still, while the vast majority of iOS users upgrade to the latest versions of their device's operating systems, there are many people who either don't bother or don't care to update their devices, for whatever reasons.

I've heard it many times over the years when a new game releases and in our forums somebody is hollering something like "Why does this require iOS 6 or above!?" Oftentimes those users refuse to update in order to preserve a Jailbreak, or they're waiting for the new version of iOS to get a few updates under its belt in order to have all the bugs worked out, or their device is just plain too old and Apple drops support for the latest iOS on them.

Whatever the case, it's a thing that happens, but Apple might be offering up a solution on the cusp of iOS 7's release this week. Users on Reddit have noted that a new pop-up appears when they're trying to download an app that isn't compatible with their particular version of iOS, and offers them the ability to download the last compatible version of that app instead.

While this seems like a step in the right direction for owners of older hardware or those who just choose not to update iOS, it hasn't officially been acknowledged by Apple in any way. It appears to be an option Apple can enable server-side, so it could just be that they're exploring this kind of feature at this point in time. However, as major retailers and Apple themselves roll out device trade-in programs, as well as Apple's push into emerging markets, there's bound to be a whole bunch of older devices out in the wild, and this new feature instantly makes all those devices much more useful.

We'll keep tabs on this story and let you know if Apple announces anything official.

[MacRumors]

  • SEVEN341

    The main reason I don't update is due to the fear that my favorite older apps will be completely incompatible with the update. I'd hate to lose games like space miner, ishoot 2, etc since they're no longer updated on a regular basis.

    • curtneedsaride

      Yup. Good call. I've updated and then tried to play a game I had installed, but it wouldn't work. However, I've also had a game switch it's iOS compatibility after I had already played it for a while, requiring me to update. Either way, it can be a pain.

    • shadax

      Have any apps not been forward compatible with later iOS versions? I can't imagine incompatibility because your iOS is "too up to date." Though I could be wrong.

      From what I gather this is beneficial for users with older devices not compatible with the updated version of an app, so they get access to the last version that is compatible (provided there is one).

      • shadax

        Ah. Preserving jailbreak or not caring to update iOS are other good situations in addition to flat out not having supported hardware.

      • Adams Immersive

        Yes, that does sometimes happen: an app has a bug with a new OS and won't work. Hopefully the dev is still active and releases and update--maybe even quickly--but it's not a guarantee.

        (Of course, this new feature is about the reverse problem: keeping apps running in older OS versions.)

    • ikari_paul

      agree 100%. In the past, a lot of my apps became incompatible, or lost capabilities. imo, one should only update if forced to, and never directly trough itunes (its better to update via the iDevide, see if app works, and only then sync with itunes)

  • tzuptzop

    this will be great
    i have many friends that cant download apps 'cos their devices dosent support newer ios versions

  • Tomate Diseño

    "there are many people who either don't bother or don't care to update their devices, for whatever reasons." In dealing with a client yesterday I found their iPad wasn't behaving as expected due to the OS never being updated, simply because they didn't know they could or would have to. They've never had to update any other consumer electronics device in their life, so why have to start now? It was an interesting attitude to be made aware of, just as I seldom find people who know how to enter a URL (9/10 people google the website) is it the case that the majority of users just don't know what the device they've bought can do or how to maintain it correctly?

    • Karzay

      Technology changes so rapidly, that some people feel overwhelmed by it and don't bother keeping up. And it's also because it's too easy to find someone to help them with their technology problems, it's even less of an incentive for them to figure it out on their own.

      My 4 your old son knows more about how to use an iPad than my mother-in-law. I get a kick out of hearing her ask him for help. :)

      • Tomate Diseño

        Strangely I think this has always been the case. I was the only person - at 12 - who could program our VCR and those of other family members, as such I was always the techie getting bothered with phone calls at Xmas questioning how to set up new devices

    • themostunclean

      They must not own a Windows PC if they've never had to update a device!

      I also have a lot of clients who can't use the web properly. They ask to print something off email from one if our PCs then tell me something's wrong with the computer (it's always the computer's fault). 90% of the time it's because they've entered their actual email address directly into the URL or search bar.

      I'm honestly dumbfounded at how, in this day and age, so many people are still completely inept with computers. I'm not talking about the golden oldies either. I've seen a number of 20/30 somethings that are completely ignorant as well.

  • curtneedsaride

    I fear updating my iPhone 4 to iOS 7 will cause it to slow down considerably more. AND, I have mere MB free space due to photos and games. Those are reasons I won't be experiencing iOS 7 until I get a 5S.

    • Karzay

      Good decision. iOS7 is probably optimized to work on newer hardware and only 1 MB of available space will cause you problems.

      • Adams Immersive

        I still have an iPhone 4 even though it's used as an iPod only. I want 7 on it, but I'll await reviews/reports before I assume it's a problem--or before I assume it's fine!

      • SoyGreen

        I'm on a 4s - but iOS 7 has been fantastic. I know if you visit reddit and get into the iphone subreddit - there have been many people with positive results on iOS 7. I really don't pay too close attention to most of the comments - but it seemed that there was some surprising actual improvements.

    • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

      1 mb of free space??!?! How the heck is your phone working at all? If I'm under 100mb, my phone starts shouting at me how it's low on space.
      Backup your photos on Dropbox, and write down your fav games that take up too much space & delete them for now, reinstall later.
      Simple device management, @curtneedsaride:disqus!

      • curtneedsaride

        I should have written "MB's" because I meant Megabytes of free space. I usually average 100mb free. Sometimes a little more. I frequently use iCleaner to wipe caches of facebook and online games like Avengers Alliance, etc.

        Yeah, I need to get rid of something though. It's mainly big games like FIFA, Infinity Blade, Iron Man 3, and then Gigs of photos. It's all backed up, and I frequently look at or play it all. Just need a bigger phone!

