What happens when Apple stops supporting a device?

I posted in the Pit a while back about my problems with iTunes; but in the interim I’ve learned at least enough to get some music onto my iPhone 4s*. So I’m somewhat mollified. Now I see online that Apple’s coming out with a new OS.

I don’t plan to migrate to it because things are working OK with the phone now. But I noticed that there are some devices Apple won’t be supporting any more. At least I think that’s what it means when it talks about them signing code. (If I’m wrong about that, please enlighten me.)

So here is my theoretical situation. Let’s say Apple stops supporting the iPhone 4s. Then let’s say for some reason I have to wipe the phone clean. What would happen then? Would the phone reinstall the last OS that was on it? Would it try to install the new OS and fail? Would the phone be unusable in that case?

I tried Googling this but all I got was a bunch of links about how older phones won’t be able to use YouTube any more (not an issue for me). As I’m not familiar with the whole Apple thing, I hope those of you who are can fill me in on this.

*For those who didn’t read that thread, I didn’t buy the phone, it was given to me. That’s why I have an older device, and why I’m so unfamiliar with the Apple scene. Also, I don’t plan to use the phone as a phone, just to play mp3s and for the Siri, Maps, Reminders, and so on.

The signed code has nothing to do with iOS - it has to do with OS X.

You can wipe the phone clean from the phone itself - Settings->General->Reset->Erase All Content and Settings.

The last OS that supported the iPhone 3GS was 4.2.1. You can still download the last released OS for that phone from Apple. I don’t have a 3GS to try installing it, but I assume that works. So, presumably whatever the last version that the 4S supports will also be available.

You can still download older versions of apps from the app store if you have an older OS version.

In Apple’s case, “Not supported” means “no new software”. All the existing released software is still available and still works. It’s possible that some day they will remove it, but they haven’t yet. You can still download Mac OS 6.0.3 from Apple if you’ve got a Mac IIcx you want to restore to its original shipping configuration, and that was released in 1989.

I have a Version 2 iPod touch running iOS 4.2.1, no newer operating system allowed.

It works as well as it did when new — which, when it comes to email and web access, isn’t saying much. But I use it only in the car for music by plugging it into the radio (the iPod has Bluetooth but the radio doesn’t), and wi-fi is turned off to prevent it using the battery in a constant search for a hot spot and to prevent any unpatched ancient exploits by nonagenarian blackhats.

When Apple stops supporting any older hardware, it matters not to its useability, barring any possible unpatched blackhat exploits. (Even then Apple has been known to patch old software anyway, IIRC.)

Yeah, that’s the situation I meant. I know I’m not going to explain this well but here goes.

The person who gave me the phone had wiped it clean. A few days after I got the phone there was a notice in the settings menu that there was an upgrade available. I figured, why not? I had been goofing around with the phone and had downloaded some stuff from the app store I turned out not to like. So I wiped the phone from the settings menu and it installed the newer iOS.

So my question is whether the newer version just resides in some cloud or other, waiting to be downloaded when you wipe the phone, or whether, once it’s been installed, it becomes an integral part of the phone’s memory and will be there for all time should you need to install it in the future.

I hope that makes sense; like I said, I’m new to Apple products and their ways of doing things are unfamiliar to me.

I think I’m in the same position as the OP … older iPhone and some features are not working, specifically YouTube. Generally this tread continues until enough features are disabled I’ll go trade it in for a new one. I’ve never even sync’ed it with my desktop let alone update anything … it’s a telephone … everything else is just bells and whistles.

When you wipe the phone, you don’t wipe the OS.
So, after you do a wipe, you are greeted by the “virgin iPhone” screen, asking you to set it up as a new iPhone.
Software updates are a different story - Apple alerts the phone that there is an OS update available, and if you decide to install it, it downloads it to the phone and then reboots. At this point, you have the new OS. If you were to wipe the phone, you would still have the new OS (remember - you only wipe your own information).

If you connect the phone to iTunes, you can revert back to previous OS versions, because a complete backup is kept by iTunes, on your local machine. But, this is becoming increasingly unsupported - after some OS updates, you can’t revert back.

Well, I just went and checked the phone and it says it’s running 8.4, and everything seems to be OK. that’s why I wondered whether at some point when the phone just won’t be able to handle whatever OS they’re on, 8.4 will be living in the phone’s circuits somewhere and the phone can reinstall it without my having to do whatever would be a parallel of using a recovery disk in Windows.

God, I hope I’m making some kind of sense here. I’m sure you can tell I’m a total n00b to Apple.

Sorry beowulf, we crossed each other while I was writing my post. I think I’ve gotten it through my thick skull now! :slight_smile:

But that brings to mind another question. I have done the backup in iTunes, but I can’t find where the backup is on my computer. Does iTunes create a special folder for that, and if so, where would it be? (Running Win 8 on a Dell Inspiron)

I’m a Mac guy, but if Apple does on Windows what they do on OS X, the backup is hidden in some type of private storage.
Finding it wouldn’t do you any good anyway, since the data is “opaque” - it’s encrypted and compacted.

This page gives the pathway. Scroll past the Mac bit.

Thanks, Kenm. Got it bookmarked. I hope I’ll never need it, but it’s good stuff to know.

Your device will continue to operate as is but new versions of any apps you have that come out are often not backward-compatible, neither are new apps you don’t have.

You’ll reach a point where you’ll be locked out of the itunes store. This was my experience with an old but still functioning iPod. The new OS version was incompatible with the hardware and I was cut-off from the mother ship.

It’s like being frozen in time. Everything it could do (except for itunes store stuff) will continue and nothing new can be added.

Signing is very relevant to iOS, and has been since before it mattered on OS X.

Reinstalling the operating system on any iOS device from the iPhone 3GS on up requires a version and device specific signature from Apple. Typically Apple stops providing signatures for all previous releases when a new release comes out. So if you had, say, an iPhone 4S currently running iOS 6.x and wanted to do a complete reinstall you couldn’t do the same version but would have to upgrade to the latest OS supported for that device - 8.4.

See SHSH - The iPhone Wiki for more.

Same here. When I got it (it was used), there were already a number of apps I couldn’t get, because they required a later version, but I was still able to load it up with what I wanted. Nowadays, I can theoretically still get apps from the iTunes store, and there might be one or two lurking around in the back corners that are still old enough to work, but in practice, there aren’t any more. What I have still works, though.

Well, with the exception that the battery is finally going kaput (a surprisingly abrupt process).

You back it up and restore it through iTunes, so there’s no need to find where the backup is hidden. Plug it in and start up iTunes, and there should be a tab somewhere in there for your device. One of the options in there will be to backup or restore, and if you restore, it’ll let you choose from all of the backups you’ve ever made.

Occasionally I go into the backup folder, usually after I’ve copied new music from my iMac to the iPad and iPod, and trash the backups before they add useless bloat. Then I back up both again. I keep backups on manual.

I’ve never tried using the iPad or iPod to buy any music from iTunes; I use the iMac as the purchasing and downloading mothership. Just as well if 4.2.1 won’t work.

At some point, the phone won’t be able to update to a new OS, but the existing OS will stay on it, and will generally work just like it always did.

If something goes wrong and you need to wipe and reinstall, you probably will have to download the last release that works on the phone from Apple to reinstall it. It’s probably not the most obvious process, but if you come back to the SDMB when that happens and say “I’ve got an iPhone <whatever> and I need to wipe and reinstall to iOS version <whatever>. Help?”, someone will point you in the right direction :slight_smile: