There's always been this suspicion that Apple — and other gadget makers — purposefully slow down products over time so that you're forced to buy new ones. This week, with its new iPhone software, Apple showed users that it really isn't trying to force them to buy a new iPhone instead of hanging on to an older one.
Let me explain.
Apple caught serious flack late last year when people noticed that it was sometimes slowing down the processing speed of some old iPhones. It seemed to be the first evidence that Apple really did have some sort of planned obsolescence for its devices — that the company really did want customers to just buy new iPhones after a certain period of time.
Then Apple apologized and explained that it was looking out for users by preventing aging batteries from shutting their devices down unexpectedly, especially when you need them most. To make up for its lack of transparency, Apple eventually discounted the price of replacing batteries in older phones.
This week it gave consumers another reason to hang on to older iPhones.
Apple said that iOS 12, its new software that will launch in September, will be available for iPhones dating back to 2013, including the iPhone 5s.
That's unprecedented for Apple or any other smartphone maker. Older Android devices are lucky to get a new version of the operating system more than a year or two after they're launched.
This means that people with older iPhones will get some (though not necessarily all) of the new features included in iOS 12. It also means they'll get the latest security patches from Apple and, since iOS 12 focuses on speeding up iPhones, presumably better performance.
Apple says iOS 12 can open apps up to 40 percent faster, open the camera app up to 70 percent faster and open the keyboard up to 50 percent faster than the previous operating system, so new software shouldn't feel so sluggish on older phones.
Consumers will still have to upgrade eventually, but five or six years for a phone is a much better bargain than two years, and it's way better than what you can get from any other phone maker.
Apple can still compel some users to upgrade more frequently. New cameras and fancy screens will prove enticing. It should be about new hardware, not software. And I'd love to see Android follow suit.