Is Apple really about to kill the iPhone SE?

A rumor claims iOS 13 will not support the iPhone SE.

Apple, WWDC, iOS, iOS 13, iPhone, iPhone SE, Apple

Apple may dramatically reduce the number of supported older iPhone models when it introduces iOS 13, a the latest rumor claims, but it isn’t yet clear on what consistent basis this decision may (or may not) be made.

Closing the stable door

Apple really did the right thing when it extended backward compatibility in iOS 12, which worked merrily on models as old as the 2013 iPhone 5s and original iPad air.

Critics praised the move.

A move that in part may have been part of the company’s response to criticism of how it had constrained the performance of older devices (until it was found out).

Now it seems like the company plans to close the backwards-compatibility window – with a vengeance.

What is the claim?

The claim is that iOS 13 will not be compatible with the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 series and iPhone SE devices.

Now, in part this makes sense.

It makes sense that Apple may choose to end support for the very oldest (2013) devices on its currently supported list.

It’s also reasonable to imagine that it may choose to close off support for the almost 5-year-old 6-series devices, which shipped in 2014.

What seems less reasonable is any move to end support for the iPhone SE.

Not only is this probably the most popular iPhone model Apple doesn’t ship, but the device is still being manufactured by the company in India.

The 4-year-old SE shipped in 2015 and includes an A9 chip, the same processor as used in the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and 2017 iPad, all of which (the rumor claims) WILL be supported by iOS 13.

It seems inconsistent that you’ll still get iOS 13 to run on a 2017 iPad or iPhone 6S device, but not on an iPhone SE.

NB: If the rumor is correct the following devices will be compatible with iOS 13:

  • iPhones: 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, X, XR, XS Max, XS.
  • iPads: iPad mini 3, 4; iPad 5thgen and later, Air 2, iPad Pro models.

What is the justification?

I’ve been reading around, and there are no strong, consistent arguments to support the decision to end support for iPhone SE.

Here’s what we have:

  • MacRumors speculates these moves could reflect Apple completely turning its back on 4-inch devices but observes that even then the 4-inch iPod touch remains a supported device.
  • Others claim the company may want to abandon components used in these older devices, Qualcomm modems, perhaps?
  • I’m wondering if the plans relate in any way to Apple’s plans to improve NFC support in iOS 13 – which would be a good argument, were it not that the SE uses the same (NXP 66V10) NFC chip as the iPhone 6S, which is allegedly supported by iOS 13.

Speculation aside, no clear reason seems to have emerged with which to account for the decision, which suggests the original claim may be flawed or incomplete.

How long is long enough?

Apple’s own environmental pages recognize that most iPhone users purchase their device and then use it for three years before passing it on to someone else.

The company is also improving its take-back and recycling schemes on an international basis to reclaim more of the components of really old devices.

Such preparation may seem timely indeed if Apple declares the best-selling iPhone model it ever made End-of-Life, as it will be when it dooms the iPhone 6.

At the same time, with smartphone sales down across the industry, it is inevitable that some will construe any move to constrain support for older devices as Apple’s attempt to push iPhone users to purchase new models.

That would be a shame given the company did such excellent work across the last 12 months convincing people it wasn’t deliberately throttling the performance of old devices to achieve just that.

When will we know?

We’ll find out more on this matter when Apple reveals more about iOS 13 at its annual WWDC developer event on Monday, June 3.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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