While writing my post on buying second-hand iPhones, I made the assumption that Apple supported their iPhones for 5 years. For this number, I leant on infographics like this one and the opinions of various tech bloggers. Now, seeing that companies are still selling CPO units of phones that have been discontinued for a few years (eg. Game and iStore still selling the 6s), I wanted to dig more deeply into the length of support for devices and also how long Apple is officially selling devices before discontinuing them.
Find a nice dataset
I grabbed the data from Wikipedia to build this table, specifically the individual iPhone model pages and ignored any non-flagship models apart from the SEs:
And since I’ve used data from Wiki, this post will also be CC-BY-SA licensed. Click here to read what that means.
Let’s go straight to the charts:
Apple’s “Previous-flagship-as-Cheaper-Option” Strategy
Here’s the first interesting chart. The iPhone 5 was discontinued once the 5s was released and the 5c (not seen on this chart) was released as the budget option. That’s why the 5 was only sold for about a year. Apple then allowed the previous flagships to be sold as the “cheaper-option” devices until the advent of OLED-screened FaceID models hence you can seen the longer production spans of iPhones 5s to 8. Then Apple changed back to the 5/5c strategy and discontinued the X after the Xs launched and did the same to the Xs once the 11 Pro released. It appears that Apple doesn’t want a previous OLED-based flagship device competing with the current flagship. Thus if you want to buy a brand new OLED-screened iPhone, your only option is also the most expensive device, the 11 Pro. Personally it’s a bummer because once you go OLED, there is no going back to LCD and Apple’s got you paying a premium for that feature.
Devices and iOS Updates
Next, lets take a look at where the expectation of “5 years of support” comes from when looking at iPhones.
Looking at the 5, 5s and 6, Apple has given them at least 4 major iOS updates. And since major iOS versions occur yearly, that equates to 5 years of support (1 year on the iOS version the device ships with + 4 major iOS updates).
Example using iPhone 5:
- 2012 – Released in September with iOS 6
- 2013 – Received iOS 7
- 2014 – Received iOS 8
- 2015 – Received iOS 9
- 2016 – Received iOS 10
- 2017 – Received final iOS 10 minor update (10.3.3)
So that shows the 2017 – 2012 = 5 years of support. Note that I’m ignoring the special update to the iPhone 5 (iOS 10.3.4) released in 2019 (yes, almost 7 years after the device was launched) to correct a software bug.
Apple really must be commended for the software support durations but scumbag tactics like them secretly reducing performance with updates must also not be forgotten.
Onto the predictions then, my conservative estimated End Of Life for the following devices:
- iPhone 8 & X – September 2022
- iPhone Xs – September 2023
- iPhone 11 Pro & SE2 – September 2024
And if you’re looking to buy these second hand this post may be useful.
Is it worth buying a CPO iPhone 6s from Game/iStore?
As mentioned in the intro, you can currently buy an iPhone 6s that Apple discontinued in September 2018 in Certified Pre Owned form.
Costs @ 27/08/2020:
Expected iOS support ending: September 2021
Expected months of support from now (±Sep 2020) to Sep 2021: 12 months
If you want to stop using your phone once support ends (as I’d recommend), your iPhone 6s will effectively cost you:
- from iStore – R4999/12 = ±R417pm
- from Game – R4499/12 = ±R375pm
Running the same numbers for a brand new iPhone SE2 from iStore at R9999 with an expected 4 more years (48 months) of software support:
- R9999/48 = ±R208pm
Well, that CPO iPhone doesn’t seem that cheap now does it 😩.
- If you want OLED, you gotta pay a premium 💸.
- The premise that Apple will support iPhones for 5 years seems legit.
- Buying older devices may be more expensive than you think (if you care about security).
At some stage I want to do a similar analysis for Apple Watches and iPads and also extend the second hand analysis I did on iPhones to these devices as well. The fun challenge with those is that the market is quite different with no 2 year cycle (that iPhones have) that pushes new devices into the second-hand market. We’ll see if I get around to that!
If you have any questions/would like to share your experience with iPhone support periods please leave a reply below. Thanks for reading!