By Stephen Schenck | December 21, 2011 12:55 AM
It’s a fact of life: sooner or later, the manufacturer of your smartphone is going to stop supporting it. You can usually look forward to at least a year of software updates, but at some point, the hardware is either no longer able to keep up with the demands of today’s operating systems, or the manufacturer moves on to focusing its attention to its more recent models. In Android-land, hitting that point can mean turning to the community to find custom ROMs that continue to breathe some new life into your handset. For iPhone users, though, once Apple decides to no longer provide updates for a given hardware model, there’s little recourse. Even without new features, you could continue to enjoy apps sill supported by the phone’s current OS revision. That may also be coming to an end, with reports that Apple’s disabling app purchases for just such users of old hardware and software.
The original iPhone never saw an update past iOS 3.1.3. If you’ve still got some of that four-year-old hardware, or even a newer iPhone that you’ve been negligent in updating past 3.1.3 (or if you found 4.x too slow), you may have noticed that the download button is now no longer visible in Apple’s App Store.
Apple didn’t announce that it would be breaking support for the first iPhone, so there’s a chance this is an oversight. If it’s not, on the other hand, and Apple knowingly chose to disable App Store access for older devices, that’d be extremely disappointing. It’s one thing to lock your phones so users can’t sideload their own apps, but that puts the responsibility on the manufacturer to provide some reliable way to install software; no longer providing OS updates doesn’t excuse Apple from breaking this necessary feature.
We have heard of some users reporting somewhat-restored functionality, so it seems likely we’re in bug territory here, rather than looking at anything malicious. Have any hoarders with this now-ancient hardware run into the same issue and noticed any improvement?