Progress can be a two-edged sword; while new versions of software can introduce desirable features, ongoing improvements can eventually mean that older, less capable hardware needs to be left behind. That’s something we’ve seen on all the major smartphone platforms, but with the iOS 7 updates just about to drop, we’ve got Apple on the mind today. This time, it’s actually good news, as we hear about a new system designed to mean that just because you get left behind by a platform update doesn’t mean that you’ll have to give up access to your favorite software.
The problem is that when a developer keeps up with all these platform updates, eventually it may stop taking the trouble to keep things compatible for older devices – and eventually, if you aren’t running a modern OS version, you’re out of luck. With the way Apple distributes apps, generally only the most recent edition is available, and if that was for iOS 5.0 or better, and you’re still on a 4.x release, there was little recourse.
Now, however, Apple’s implementing a “last compatible version” system that lets you download a historical app release, based on the last time it supported your iOS version. Sure, that’s hardly a guarantee that things will still work the same as when that version was first released – especially for apps that rely on communication with remote servers, protocol changes may have left older versions of the app non-functional – but there’s nothing Apple can do about that. Still, this is a big deal for affected users, and as iOS 7 leaves behind the 3GS, that’s about to become a bigger issue than ever.