With iOS 14.5 rolling out to developers and beta testers, new features are being unearthed, with one in particular that could extend the longevity of older iPhones.
According to findings by 9to5Mac, iOS 14.5 includes options to separately toggle regular updates and security updates. The implication here is that older iPhones could potentially get updated security code without having to also install more computationally expensive firmware.
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iPhones tend to have a certain lifespan before Apple stops releasing update software — the current iOS 14 can support phones as old as 2015's iPhone 6s, for example. But due to advances in computational performance, trying to get the latest version of iOS running on older phones isn't always worth it for developers. Not only would it require a significant paring down of features to ensure things run smoothly on legacy hardware, but the average iPhone owner upgrades to a new handset every four years.
By separating security updates from firmware, it's then possible for older phones to continue getting the latest in protection without having to buy a new phone. This concept isn't totally new to Apple either. On laptops, older versions of macOS allow users to choose between more general updates and security software.
According to code found in iOS 14.5, users may need to delete previous security software updates before installing new ones. If true, this would definitely be more cumbersome for owners of older iPhones. But it's still better than not having security updates altogether.
At the moment, iOS 14.5 is still in public beta. That means while the official public launch is close, there's still some ironing out that needs to be done by Apple's software engineers. For those with an extra iPhone lying around, downloading the iOS 14.5 beta would be a good way to test out the new features safely.
The new features include being able to unlock your phone with Face ID while wearing a mask and an Apple Watch. The Find My app will also allow users to use Apple's upcoming AirTags. We expect iOS 14.5 to go fully public sometime this spring.