Apple Releases Security Updates for 9-Year-Old iPhones and That’s a Big Deal

Not all manufacturers are so good at it

  • Apple has released a software update to fix a security hole on older devices, including the 2013 iPhone 5s.
  • The company continued to offer important security updates for devices long after official support and new feature updates stopped.
  • Experts agree that Apple is leading the way in terms of device longevity thanks to its stance on extended security support.
Over the shoulder view of young woman using laptop, logging in online banking account with digital security device

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Apple recently released iOS 12.5.6, a software update built to fix one specific security problem—and it released it for iPhones as many as nine years old, a timescale other manufacturers can't match.

The iOS 12.5.6 update fixes a vulnerability that could have allowed malicious websites to run arbitrary code, something that shouldn't normally be possible. But unlike some phone makers, Apple's security update wasn't for its latest iPhone 13—that had already been patched. Instead, this update was for much older devices, including the iPhone 5s. That phone was released in 2013, and the fact that it's still receiving security updates is a notable one that companies like Samsung and Google can't always compete with.

"Apple has a slightly easier job in providing security updates and patches to phones in the iOS universe in comparison to the highly fragmented Android smartphone market," said CCS Insight analyst  James Manning Smith, in an email to Lifewire. "With a much smaller pool of smartphone models for Apple to worry about, compared to the vast range of Android phones available on the market, iOS security update coverage is more manageable."

Android Struggles

The numbers bear out the claim that Apple benefits from a more close-knit ecosystem. Whereas Apple's new update is compatible with an iPhone 5s that is now almost a decade old, manufacturers like Google and Samsung can't compete. 

Closeup on someone holding an iPhone inside a car.

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By comparison, Google covers its Android phones for five years of security updates, while Samsung covers some devices for the same period. Others have to make do with just four years. It's a similar story with others, including OnePlus (three years,) Sony (two years,) and Motorola (two years.) By those metrics, Apple's iOS 12.5.6 update outlasts everything and everyone, something that benefits iPhone buyers greatly.

In terms of choosing an Android phone that will receive security updates, buyers should research their options, especially when buying on the used market when phones can be bought at a time when they are already beyond the period when a manufacturer will continue to release security fixes.

A Used Market’s Dream

Whereas those buying a brand new iPhone 14 can rest easy in the knowledge that their new handset will receive security updates for years to come, it isn't just those buying the new hotness that stand to benefit from Apple's long-term view.

"iPhones have a stronger second-hand market compared to most Android smartphones," added Manning Smith. They can buy an iPhone that is a little older, knowing that it won't be left wanting for security updates before they are ready to upgrade again, giving them additional value along the way.

Someone drinking coffee in the kitchen while looking at a smartphone.

Steve Prezant / Getty Images

Things are beginning to improve in the Android world, too, although more so for buyers of some manufacturers than others. "Android smartphone manufacturers such Nokia/Global HMD have focused heavily on promising longer-term software and security updates as part of environmental initiatives, alongside durable hardware," Manning Smith said.

He added that the ongoing economic uncertainty around the globe is expected to make people more conscious of how long their devices will last. "We expect to see more and more software and security update commitments in the Android market, with software updates catching up with hardware lifespans."

For now, however, those hoping to hold on to their phone for longer should spend their money wisely and choose accordingly. "This is a bold and costly move by Apple, meaning that if security is essential to consumers and they do not regularly upgrade their mobile, then Apple is really the only choice," Steven Athwal, CEO and founder of phone retailer, The Big Phone Store, told Lifewire via direct message.

"Whatever the reason, this is ultimately great news for the consumer, and I would like to see all other manufacturers follow Apple's lead."

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