  • Mr. Grizzly

    This is good. I was using my old second gen ipod touch for older games that I could play on it to save some memory on my phone - but then it got to where I could not play those games anymore on it if I deleted them and tried to reinstall them or update them. Especially when I bought a lot of games to play on it (such as Big Fish Games and Microids) that use a lot of memory so therefore I don't play them on my phone due to lack of space.

  • renatpl

    I've been using iOS 7 Beta and had no problems with games at all

    • SoyGreen

      You must not have played XCom then. :) That was a crash fest... not sure if it's been fixed - I just stopped trying on my phone and played on my iPad that I never put onto beta.

  • vesperdem

    This is something that should have been don in iOS 6, but I'm very happy to see this implemented now.

    I have several apps that I can now reinstall on my iDevices that I couldn't earlier!

    • SoyGreen

      This is actually a HUGE feature for many people. Needs to get more notice and Thumbs Up to Apple for this one in my opinion!

      • 61050

        not sure if a thumbs up is warranted for this no-brainer that should have been implemented with ios 4.3. what i want to know is when are we going to be "allowed" to edit app titles on the springboard. because nothing beats a phone full of "whatw.....utt" apps all over the place.

      • SoyGreen

        Well - who else does this right now? It's a great feature for those of us who still have some older devices around.

  • mr_bez

    I assume that this goes hand in hand with the auto-update feature of iOS7. Not such an issue now, but down the line they need a way of preventing it from automatically downloading apps the require a newer OS version.

    Would be good if devs can flag an app as iOS7 incompatible too, if they discover a serious bug, so the auto-download won't update the app for people until the issue is fixed.

    I, for one, will be turning off auto update as soon as I upgrade. I like seeing what's new and making my own decision.

    • iammane

      Amen, I was not fond of this "feature"

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        Normally I turn auto-update off. But I'm open to leaving it on. While I dislike auto-updates that give me with a new buggy version, I am more annoyed when my phone shows me I have 20+ updates queued.
        "Yay, I can sit & watch my phone slow down while I do nothing" instead of me saying "go ahead & do it in the backgound".

    • Maniacfive

      True that. I've so many installed, that I like manually seeing the updates and actually reading the change log. In many situations it's made me aware of new content or features and has rejuvenated my interest in an app.

      Auto update is fine for 'bug fix' style updates but for me it's off.

  • pdSlooper

    Good. Nothing on the app store upset me more than when my $20 translation dictionary app, which I purchased in part because it supported my device, dropped support for my device.

  • FookedonHonix

    This is necessary because I wouldn't expect apps that are designed for the 64bit architecture to work on the older generation 32bit devices.

    • darkcheetah

      I doubt most devs will update apps to run in 64bit when 32bit apps run fine in 64bit architecture. In fact, I'd be surprised if many apps in the future are actually written for 64bit.

      • Will Buckingham

        It is far more likely that they will build hybrid packages that will install whichever version the device supports. If you have an iPhone 5S or above, it'll install the 64-bit version, otherwise it'll drop back to the 32-bit version for compatibility. While it may not be optimized for 64-bit, the compiler can make use of the more modern and optimized libraries to get a bit of performance boost here and there with little to no effort on the devs part. At some point though I suspect 32-bit submissions being allowed will be sunset, probably 4 or 5 devices from now when the iPhone 5 is considered old enough tech that they make the decision to end support for it, like the did with the iPad 1 (which had severe RAM limitations). The "last compatible version" download feature will help keep that from being as big of a deal as it would have been previously.

  • ZarieoZ

    What if a person have a new & an old device, what happens when they sync?? Will the old version of the app be removed as usual, or will iTunes preserve both?? I think iTunes is due to an update to handle such feature!

  • Bluejunco

    Just update!!

    • Peter

      Not always worth it...

  • saucybag

    THIS is amazing! Hats off to Apple for this one. I gave my son my old pre 4.3 ipod touch and managed to get a few games on like the hook champ and flight control but non of the games he really wanted were still su

  • saucybag

    *supported. I am now sat filling it with temple run, jet pack joyride, fruit ninja PvZ and more. Just brilliant

  • Peter

    Greatest Apple news in a long time!

  • 28monkeys

    It is a one way thing. Either you remain with your goodie old games or move on

  • Jacob Gehman

    My iPod is new, but my computer is old. And so I'm afraid of updating in case the update needs a new version of iTunes, and I'm afraid my iTunes is close to the point where I won't be able to upgrade my iTunes without completely upgrading my computer.

    It's a sticky web we weave.

  • Kane

    Solution: Emulator app of iOS 4+ actually... That makes no sense, as it needs to be compatible with iOS 7 :)

  • Gamer_Kev

    This would definitely be a step in the right direction for both users and developers. Every time Apple brings out a new iOS version, some devices get left behind. Not everyone wants or can throw down a wad of cash every time Apple updates. I myself have a number of Apple devices I use, only one, possibly two of them are going to get the iOS7 update.

    I really think it would be good for Apple's business to implement such a feature. Personally I've played around with the idea of leaving Apple because of Apps I've purchased in the past becoming unusable to me. The main reason I haven't is because I've invested so much money into Apple that it would be hard to make a switch, that and plus the fact that I really don't like Android or MS, but there are plenty of others who have made the change.

    People who by apps should be able to do so in knowing that they will always be able to use those apps whether they want to update or not. Especially with the more expensive business and education apps.

  • ikari_paul

    it has happened to me that apps get updated, and lose some functionality (which are transferred to the paid version. McTube is one of the offenders)

    i prefer to never update an app, unless i really need to, and in that case, ill update them first on my ipad, and only then i synchronize to imac/itunes.

  • ios7prouser