Apple Drops Support for Older iPads in iOS17 and That's Probably a Good Thing

Let them retire gracefully

  • iPadOS 17 will drop support for some iPad models.
  • Apple is the industry leader when it comes to supporting older devices. 
  • Eventually, enough is enough. 
An older model iPad sitting on a stack of iPads with a sticky note stuck to the screen.
Arthur Lambillotte / Unsplash.

With the next version of iOS for the iPad—iPadOS 17—Apple will drop support for several older iPads.

Whenever Apple puts an older device out to pasture, people complain. And why not? Everyone else is getting all the cool new features for free, so why not me? Obviously, it's a conspiracy to make me buy a new iPad, they say. But even the shallowest research shows how this isn't true. Apple supports products for ages, usually for much longer than its competitors. And sometimes, it supports older devices for too long. 

"When it comes to supporting old hardware, Apple actually has quite a reputation for providing longer support than many other computer makers. Apple often supports their devices with software updates for several years after their release, which can be extremely beneficial for users who want to keep their device up to date with the latest features and security patches," Kyle MacDonald, VP at mobile device deployment company Mojio, told Lifewire via email. "However, their decision to stop supporting some older iPads with iOS 17 isn't surprising. In general, most computer makers eventually stop supporting their older hardware with software updates as the devices become less capable of handling newer software."

A9 and A9x Chips Can't Keep Up

French Apple news website iPhoneSoft reports that iOS 17 will not run on iPads with the A9 or A9X chipsets. Those are the iPad 5th generation and the first iPad Pro, initially sold in 2015. If you own an iPad that already runs iPadOS 16, and it's not one of those two, it will also run iPadOS 17, which—if it follows the established pattern—will be announced at WWDC in June and launch this fall. 

This means some pretty old devices will still run iOS 17, including the 2017 iPad Pro. We're starting to see that Apple keeps updating even pretty ancient devices, measured in mobile computer years. It's 2023, and you can still run Apple's latest iPadOS on a 2015 device. That's around eight years. 

Someone using an older model iPad while holding a first gen Apple Pencil.

Marek Levák / Unsplash

This kind of support can extend the useful life of a computer. For example, many apps will only support the last few iOS versions. Partly because it's extra work to test software updates on all those extra devices and OS versions and partly because each new iOS update adds new features and app developers also love to add new features. 

"Apple is known for supporting its devices with software updates for a longer period than many other computer makers. However, eventually, even Apple has to drop support for older devices due to technical limitations. In general, the longer support for older devices may increase the user experience for those devices, but it also means a slower adoption of new technologies and features for newer devices," iOS app developer Tyler Browning told Lifewire via email.

But you can't go on supporting older devices forever. And in fact, sometimes, Apple has updated iPads that it should have left behind. 

A Dignified Death for Older iPads

I wish I had never updated my old first-generation iPad mini to iOS 9. This model launched in 2012 and came with iOS 6 installed. It was an amazing little device, just as fast and snappy as any other iPad or iPhone of the time. But then came iOS 9 in 2015, which turned that iPad mini into an impossible-to-use piece of junk. 

An iPad Mini
Compudemano / Flickr

The hardware clearly couldn't handle the software, resulting in slowdowns everywhere. In fact, that's not accurate. To call them "slowdowns" implies that the iPad sometimes runs at fast or normal speeds, which it definitely does not. Once you have an app open, it's fine. It's the rest of it—switching apps, opening settings pages, and so on—which is excruciatingly slow. 

If I had stuck with iOS 8, all would have been fine. And yet surely there were people complaining when Apple finally did drop support for this iPad the next year. 

As you can see, things have gotten a lot better. My old iPad mini only lasted from early 2013 (when I bought it) to the fall of 2015, just over two years. And the mini was sold up until June 2015. 

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