Apple’s public commitment to durable devices

The most interesting part of the September 2018 Apple event was the segment on environmental responsibility (from ~1hr20m to 1hr25m on the keynote video). And of the three-part strategy – increase the use of recycled/responsibly sourced raw material, build longer lasting products devices, and expand reuse/recycling of iPhones and iPads – the second one caught my attention.

Apple’s probably the only electronics devices company, and one of a few major brands, that has publicly declared it wants you to use a product as long as possible, and will help you do so.

It’s walked the talk, mostly. It pointed out that the 2013 iPhone 5s will run iOS 12, that iOS 12 runs in fact faster on a device that iOS 11. This wasn’t always the case – the iPhone 3GS barely ran iOS 7 and iPhone 4/iPad 3 crawled on iOS 9. The iPhone 5, though, runs iOS 10 just fine.

But it also shows up in other ways: the App Store hosts older versions of 3rd party apps so you can download them on older versions of iOS.

Similarly, it hosts older iOS and iPod OSes too – last month, I restored a 2005 1st generation iPod nano and iTunes treated it like a first class citizen, including little touches like identifying the right colour of the device in the icon.

Most of its own iCloud services still work with old versions of iOS – my 2011 iPhone 4S on iOS 6 syncs contacts, calendar, notes, reminders, safari bookmarks, photos, and sends/receives iMessage right out of the box.

Finally, because this is a commitment to good, long-lasting design, there’s also a much higher chance that engineers/designers have thought through little details and edge cases.